Wikipedia:WikiProject Maps/Conventions

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Since we love map making for its clarity, wikipedians developed several local cartographic styles over the years.

Here is displayed the summary table of each major map convention that is preferred for use on all language versions of Wikipedia. Each convention has its own sub-page, which should contain:

  1. An introduction explaining the style objectives and the most convenient way to create a such map.
  2. A color summary table with two (up-to-date) map examples.
  3. The naming convention for upload, and other advice (mainly: scale, legend).
  4. An up-to-date SVG template.
  5. Further details on history, limits, and possible expansions.
  6. A gallery of examples.

The image renaming tool working on commons (request this tool · Renaming guidelines), and for admins, the naming conventions can be used to harmonize image and maps' names.

Please note: these are strongly encouraged conventions, aiming to harmonize maps on the Wikipedias, but that cartographers still have a space of freedom to fit specific needs.


Convention sub-page Main feature and usage Topics (example)
/Location maps (de) Political entity borders and divisions, focus on the subject, allow geolocation (automatic dots) Countries, political entities
/Locator maps (blank) (en) Locator area None, blank map. Based on chartjunk-free Location maps.
/Orthographic maps (en) World location Countries, political entities
/Area maps (en) Complex multiple area: from single-subject basic locator maps to complex multi-subject areas with corresponding labels and other explanations Locator maps: one point or one area of interest, mostly a political entity; complexity: families of animals, languages, cultures; empires; human occupation, etc., and their corresponding labels.
/Historical maps (en) Complex historical maps Empire with its main cities, borders powers, offensives; battles with units and moves. Same colors as Area maps, add war/historical-icons.
/Technical maps (en) Display building locations Archaeology, city close-ups (OpenStreetMaps), etc.
/Topographic maps (fr) Display relief, often used as comprehensive background for other maps An area's topography may explain a lot of the local history
/Exchanges maps (fr) Display exchanges and transport lines Roads, freeways, railroads, canals, sea roads, money flux, human flux, etc.
Our work & choices

Most of these conventions are supported by active groups of map makers, and have been created and improved through long and serious discussions. The main intentions are: to display efficiently selected data; to create screen, web, print, creation & share friendly maps; to create a wiki style free of nationalism issues. Accordingly, these conventions provide web suitable screen/web/print/creation/share friendly colours, icons and labels. On the other side, not being a government supported project, we do not have to support state affirmation and nationalistic views, also, these conventions advise that you "do not wipe neighboring countries out of your map", and to use dashed international borders (see Image:Maps_template-en.svg).

SVG Tool box template[edit]

This is a SVG toolbox to be used! Download it, drag and drop into your SVG map, ungroup, and enjoy :]

If you are still interested in Map edition and SVG, you will need an SVG editor. The first to try is Inkscape, free of charge and good enough, please go to the /Software sub-page.

Please, download me and use me a lot!
World background SVG (complete): download and use me !
See also to create world maps.

Location maps[edit]

Note: this is about LOCATION MAPS, focusing on one subject to allow automatic geo-localisation. LOCATOR MAPS is another style, which follows the 'English colours', to enlighten a subject area in red.

Location maps are mainly used as backgrounds for automatic geo-localisation. But, as SVG, they are often used as source material for other kinds of maps. The German Map Lab is especially active in completing this category, country after country.

Convention for location maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry (RGB/hex)
Toponymes (names)
R:0 V:0 B:0
Border. Labels (country/state/province's name)
R:100 V:100 B:100
Subject's area (country, province)
R:254 V:254 B:233
Other areas part of the same political unity
R:246 V:225 B:185
Outside area
R:224 V:224 B:224
Coasts of lakes, rivers, seas, and hydronyms
(Temporary coastlines, color and ratio: opacity:0.6;dasharray:4, 4;stroke-width:1;)
R:9 V:120 B:171
Ocean, sea, lake
(Temporary body, color and ratio: opacity:0.6;stroke-dasharray:4, 4;stroke-width:1;)
R:198 V:236 B:255

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Country name in English} location map.svg
  • File:{Country name in English} {Sub-division name in English} location map.svg

and so on, but please focus your energy on countries first.

Further needs:
Legend: not needed.
Scale: not needed (since misleading), acceptable for <200km large/high maps.
Projections: Equirectangular projection (except for extreme north or extreme south country.)
{Location map}: use such {{Location map|Spain|label=Madrid|mark=Green_pog.svg|lat=40.5|long=-3.7|width=230|float=center}}

SVG template: if you need some labels, please use Image:Maps_template-en.svg which provide further label conventions.
Madrid dot using {Location map} is located in Spain
Madrid dot using {Location map}
Madrid dot using {Location map}
Madrid dot using {Location map} (Spain)
Savoie (French department)
France: orange; Italia: grey

Gradient maps[edit]

These conventions apply to Choropleth maps where location maps with administrative areas or other areas are connected with data.

Convention for location maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry (RGB/hex)
Landmass without values
R:224 V:224 B:224
Water bodies (ocean, sea, lake)
R:255 V:255 B:255
Border. Labels (country/state/province's name)
R:100 V:100 B:100
Area (country, province, etc.) — color depend of value

For manual creation: on the right are 9 colors from ColorBrewer, adapt the ramp to your needs

R:255 V:247 B:251
R:236 V:231 B:242
R:208 V:209 B:230
R:166 V:189 B:219
R:116 V:169 B:207
R:54 V:144 B:192
R:5 V:112 B:176
R:4 V:90 B:141
R:2 V:56 B:88

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Subject} per {unit} by {Country or Area name in English} gradient map (YYYY).svg

Note: all the subject, the areas' level, and the date (YYYY or YYYY MM DD) are critical. Ex: Average income per household by US state (2011).svg

Further needs:
Legend: very important (otherwise the map is useless).
Labels: not needed.
Scale: not needed.
Projections: Equirectangular projection (except for extreme north or extreme south coutry.}, please follow World6 and the location maps.</nowiki>

SVG template: if you need some labels, please use Image:Maps_template-en.svg which provide further label conventions.
Internet (2007)
GM - Countries by Internet Users 2007.png

Orthographic maps[edit]

Orthographic maps display a country (or set of countries) on a globe representation of the world. Like location maps, orthographic maps are very basic, and should have no labels or very few labels. Maps should be centred on the area of interest.

Convention for orthographic maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry (RGB/hex)
Toponyms (names)
R:0 V:0 B:0
Subject's area (country, province, state, etc.)  
R:52 V:{{{v}}} B:51
Subject border
R:51 V:{{{v}}} B:51
Other areas part of the same political unity
R:198 V:{{{v}}} B:189
Claimed uncontrolled areas
R:73 V:{{{v}}} B:70
Outside area
R:185 V:{{{v}}} B:185
Other borders
R:255 V:{{{v}}} B:255
Ocean, sea, lake
R:255 V:{{{v}}} B:255
Border of the globe
R:170 V:{{{v}}} B:170

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Country name in English} (orthographic projection).svg
  • Or possibly File:{ISO 3-letter Country code} orthographic.svg

Further needs:
Dimensions: 550x550 pixels.
Border of the globe: 1.5 pixels.
Latitude/longitude grid: .3 pixels in black with 77 in the transparency value.
Coasts and borders of countries: .3 pixels.
Legend: not needed.
Scale: not needed (since misleading). Scale is non-linear across the globe
Projections: Orthographic projection
Gradient: File:Orthographic gradient.svg

People's Republic of China (orthographic projection).svg

Chile (orthographic projection).svg

United States
United States (orthographic projection).svg

Locator maps (one area)[edit]

Locator maps display an article's subject area of occupation. Locator maps are conveniently derived from Location maps, which have to be colored (ocean, land, rivers, subject area) to this conventional colours. Locator maps are very basic, and should not have, or have very few labels. Their aim is to show the geographical occupation, not to explain it.

Convention for locator maps (2012 scheme) (see more).
Subject Colorimetry (RGB/hex)
Toponymes (names)
R:0 V:0 B:0
Territory of interest / Marked / Focus
R:193 V:40 B:56
Surrounding territories (Internal).
R:253 V:251 B:234
Surrounding landmass (Outside)
R:223 V:223 B:223
Background D (opacity 50%)
R: V: B:
Foreground C (opacity 50%)
R: V: B:
Circle marker opacity, glow effect, zoom box: scale effect (opacity 25%)
R: V: B:
Political borders. Country, state, and province borders.
Nuance is provided by line styling.
R:101 V:101 B:101
Hydronymes (names).
R:18 V:120 B:171
Rivers; coastlines for lakes, oceans.
R:18 V:120 B:171
Water bodies: oceans, seas or lakes.
R:199 V:231 B:251
Zoom box shadow (opacity 50%)
R: V: B:

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Subject name in English} locator map (blank).svg (for template map)
  • File:{Subject name in English} locator map-en.svg for English version
  • File:{Subject name in English} locator map-ko.svg for Korean version
  • File:{Subject name in English} locator map-num.svg for numbered international version
India blank
India map blank.svg
India>Andhra Pradesh
(when filled)

Area maps (multiple areas)[edit]

Area map conventions focus on the area layers, providing colors conventions for groups you want to display on your maps and their respective area of control. Just expose the areas of control, and don't include complex labels and explanations.

Convention for Area maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry (RGB/hex)
Point of interest (cities especially).
R:176 V:0 B:0
Area of interest (species range, etc).
R:240 V:117 B:104
Border colour for areas of interest.
R:224 V:88 B:78
Parks or natural preservation areas.
R:160 V:240 B:144
Maps with opposite groups[1]
Color n⁰1, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:228 V:26 B:28
Color n⁰2, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:77 V:175 B:74
Color n⁰3, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:152 V:78 B:163
Color n⁰4, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:255 V:127 B:0
Color n⁰5, opacity 100 or 40% (/!\ may conflict with water bodies):
R:55 V:126 B:184
Color n⁰6, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:255 V:255 B:51
Color n⁰7, opacity 100 or 40%:
R:166 V:86 B:40
Color for bird distribution map
R:173 V:175 B:216
Breeding areas.
R:245 V:174 B:140
Migration or migratory areas.
R:247 V:233 B:131
Non-breeding areas.
R:157 V:204 B:233
Introduced areas.
R:255 V:127 B:0

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Subject name in English} locator map.svg (or png, for locator maps)
  • File:{Subject name in English} map.svg (or png)

For species, use the binominal name. For others, use the English wiki article title. If needed, add just after the subject name the section's name, the year, etc.

Colours: A maximum of four colours is required for complex multi-color area maps (see Four color theorem).


  1. ^ Source: > Qualitative scale > Set 1
India>Andhra Pradesh
(invalid colours)
India Andhra Pradesh locator map.svg
Lemur catta
Range map for the ring-tailed lemur
Range map for fork-marked lemurs

Historical maps[edit]

Historical maps (or Complex maps) conventions provide further specific icons and labels, allowing to create historical/complex maps. These style, icons, and labels explain events and display areas of control on a geographic area. They can be drawn on other backgrounds such as blank Locator maps, or blank Topographic maps. Most of time, they're used to display historical events, language maps, ethnic maps, etc. This style's convention stay to improve.

Convention for Historical maps (see more).

SVG template: This style is put up on a background. A good set of icons, labels, and a legend box are provided in Maps_template-en.svg; Maps_template-history_patch-en.svg provides history-specific icons.
Maps_template-history_patch-en.svg stay to expand.

Maps template-history patch-en.svg

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Subject name in English} {Year} map.svg (or png)

Name: use the English wiki article's title. Year: Use the year cited by your source, such as : "1920" ; "52BC" ; or "c 1500BC". If need, find an other way.
Legend: to include into the map.
Scale: encouraged for small area maps.

(strict valid colours)
Map strictly respecting the Areas conventions.
Crusader States
Historical map, closely following conventions.

Technical maps[edit]

Technical maps are mainly close-view maps displaying some local buildings. They are useful when displaying archeological sites, small cities and part of bigger cities. For roads and cities, the most convenient resource is OpenStreetMap. This style of map doesn't have a convention yet, but needs one. Some interesting examples of Technical maps are show below.

Note: if you have a good experience in technical maps creation, please share your icon set, that will create the basis of future technical maps convention.

Topographic maps[edit]

Topographic maps are actually backgrounds. But, since the topography explain nicely agriculture, human occupation, history and so on, topographic maps are a key background style, advantageously use to support such subjects.

Colorimetric conventions for Topographic maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry
Positive altitudes
R:245 V:244 B:242
R:224 V:222 B:216
R:202 V:195 B:184
R:186 V:174 B:154
R:172 V:154 B:124
R:170 V:135 B:83
R:185 V:152 B:90
R:195 V:167 B:107
R:202 V:185 B:130
R:211 V:202 B:157
R:222 V:214 B:163
R:232 V:225 B:182
R:239 V:235 B:192
R:225 V:228 B:181
R:209 V:215 B:171
R:189 V:204 B:150
R:168 V:198 B:143
R:148 V:191 B:139
R:172 V:208 B:165
R:167 V:223 B:210
Negative altitudes
R:216 V:242 B:254
R:198 V:236 B:255
R:185 V:227 B:255
R:172 V:219 B:251
R:161 V:210 B:247
R:150 V:201 B:240
R:141 V:193 B:234
R:132 V:185 B:227
R:121 V:178 B:222
R:113 V:171 B:216
Rivers, coasts, hydronyms
R:9 V:120 B:171
Subject toponyms
R:0 V:0 B:0
Border, country and province names
R:100 V:100 B:100
Roads, highways, railroads, etc.: see exchanges conventions there

Naming (upload):

  • File:{Subject name in English} topographic map.svg
  • File:{Subject name in English} relief location map.svg
    ("relief location" for equirectangular projection allowing {location})
SVG template: Image:Maps_template-en.svg provide further label conventions.
(relief - level with continuous colours)
Geolocalisation relief map of France
(topographic - level with discontinious colours)

Exchange maps[edit]

These conventions apply up on any other kind of background, especially topographic ones. Some map creations will still need specific improvisations.

Signaletic for maps (see more).
Subject Colorimetry Line size
Freeways/Hways : yellow line on larger red line
R:255 V:228 B:0
R:255 V:72 B:0
3px - 6px
(rapport 1:2)
Level 1 roads : red line on larger black line
R:255 V:72 B:0
R:0 V:0 B:0
3px - 4px
(rapport 1:1,33)
Level 2 roads : simple red line
R:255 V:72 B:0
Level 3 roads : white line on larger black line
R:255 V:255 B:255
R:0 V:0 B:0
2px - 3px
(rapport 1:1,5)
Trails, footpaths : small black line (dashed or not)
R:0 V:0 B:0
Road tunnels : dashed red line
R:255 V:72 B:0
Rail roads : dashed black line on larger white line
R:0 V:0 B:0
R:255 V:255 B:255
Railroad tunnels : dashed black line
R:0 V:0 B:0
Human habitations
R:241 V:200 B:114
SVG template: Image:Maps_template-en.svg provide further label conventions.

See also[edit]