Find your source map – a real map that you can trace. (cough*google*cough)
Scan it, or grab a screen shot and paste it into your Illustrator document as a template. Place it where you want it, and lock the layer.
Create a new layer for your roads. You may want to have a couple layers, one for major roads, one for minor roads, one for highways, etc. Trace the roads you want to show on this layer, using the line and pen tools. It helps to draw these paths in a color that contrasts with your map so you don’t give yourself a headache looking at all those lines.
Tip – to make it easier when you add the labels to these roads, pay mind to the direction you draw them in. Start to the left and work your way towards right. This will make your path go in the direction your text should go. Draw your strokes down the center of where the road should be. Pay attention to street names you’re tracing and try to use one path per street, this will make it easier to label them later. If you draw multiple streets with a single path, you’ll have to break them up later.
If you’re tracing several roads, you may want to style them differently. Once you have your major roads traced, lock the layer, and create another for minor roads. You will probably want this one under your major roads layer. Keep each set of roads on its own layer for easy access.
You can style the roads a couple ways. Brushes work well for complex styles. To define a custom brush, draw the shape you want to represent your road, select it, and then hit the “new brush” button in the brushes palette, or drag it into the brushes Palette. Choose “Art Brush” as the type of brush. This will tell Illustrator to stretch the shape you’ve drawn over the length of the path. You can also adjust the scale of it later if you decide you want your roads wider. Because we’ve separated our major and minor roads onto different layers, you can define separate brushes for each.
An alternate way to style the roads is to customize the stroke for the road – make it wider and apply a color. You don’t have as much flexibility or styling options as you do with creating a brush, but this makes it easier to flatten the roads later. After you're done, you’ll want to expand the appearance of the brushes, or strokes. Another reason we made a backup of those layers!
Make the stroke wide as you wish the road to be:
Color it to match the road:
Expand the path:
Add desired borders:
Duplicate your first road layer to keep a backup (you’ll need it later - lock it and turn its visibility off to get it out of the way), then apply the brush you created for major roads to those paths, or style those paths with your desired strokes. Do the same for all other road layers – keeping a copy of the original paths for each. You can turn the visibility of your traced template layer on and off to see how it looks.
Once you’re done, you may notice that the intersections of the roads may look a little funky from your brushes or strokes, and that any borders around the road lines cross over eachother rather than intersecting.
To fix this, we'll use the Pathfinder to add the shapes together for the desired effect. This is much simpler with strokes than it is with brushes, another reason to use a stroke if you can. With strokes, you can select all of the expanded strokes, hit the “add” button, and you’re done. With brushes you’ll have to carefully expand the appearance of each, and add them together one at a time.
Now we’re going to add labels. Create another copy of your backed up road path layers, this one will be where we add the text labels. Using the text tool, add street names to each road path. You can use the baseline adjustment on the Character palette to align the text it where you’d like it to appear in relation to the road path. Drag the slider handles around the text with the arrow tool to position the text where you want it, or flip it to the opposite side of the path.Insert text along the path:
Adjust the text style and baseline:
Drag the text to the desired location:
As you can see from these screen shots, I'm turning the visibility of the template on for reference and off for clarity.
Once all of your roads are labeled, you can draw in icons, placemarks, pushpins and landmarks. These all go on separate layers for convenience. If you want to use lots of cute little landmark or interstate icons, create symbols from your icons for easy duplication and editing.
Here’s my finished map…directions to my office! Now I know this article was cool, please try to refrain from stalking me.