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Pleasing Color in ArcGIS Desktop from the National Atlas Vegetation Style File

07-29-2014 09:35 AM
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Pleasing Color in ArcGIS Desktop from the National Atlas Vegetation Style File

Maps have entranced me since I was a very small child. I think this is because maps combine two amazing experiences. At the same time the map viewer experiences finding out something really interesting about his/her world, she/he experiences pleasure from the beautiful colors of the map. It's a similar experience of pleasure to viewing a work of art or looking out over a beautiful landscape.

The Vegetation map of the National Atlas of the United States of America, by A. W. Kuchler, is one of these pleasurable landscapes. It is gorgeous, but its colors are also very practical for making many different types of maps.


Making a beautiful map is not a superfluous activity. Beauty seizes unsuspecting people and draws them into the experience of something interesting. It keeps the viewer's attention and compels the viewer to explore and see things your way. I'm sure you have experience with something beautiful doing this to you at some point or another! After all, we're only human.

Jaynya Richards, ESRI research cartographer, posted in 2012 about this style file and its origin. You can download this style file right here, from the geonet. Use it to enrich your maps with beautiful color. The colors that come with ArcGIS desktop are really just suggestions... Remember, if you have style files that you use that create knockout maps, please share them on this forum. I for one would like to see what you came up with. Thanks for helping the community!  -MD


Shown here is the ArcGIS Desktop palette with the stock colors (on top) alongside the National Atlas Vegetation Map colors (at the bottom). Notice how the National Atlas Vegetation Map colors have many, many shades of tan, green, yellow, and other colors that are particularly useful in certain types of mapping. All thanks to the National Atlas and A. W. Kuchler for creating these colors.

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