Frequently Asked Questions (and some infrequently asked ones)
Originally, by hand, enhancing the base map layers from the U.S. Geological Survey and created dozens of new layers, each representing a color or a layer of line-work or of type. Each map was built in 30 or more layers which were then combined photo-mechanically for printing. Over the years, computers got faster, software got better, and data sets became more comprehensive and reliable. Since about 2005 we have worked entirely digitally. We are now adding titles based on high-resolution data which has become available only in the last few years. This technological evolution is reflected in the maps.
No, not directly. They’re made from digital data sets, and some of these incorporate information originally gathered by aerial photographs, such as topographical surveys combining field surveys and aerial photos. Nearly all such geographic data is originally produced by government agencies.
No, they are not plastic "raised-relief" maps; the maps are flat. They appear to be three dimensional because of the landforms shading.
Fine Art Prints are also called "giclee" or "archival ink jet prints." Since early office printers had given ink jet printing a bad name, the fine art poster world rebranded the (greatly improved) method with the French term "giclee", meaning "sprayed" or "splattered". Renaming in French was a successful marketing move, but "Fine Art Print" is easier to pronounce. Modern ink jet printing has become the standard for high quality color reproduction. We can now produce finer work than traditional offset lithography, using archival papers unaffected by humidity, and inks which will not fade or deteriorate for many decades.
Our paper maps are printed by offset lithography and are available both in plain paper and with lamination added. Rotary offset lithography presses transfer a printing plate image onto a rubber blanket which in turn transfers the image onto the paper sheet-- hence "offset". Most Raven Paper / Laminated maps are printed in from six to eight fade-resistant inks. Fade resistance is not perfect, however; reds and yellows degrade under ultra-violet light. All offset lithograph posters or maps, including ours, will fade over the years, or sooner if exposed to direct sunlight or nearby fluorescent lighting. And "registration" (the fit of each color image with the rest) is uncertain on very large sheets, while ink jet printers can maintain absolutely perfect registration.
Lamination involves laying down a heated plastic coating which bonds to the printed sheet. Raven offers lamination (front and back) for paper maps. It makes the sheet much more durable and prevents the swelling and shrinking from humidity changes that will eventually cause exposed paper to wrinkle. A framed laminated map does not require any glass, so the fame can be much lighter and less expensive (or you can simply use push-pins). Finally, laminated maps can be cleaned, unlike plain paper maps. Note: while your can write and erase on the laminated maps with a dry erase marker, permanent markers CANNOT be cleaned off a laminated map.
Raven does not offer lamination for our archival ink jet "Fine Art Prints". These are on a much heavier, more durable stock than offset litho maps. Our Fine Art Prints do not need the extra protection, and are already (very gently) cleanable.
Our older maps were produced photomechanically, so cannot be printed with digital ink jet technology as Fine Art Prints. We are gradually revising and updating these as fully digital maps, but it's a long, slow process, one map at a time. Our newer digital maps can be printed either way, but offset lithography is inefficient for short runs, and, especially for large sheets, has quality control issues.
So, we have older maps in Paper / Laminated only; some newer (digitally-produced) maps originally printed by offset on paper, but now also available as Fine Art Prints (most of them in two sizes); and many of our newest maps which have never been printed by lithography and are therefore available only as Fine Art Prints.
On most of our maps, colors show elevation. Dark greens start at the lowest elevation, lighten with increasing elevation, and shift through yellow to tan to brown, and, usually, to white at the highest elevations. This sequence is arbitrary. It is traditional in fine European mapping, and in practice seems to be clearer than any alternative we’ve tried, even though it shows the hottest, driest parts of Arizona as green! The colors are relative, not absolute: the lowest elevations in Wyoming are higher than all but the highest ridges in Georgia.
On the new Land Cover series, colors show what is ON the ground—forest or grassland or wetland, built-up or farmland. Again, the colors are arbitrary—cities aren’t really red, farmland is orange-brown only when the wheat is ready to harvest—but this set of colors seems to work.
It depends on the purpose of the map. Road maps may include thousands of point-to-point mileage figures, or incorporated city limits, and will sacrifice other elements (such as rivers) so as to show roads prominently. The original Raven State Map series was built using USGS base materials that emphasized railroads, so many names appear where railroad sidings once functioned, but may now be entirely gone. But in general, Raven maps are designed to reveal landform patterns which are either ignored or barely legible on most maps. Roads are de-emphasized, county lines left off, and landforms brought to the foreground.
The Night Views emphasize built-up areas, shown as if they were city lights glowing at night, with just enough moonlight to reveal landforms in the background. This narrow focus gives a remarkably clear picture of the pattern of settlement.
Land Cover maps are currently available for only a few states (more are on the way). Like the Night Views, they show built-up areas, but also forest, farmlands, and wetlands, all in high-resolution detail. These maps come the closest to showing the landscape that we actually see on the ground.
The Landforms and Rivers series use relief shading and a careful selection of rivers and streams to emphasize landforms and drainage without the clutter of roads and type as competing visual elements. Like the Night Views, Landforms and Rivers trade comprehensiveness for minimalist elegance.
When we first built these maps, we used the conventional city dot symbols. But that turns out to be very misleading, since even middle-sized American cities usually spread over a wide area and a range of landforms. Dallas is not just a dot on the Trinity River, for example—it extends as a Metro Area across several forks of the river and about 50 miles of rolling country.
No, though the effect is pretty close to that. We are actually showing “impervious surfaces,” whose variable density distinguishes commercial and industrial uses from lower-density residential areas. The dark blue shaded relief background highlights the settlement pattern, the important theme of these maps.
Maps can be returned within 30 days of purchase. There is a 50% restocking fee for all fine art prints.
Our Shipping Rates:
Orders ship within 24 hours or the next business day.
$14 – standard ground – 2 to 7 business days to all 50 states.
$29 – Two day shipping – 2 business days to contiguous 48 states. US Priority Mail available to Alaska and Hawaii.
$48 – Overnight shipping – 1 business day to contiguous 48 states.
$48 – International shipping (including Canada) - 1-3 pounds.
Please contact us for additional shipping information.