Making a map of Florida State.

Map of Florida with Keys

I hand-draw my maps.

Every line, every tree, every beast, every single thing you see is hand-drawn. Even the type-font used on my maps is homemade and unique to Royale Maps.

And because everything is hand-made, nothing is obvious or programmed, a creative decision is made for every item I place on my maps.

To me, maps represent one of the earliest forms of graphic design: they must, within a given space and through the use of illustration and typography, convey a clear universal message.

Below I will share with you part of the creative process that made the Map of Florida.


My maps all start out as mood bards. I trace my land outline and waterways on my Wacom tablet and assess what paper format will be best suited to hold the map.

Very early on, I have ideas of what I would like to see my map feature, so I grab images and arrange a layout until I am happy with the overall balance.

At this stage I get a taste of what I am after. There is still much room for the unexpected.

Designing the map of Florida State
This is an early mood board of the Map of Florida. After outlining my State, I played with the layout, especially making sure that I would have a nice section reserved to the Florida Keys.


After sorting out the longitudes/latitudes and outlining the Map of Florida, I defined the 67 counties. It was important to me that they be easily identifiable whilst blending gently with the background.

I brought the counties forward by using capitals to list them on the map. Some counties were a little tricky: Sumter, Pinellas and the county of Highlands didn’t offer much horizontal space so I played with the size of the type until a good balance between legibility and aesthetics was obtained.

The outline of the counties changed from color blocks to a gentle dotted line because I didn’t want to visually slice Florida up in portions.

The dotted line I settled for works a lot better: you can see the counties if you look for them, but they don’t overbear the map.

map for Florida counties progress
The counties were originally going to be defined with different shades of brown but I did not like the fragmented feel this option offered.
Map of Florida with counties
On the final version of the map of Florida, the counties are limited by a thin dotted line which softens the overall look of the map and keeps Florida looking whole.


From the get go I wanted to dedicate a good section of the map to the Florida Keys. I looked around at what had been done in the past and liked the way the Johnson Ward’s map of Florida and the Keys had a zoomed section dedicated to the Keys. 

Now I had to tweak the idea into something a little more legible and organic.

Map layout that zooms into the Florida Keys.
Florida map layout that zooms into the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys have a very nautical feel to me and mangroves line over 1,800 miles of the Florida Keys’ shoreline. So I thought it would be fit to have a mangrove tree whose roots turn into nautical rope, nautical knots and finally an anchor which could weight the rope down to form a neat box for the Keys..

First sketch of the Florida Keys section.
Florida mangrove tree
The mangrove tree that births the boxing for the Florida Keys.
Map of Florida with Keys
Map of Florida with its dedicated Florida Keys section.


Florida’s everglades have been named one of three most important wetlands, globally. The everglades are uniquely rich in the fauna and flora they support. Naturally, I wanted to give the everglades a prominent spot on the Map of Florida.

The everglades themselves were marked with a pattern which is listed on the map’s legend. But I felt that the everglades deserved more, so I introduced two protective alligators to be visual reminders that these wetlands are precious and to be respected. 

Map of Florida everglades
Map of Florida with the everglades and their alligator guardians.


I didn’t want this map of Florida to be covered in elevation lines, so I went the old school route and like Blaeu drew my elevations as simple mountain profile views. All of Florida’s highest elevation points are represented that way.

The State parks are also shown on the map as profile views of trees.

I enjoy using profile views, I feel it gives my maps the naive charm found in vintage maps drawn in the 1600.

types of map elevations
Here are represented the three type of map elevations, the first is the type chosen for the map of Florida: profile elevation. The second is hachures elevations and the third is sliced elevation which is what I used on the map of Hawaii.
portion of Florida map with elevation and state parks
Here you can view a portion of the Florida map with profile elevation views of high points (62 and 68m) and profile views of trees which signal a State park or forest.


I will finish this “making-of-the-map-of-Florida” with its compass.

The compass is Royale Maps’ emblem, it is symbolic and I give it a lot of thought. The compass is always what I draw last on my maps and every compass is unique to its place. 

For the Florida compass I wanted it to smell of the sea and radiate the tropical climate of southern Florida.

The hibiscus immediately came to mind, they are abundant in south Florida and they flower almost all year round. I dug a little and settled on the Hibiscus Moscheutos, a popular variety that is native to Florida. 

The four cardinal points are metal and rest on a rope, a nautical backdrop that offers a solid backrest to the frail petals.

Florida state map compass design
Florida State map original hibiscus compass sketch.
Coloured and final hibiscus map compass.
Exotic and nautical, the unique compass is the seal of Royale Maps. Every map has its own compass.

I will end this quick tour of the Map of Florida here.

I hope you enjoyed this walkthrough and that it inspires you in some way. Creating a map is a slow process but it is a very rewarding one. I will be writing a post in the coming month on how to design your own map so that you can give it a go if it is something you fancy.

Catherine x 

Shop the map of Florida State.

This map of Florida is an art print influenced by  natural history & ornamental cartography from the 17th and 18th century. 

Based on satellite imagery, this hand-drawn map is the most legible and current of its kind.

This map could be a lovely conversation starter in your home or an inspiring artwork in your office.

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