The Four Basic Stages of Completing a Map

Four Stages to completing a map

When you are labeling a map, there are different stages that you go through, one at a time. Each stage is important and you should try to be a neat as possible, to prepare for the next. We call this working “Step-by-Step”, and that is how our digital files came to be named “Step-by-Step” Mapping.

Since each map is different, the stages may vary slightly. But generally speaking, most of these features below are addressed. Here we show a small segment of our state map of NEW HAMPSHIRE, with each stage filled in as an example.

Labeling Places

Labeling Places

The first thing to do in the early stage is to label the names of places: countries or cities, continents or regions. Here on the New Hampshire map, cities and the state of VERMONT is labeled to the left too.


Bodies of Water

Bodies of WaterOften in the next stage, bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers, are labeled, then colored. Here you can see rivers labeled.


Geographic Details

Geographic DetailsYou can next draw in mountain ranges, deserts, valleys and other geographic details, using the symbols shown in the Map Key. Fill them in with the appropriate color. Here you can see some forested land in New Hampshire drawn in, as well as mountains.


Additional Features

Additional FeaturesTo add more detail, color other features, such as borders, illustrations and the compass rose. On some of our maps you can color our Earthworm mascot. Sometimes, especially on state or city maps, transportation details, such highways, railroad routes, or airports can be drawn in. Some maps are more complicated and have an extra stages, relating to history or regions. Or you can draw in extra details of your own, or make new illustrations– like the NH state bird shown here!– to further decorate and embellish your map.


Helpful Links

  • See our more detailed lesson about LABELING for more.
  • See our lesson about COLORING AND SHADING for more about coloring and shading bodies of water.
  • See our lesson about SYMBOLS IN THE MAP KEY for more.