The best tips for map making are to have a purpose in mind for the map, to look at other maps for inspiration and ideas, and to have the equipment necessary to create a map, which may be as simple as a sheet of paper and a pencil. The elements of a map generally include a legend, a compass, a way to determine scale and distance, and titles or notes where they would be helpful. There are many different kinds of maps that one could make, examples of which might range from a topographic map to fantasy maps for games, plays, or simply just for fun. Tools that will assist in map making include graph paper, pens or pencils, a ruler, or even map making software.
A legend on a map is a key that allows the person viewing the map to understand what different symbols or colors represent. These could be landmarks, geographic heights, or other notable locations and objects. A compass is generally included somewhere on a map so that the viewer can determine which direction is north, which can greatly improve navigation when using the map, particularly if the user has an actual compass with them. Maps also usually have some method, which may be in the form of a graph or a comparative scale line, to indicate distances. Landmarks are also often labeled so that the viewer knows what they are and might also be accompanied by a note with extra details.
A topographic map is designed to display the elevation of the land in the area it details. If a person is interested in making a map of this kind, he or she might start by recreating a regular map of the area and then use other resources to determine elevations. For example, if the map maker knows that his house is at an elevation of 2,000 feet (about 610 meters) and that the bottom of a road leading to the house is at 1,500 feet (about 457 meters), he could use these figures as starting points for a topographic map of his neighborhood.
Tools for map making can readily be found on the Internet, ranging from actual maps to statistical data regarding areas of interest. If one is interested in creating a map of a place that doesn't exist in reality, fantasy map making software exists as well. Fantasy maps are often additions to games, or they might be created to go along with works of fiction. Plays or other stage productions might use maps as props or as accessories to be handed out to an audience, allowing viewers to imagine where the characters in the production are supposed to be.