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Discussion: Map printing

in: OUSA 2023 Masters Nationals (Sep 23–24, 2023 - Glenwood, NY, US)

Sep 30, 2023 4:16 PM # 
First of all thank you ROC and BFLO for excellent and challenging (and different!) courses past weekend!

I was really impressed with the crispiness and quality of maps used during the event. Non-tear material of maps was really big bonus on Sunday.

Could ROC/BFLO share information how maps were printed?
Ex. cost, software, printing house, material, etc.
This may be beneficial for future event organizers.

Thank you,
Sep 30, 2023 7:54 PM # 
I second that request. Durable, crisp & readable. Wiped the mud right off with no issues. Saves the labor and expense of bagging.
Sep 30, 2023 10:17 PM # 
Durable and crisp, yes; but I found them annoyingly hard to fold for thumbing, especially for Sunday's first leg near the edge of the map.

I can see this paper being a good asset for open, dry, and dusty terrain, like in Colorado, Wyoming, or Arizona.
Sep 30, 2023 11:03 PM # 
I spoke with at least a couple of people who didn't like the feel of the material, and would have preferred to have them in polyethylene. There were map cases available for those who wanted them, but it wasn't obvious.
Oct 1, 2023 2:16 AM # 
I couldn't make it, so I don't know about the quality. However, so far the best map/paper I've experienced, in the US, was at Griz O's NREs at Lubrecht. Easily the best. As for polythene.....I personally can't stand it.
Oct 1, 2023 3:58 AM # 
That's why we use polyethylene instead of polythene. ;-)
Oct 1, 2023 7:47 AM # 
Map cases were available on Saturday (I didn't get one), but when I asked for one on Sunday I was told "you don't need one", and saw none.

Did anyone else notice the noise that the maps made when not held perfectly still?
Oct 1, 2023 11:28 AM # 
I had seen the bulletin notes about paper & availability of map cases but assumed the poly bags might not be present for my early start. Thus planned to bring my own based on previous poor performance of so called waterproof papers. But then after running model on Friday subjected that map to repeated wetting, folding, creasing, rubbing in the dirt and was surprised at the durability and decided to give it a fair test in the races. Definitely felt different in the hand and crinkly/noisy when folded, but neither of those things bothered me either day - dry Sat but Sundays map certainly met some serious mud & grit. Wiping map across my O pants cleaned it right off every time with no degradation of map clarity which is all that really matters.
Oct 1, 2023 6:21 PM # 
as equipment manager for my club it hurts my soul the amount of poly bags discarded after every event, and not having a way to donate them for reuse. There are only so many things I can put some to good use myself. And then there are all the other poly bags that the participants take home.... and then discard there.
Oct 1, 2023 10:02 PM # 
The map paper was a product called "Synaps XM". Here's one link - Here's another link - I think it is an Agfa product but sold in the US by Nekoosa. We used the 5 mil thickness which I think in some data sheets is listed as 135 gsm. We've been using it for a few years for local meets and won't go back to plastic bags. Unfortunately our long time printer decided to close his business in August. We had to talk another printer into using it as he had no experience with it. After a couple of test runs with the IOF Print Tech files we were happy with his output. This product does require the printer to make adjustments to his machine before he can run the paper. I'm told it only comes in 12 x 18 inch sheets but we can work with that for all of our needs. I actually haven't seen the bill but I believe we were charged $1.10 per 8.5x11 sheet. Our previous printer was charging $0.90 per sheet but what can you do.
Oct 1, 2023 10:29 PM # 
I assume the $1.10 per 8.5x11 sheet was the cost of printing, is that correct? If so, what is the cost of the Synamps XM? (Looking for what the total cost per map is of printing plus "paper".)
Oct 1, 2023 11:40 PM # 
$1.10 was the cost of the paper and the printing for one 8.5x11 sheet.
Oct 2, 2023 1:04 AM # 
@andreais, is using paper maps and plastic bags really worse than using synthetic (I.e. plastic) paper for the maps?
Oct 2, 2023 1:18 AM # 
Perhaps participants will save their maps and not throw them away?
Oct 2, 2023 2:41 AM # 
They'll get thrown away eventually. I've probably got about 2000 maps, and when I'm gone (maybe sooner) they'll all get tossed. Saving them is just delaying the inevitable by a few decades.

BTW, for comparison, the price per copy on ordinary paper at Staples is about $0.71, and there's no custom service (e.g. to get the colors right) included in that. Map cases are probably another $0.09 each, so figure $0.80 per bagged map.
Oct 2, 2023 3:30 AM # 
Unless I'm mistaken, map cases can be included with plastic shopping bags, where recycling is available (I've only seen it in large chain stores).
Oct 2, 2023 11:47 AM # 
Having finally stared at the Masters maps under magnification, I agree the print quality was indeed excellent. Thanks dcady, BFLO / ROC!

What was the lead time for printing? Days (so printed week-of) or did you go to print >week before? The print deadline is often the driver of the final registration cut-off.

Both days' maps were printed with an overprint effect (purple is blended with underlying colors--black features like trails, cliffs, etc are much more visible). There are plenty of places where circle and line cuts would still have been beneficial. Also, the purple color used for Sat's Sprague Brook was noticably darker (too dark) than Sunday's Letchworth.

It was also a very nice detail to put the classes (M55, F65, etc) directly on the clue sheets as a extra line.

The visual scale (showing 250m between MN lines) on Sunday's map is also a nice touch. The IOF standard is 300m, although this isn't so important if there's a visual scale label.

Minor printing/layout details:
-clue sheets on maps should be purple per IOF spec. Not sure why the software always defaults to black...takes a manual override.
-Sunday's Letchworth map did not have a north indicator, arrow, etc. Doubly important on a map flip. Yes, I know, there's a million other things that tell you which end is N and which is S: some of the symbols, all of the text, etc.
Oct 2, 2023 1:57 PM # 
Purple cluesheets on the map seems like a weird holdover from spot color offset printing. I think it makes sense for purple cluesheets to be allowed, but I can't think of any advantage that would call for them to be required.
Oct 2, 2023 4:39 PM # 
@cmpbllj I sent the pdf files to the printer late Sunday night just before last minute registration closed. That was 6 days before Day1. The maps were ready by Noon on Tuesday (or first thing Wednesday morning - I can't remember exactly). Both ROC and BFLO used the pdf export from Purple Pen. I'm not sure why the purple would have been different. Sorry about the uncut lines. Finally, I'm not sure the IOF specifies purple for the control descriptions. I couldn't find it in their competition rules or the International Specifications for Control Descriptions booklet.
Oct 2, 2023 7:27 PM # 
Map bags are always degrading map understanding, especially at high running speeds. Consider about 10% loss of information due to transmission of bag material and sharpness degradation due to imperfections. Additionally on sunny days reflections from the surface of bag may make it unreadable. In some cases I had to hold maps vertically to avoid and almost lose ability to use my thumb compass.

On any day I would gladly pay 30c extra and have the quality of matte finish, white background, and sharpness delivered by maps used in the USA Masters! It gets some adjustments for map folding skills but the quality is well beyond any drawbacks.

Well done ROC and BFLO!

For any future meets on the CTOC land we will definitely use something similar and encourage all potential national and international meet organizers to follow the trend.
Oct 3, 2023 3:13 AM # 
10% sounds high -- very high...
Oct 3, 2023 8:50 AM # 
Most of the time I would estimate that I lose 0% of information due to the map case.
Oct 3, 2023 5:36 PM # 
JJ - you are running too slow :) Especially on sunny days.
I tend to remove maps from bags, weather and woods permitting, on any sunny day exactly for this reason.
Oct 3, 2023 8:41 PM # 
I've had trouble with map cases reflecting sunlight sometimes.
I had no problems of any kind with the maps at Masters. Worked great.
Oct 3, 2023 9:26 PM # 
To be clear, I'm personally neutral on this. I have no complaints about maps in map cases, and I was fine with the maps last weekend as well.
Oct 4, 2023 2:37 AM # 
@dcady: Fast print turn-around, reasonable price, very high quality printing. Definitely a win! Thanks for all the attention to top-notch printing.

Control description (cluesheet) color: certain I saw purple somewhere in IOF fine print, but I also went looking for a reference--couldn't find anything either. So, I stand corrected.

Possible cause of the different purples for lines/circles between Sat & Sun: PPen has three purple choices (Event > Customize Appearance).
Option 1. Blend purple with underlying map colors. Your maps look like that was checked. Thumbs up! This option greatly reduces, but doesn't eliminate, the need for circle/line cuts.
Option 2. Use purple color from map. I think this is the default, where you can also specify the purple used. IOF purple is currently at CMYK 35/85/0/0. If this were checked, it's likely the maps had different purples the OCAD file, Map Menu > Colors. Note, older ISOM called for a pure Magenta purple: CMYK 0/100/0/0. And Condes (the other course planning software) recommends a default purple of CMYK 20/100/0/0, based on, the help file claims, "extensive practical experience" ??? My guess is this accounts for the different purples between your Sat & Sun maps.
Option 3. Advanced: Use overprint effect for colors marked "overprint." Again, this is going to depend on the Color table in the OCAD file. Even with very up-to-date OCAD symbols/colors, I've never gotten satisfactory results from having that box checked. I've pretty much stopped messing with it.
Since these are independent options, there are really 2^3=8 combinations. I've tried to print out all 8 choices before and find the differences--no luck.

Anyway, great event. And, great map printing. Will take time for everyone to get used to a different "feel" to the map.

I did see one map that had a "smeared" section that was unreadable at the end. Not from water or fold/unfold cycles (the usual culprits)--this was abraided...basically ground between a palm and a rock during a fall. To be fair, a paper map and map bag would have been torn and mangled from the same, so your map still gets the win.
Oct 5, 2023 1:16 AM # 
cmpbllj, early today I took notice of purple control descriptions on the map and now tonight I read your statement.

To me it makes sense for the course and the control descriptions to share the same colour.

Look here for an example from the European Orienteering champions that is currently taking place,

As for the map paper that doesn't require map cases, if it improves readability in the rain that would be great as I find moisture on the map case interferes with the map visibility.
Oct 6, 2023 10:26 PM # 
The use of purple color for the control description (course information) on the map is clearly stated in ISOM 2017-2 (Revision 5, September 2022):

"2.2 Content:
Consistent use of colour is important to ease map reading: Blue is used for features that relate to water; Yellow is used for open areas; Green is used for vegetation features; Brown is used for landforms; Black and Grey are used for everything else, including rock and cliffs, paths and roads, and most man-made objects; Purple is used for course information."

I have encouraged BAOC to adapt to the IOF standard, and other U.S. clubs should do the same. For example, at CalOFest 2023, all the cluesheets on the maps were printed in purple.
Oct 6, 2023 10:59 PM # 
Yes, I think we can agree this covers the direct course info within the body of the map, but is this really intended to apply to control descriptions?
If so, the rationale is lost on me.

Does anything else in the ISOM apply to the color of text or graphics outside the body of the map?
So handout control descriptions can be any color, but if they are printed on the map sheet, front or back, they must be purple? Really!?

Nothing pro/against purple, or black or ???, but at the very least, this needs clarification.
Oct 7, 2023 12:00 AM # 
Black would seem to be better for anyone with less than perfect vision. Red and hence purple not so much.
Oct 7, 2023 11:39 AM # 
I suppose the argument could be made that someone who needs to quickly find the control descriptions would unfold the map and look for the purple, but if the descriptions were black they might not be as easy to spot.

This, however, is ridiculous. Someone in that much of a hurry usually has the descriptions (printed in black) in a forearm holder.

Requiring control descriptions to be printed in purple goes in the hall of fame as one of the stupidest specifications. Traditionally they were black because they were on a separate sheet of paper that was attached to the map. Occasionally they were purple, but only if courses were overprinted on an offset press, because only one color was available when doing that.
Oct 7, 2023 1:56 PM # 
It's open to interpretation, but my reading of ISOM is that "course information" refers to those symbols used in section 3.7 of ISOM (e.g. control circles, lines, refreshment/aid points, forbidden areas/routes) and would not necessarily include material outside the mapped area boundary such as control descriptions. (It definitely doesn't include what ISOM refers to as "peripheral information", for which it uses map scale and contour interval as specific examples). That said, I can't think of any obvious reason not to print it in purple and I think people are generally used to it being so.
Oct 7, 2023 3:45 PM # 
Just for fun, I looked at WOC maps I have--several that I *didn't* run in, and the majority being WOCs I did run in. I have 4 WOC maps up on a wall in my office that have been up there for years, and I have them up there just because I like the way they look. All 4 have purple control descriptions (includes WOC 1993.) The others--including WOCs '79, '81, '83, '87, '89, and '04--all have purple control descriptions. WOC '85 had purple control descriptions for the Individual and black control descriptions for the Relay. These black descriptions had clearly been prepared separately, xeroxed, cut apart, and then pasted onto the competition maps.

And I can remember well how, after the relay, groups of runners gathered together and vehemently debated the appropriateness of black vs. purple descriptions. It got so heated that the awards ceremony took place without most people present being aware of it. Ha--just joking! Nobody said a word about the color of the control descriptions.

When someone says black is better than purple, or vice-versa, absent some rigorous scientific study with statistically meaningful results, all they are doing is expressing a personal preference. I would like to see someone try to prove it changes race results.

My preference is purple. It just looks better to my eye. And, if you're printing with an ink-jet printer, it makes for slightly more even ink use between the various color cartridges. But, if some race uses black instead, so what? It works, too.

Anecdotal sidenote: at the recent Laramie Daze, some control descriptions were in purple and others in black. Nobody said a word--at least so far as I am aware.
Oct 7, 2023 7:55 PM # 
If you've got a WOC93 relay map, you'll note that the descriptions are printed in purple. Offset printed. Forked relay, 128 unique courses, all with offset-printed control descriptions. In the days before digital offset printing, I wonder how often that was done. There were 14 purple printing plates, each with a part of the course and a matching part of the control descriptions, and every competition map went through the press with four of those plates.
Oct 7, 2023 8:15 PM # 
@swampfox regarding absence of studies on different colors, there is a huge body of knowledge on colors, font size, and accessibility for people with differing visual abilities.

If I can geek out for a moment, in the webpage accessibility world I am most familiar with, the 35/85/0/0 IOF purple standard on a white background has a contrast ratio of 4.79 according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which is ok for a AA accessibility rating but a contrast ratio of 7 is required for a AAA accessibility rating. Black on white has a contrast ratio of 21. So it's not just a personal preference if you are wanting to make it as accessible as possible for differing visual abilities.

It's possibly safe to assume that purple is ok for most orienteers, but why make it potentially harder on some people by choosing a less transmissible color.
Oct 8, 2023 4:58 AM # 
The IOF has a 32 page document devoted to Control Descriptions ...

The examples in that document are all printed in black ink. If it were desired to be in purple, surely there would be something in that document saying so? So, I would think that black is probably the preferred these days.
Oct 8, 2023 1:45 PM # 
I feel very, very strongly that control descriptions should not be printed in yellow.
Oct 8, 2023 8:08 PM # 
It's a nice document, but it does not address the color in which control descriptions are printed on the map.

Undoubtedly, IOF ensured their color standard was followed at the European Sprint Champs this weekend.
Oct 15, 2023 7:26 PM # 
After reading the comments about the maps on this thread I requested some samples of the Synaps XM paper from Nekoosa. It seems similar (could be the same stuff) to products we've considered using for previous events. We decided not to because it's so bouncy and difficult to crease, and we didn't want to introduce something different for a major event. However, it seems like the general reaction here is that it's different but worth the adjustment, especially if the printer can get the printing right.

Were there any strong objections to the paper, other than some people wanting map cases?

Edit to add: it does crease better (I think it's a little thinner) than the two other ones I've tried, so that is a plus.
Oct 16, 2023 12:49 AM # 
Not really an objection, and definitely not a fatal flaw, but that material makes for a noisy map...
Oct 16, 2023 4:32 AM # 
To me, map foldability is very important to navigating with good technique, and it detracts from my orienteering experience when the maps are printed on synthetic papers that are overly spring-like and resist folding. Many direction mistakes in orienteering racing are the result of improper* map folding or otherwise bad map handling. For this same reason, I prefer to keep paper maps inside the 4mil polyethylene case, even if I'm not worrying about sweat or rain destroying the paper. The paper without the polyethylene case takes too hard a crease and cannot be unfolded and re-folded as easily.

Unfolding and re-folding the map when changing direction at a control marker or other major turn along the route should take only a couple of seconds, ideally even less time. When paper resists folding, it can take several times longer, which wastes valuable time on the course and encourages the runner to settle for a poorly-oriented or poorly-placed fold in order to avoid the time cost of redoing it.

It sounds like most people appreciated the readability and durability of the Synaps XM paper, and the organizers found the cost suitable, even if it wasn't quite as easily foldable and was somewhat noisy.

* For reference: Proper map folding entails a fold that is parallel with the direction of travel (i.e., usually the purple line connecting control circles). The fold should be on the side of the line of travel corresponding to the hand in which the map is held and far enough from the line to allow thumbing of the map and reading of pertinent features to the side of the line.
Oct 16, 2023 2:31 PM # 
Chipping in my $0.02 - beyond noticing a slight "crinkle" noise on my very first leg and spending about a second wondering what that was and then dismissing it from further thought, I never worried, struggled, or felt there was any issue whatsoever with the map printing. I've been spoiled by running a large proportion of events in my career on IOF-level maps and printing, and I think the best compliment I can give this printing setup is that it did the job to the level that I have come to expect at a high-level event, and I experienced no real issues with it. For me, it was not stiff enough to cause any issue with map folding.

Frankly, I thought it was great, and if we had easy access to similar paper and printing facilities, we'd go this route as well. I also like that it does not require a bag - both from the perspective of an organizer not having to load and seal bags, as well as a general aversion to "extra plastic bits".
Oct 16, 2023 4:03 PM # 
The paper we used was Synaps XM135 which has a weight of 135 g/m^2. Our printer (and his distributor) refer to it as "5 mil". The paper is also manufactured in a weight of 110 g/m^2 which might be easier to fold but be just as rugged. If someone could experiment with this it would be useful going forward. However, I'm not sure that weight is generally available and our printer is reluctant to use it for fear of "paper" jams in his machine.
Oct 16, 2023 6:41 PM # 
Similar to the Xerox® Revolution NeverTear, 135 gsm, 5 mil.
Oct 23, 2023 10:25 PM # 
Control descriptions: black.
Oct 23, 2023 11:00 PM # 
Yes, they are black. Since today.
Oct 23, 2023 11:01 PM # 
To be pedantic, since 1 January next year....

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