Learn Cartography and Styling in QGIS through Basketball Visualization (Part 2): The Print Composer/Layout

01 Mar 2018 ᛫ 4 min read


In the previous post, we created shot charts using Rule-based symbology in QGIS. In this post, we’ll take a look at how we can turn those shot charts into printable maps like this:

At the heart of map-making in QGIS is the Print Composer. It’s a poweful tool that creates different map layouts and allows the user to fine-tweak each part of the map that being created – the map, titles, images, scales, legends, etc. In QGIS 3, Print composers were renamed to Print layouts.

Creating a New Print layout

To access the Print Composer, we first create a new Print layout/composer (if we haven’t already) via Project -> New Print layout (QGIS 3), Project -> New Print Composer (QGIS 2), or CTRL + P. Previously created layouts/composers can be accessed via Project -> Layouts (QGIS 3) or Project -> Print composers (QGIS 2).

Let’s create a new layout/composer and name it basketball.

Creating or opening a print layout opens that Print Composer/Layout window.

The Print Composer Window

The Print Composer/Layout window is composed of a menu bar, toolbars, a canvas, and a side pane.

Menu bar

The menu bar provides access to commands and functions of the Print composer such as adding and editing maps, texts, and images.


Like the menu bar, the toolbars provide quick access to commands and functions of the Print composer.


The canvas is where we see the actual layout of the map we are going to create. This is where we add images, texts, legends, etc.

Side pane

For me, the side pane is one of the most important areas in the Print composer window. The Layout, Item Properties, and Guides tabs allow the user to fine-tune elements of the map from the color of the font to the scale used, etc.

Creating a Map with the Print Composer

Now let’s create an actual map that we can print using the Map composer.

Set the Page Setup of the Layout

The first thing we need to do is to setup the size of our map canvas via Layout -> Page Setup or CTRL + SHIFT + P. For this map, we’ll be printing it in A4 sized paper.

With this, when we print our map or save it as an image, we know that its size will be A4.

Add a Map to the Canvas

Now let’s add our map to the canvas via Add Item -> Add Map or by clicking the Add Map button on the left toolbar.

After adding the map, we can place it anywhere on the canvas and change its size or zoom level by changing its scale property. Other aspects of the map can also be edited in the Item Properties tab.

Add Map title

Every map needs a title. Let’s add one to ours using Add Item -> Add Label or by clicking the Add Label button on the left toolbar. We can add a label for the title and another for the subtitle.

The text, font style, color, and other properties can be changed in the Item Properties Tab.

Add Map Legend

The next step is to add a legend so people can understand our map better. A Legend can be added using Add Item -> Add Legend or the Add Legend button on the left toolbar.

Like with other map elements, legends properties can be edited in the Item Properties tab. Let’s rename the FGA item in the legend and remove the CourtMap item.

Add Texts

Let’s add another label that provides a little more information and explanation about our map.

Add Images (North Arrow, Logos, etc)

Images can also be added to our map via the Add Item -> Add Picture or the Add Picture button in the left toolbar.

Once we are satisfied with the layout of our map, we can export it to an image, pdf, or svg file. The commands for this can be found under the Layout menu or on the toolbar. We can also Print the map directly.

Let's save our map as a .PNG file that we can print.

Congratulations! You should now have a ready-to-print PNG file like the one below:

Final Thoughts

Those are just the basics of map-making in QGIS using the Map Composer. With a bit of practice, creativity, and familiarity, greater and more beautiful maps can be created in QGIS. For some inspiration, you can check out Map Examples from the QGIS site.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series where we’ll look at creating a Hot Zones map and adding Labels to Symbology. Cheers!

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