Tips for Coloring and Shading Our Maps

map shading and coloring tips

On this detail of our NORTH AMERICA map, we have shown a few ways of using color in different situations.

Shading Ocean Coastlines

When shading an ocean coastline, there are a few ways you can choose from, based on what you like and/or what is easiest for you. The various examples are numbered on the map.

EColoring and Shading Example for North America Mapxample 1: Draw a line with light blue parallel to the coastline, then go back and shade it in.

Example 2: Draw a thin dark line in blue along the coastline itself, then shade outwards.

Example 3: Some student cartographers like to draw a shaggy brushstroke type line.

Examples 4 and 5: You can use a thin dark blue line along the coast or a thicker line that extends further out.

Example 6: Use a combination of coloring/shading methods

Outlining Islands

See examples shown on the map.

  • Shade around groups of islands in blue.
  • Shade around a tiny stand-alone island like Bermuda to make it stand out

Highlighting Labels

To make the labels for oceans and seas stand out, you can use background color behind or around the label.

  • Here yellow has been used to highlight the names of the bodies of water.

Shading States (or Countries)

Always use different colors for adjacent states and countries so each will stand out.
Here we show different ways of the labeling and coloring the states. Look at our various examples, from left to right.

  • For TX and OK, we drew a bubble around the abbreviated name of the state, then color around that.
  • For AR and LA we shaded around the abbreviated name of the state. After you have shaded a state, you can go back and go over the abbreviated name of the state with a darker black pencil to make it stand out more.
  • For AL and GA we drew a square box around the abbreviated name of the state.
  • For FL, we shaded the inside of the labeled box too.