This article will explain why you should use grids and grid frame in your maps. It will also show you the best ways to use them in your maps. Grids are lines of longitude and latitude that run along the surface of your map. Grids enable your viewers to see how the flat map surface relates to the real‑world global in the map’s projection.

Grid frame, on another hand, refers to the lines that border the grids. Please note that grid frame is the border of the grid lines which. This type of frame bears the coordinates of the map and this gives it some relevance in spatial analysis and interpretation.

As for the frame which is just an arbitrary border around the map, then it is just a little more than mere decoration for the map. Such a frame has little use in spatial analysis and it is not a part of our topic.


sample of well-made grid and grid frame

Why and when you need to add Grids and Frame to Your Map.

Normally, you can publish a map without adding grids and grid frame. You can make simple maps for your audience without the need to add any grids and grid frame.

However, sometimes you may need to guide your audience to the location of particular features on your map. Like when you want to let them know the exact position of a state or province in the country. Without grids and frame your readers may find it hard to know the exact position of the state.

Also, your readers might need to calculate the longitudinal or latitudinal extent of a feature. They might need it to calculate the distance across the feature or to extract some other useful information from your map. If your map did not have grids or frame then they might experience some difficulty in doing this.

Lastly, you might need to digitize your map in the future. If for any reason, you lose the raw vector or raster data of your map and suddenly the only data source you have is that amateur experiment that you created when you were just beginning to learn cartography and GIS. Geo-referencing the map for digitization would be a piece of cake for you (if you added grids and grid frame to the map). Else you have a big task ahead.

In summary, Adding grids and grid frames to your map is very important and you should not take it with levity. try to use grids and grid frame in (a copy of) your maps. Below are some of the best practices for making grids and grid frames for your maps.

Grids and Frames: Best Practices

Although many people may have reservations for this convention, grids and grid frame are usually only present on maps that are meant for navigational purposes. Even so, we think it is best for you to include grids and grid frame in all kinds of maps as an additional location‑ and scale‑related metadata element. You might not realise the importance of this metadata until when you need to digitize or geo-reference your map in the future.

1. Remember the Rule of Thumb

Maps that were meant to display results of analysis do not necessarily need to include grids. If you really think you must include grids in your map, then ensure that they do not cause too much clutter for the map audience to view the analytical results easily. This is because analytical maps will require easy‑to‑read and conspicuous labels at the top and bottom.

2. Keep it light, it’s not a painting contest

You will likely want your grids to be unobtrusive on the map surface, An easy way to achieve this is by using grey or dashed lines, fewer divisions, and small labels (that are visible if the viewer looks but do not intrude on the other important aspects of the map.

Another way to do this is to use cool and less noisy colours in your map. An additional technique to minimize the interference of grids is to run them behind certain portions of the map, usually the land portions of a worldwide map.

3. Keep it in a Master Copy

Lastly (and this is what I would suggest for most maps), you can simply make a copy of the map that contains grids and keep this for your personal reference. Then you may publish another copy of the map which does not contain grids for your client or audience. This becomes particularly handy when your audience.


You now have some professional insight and cool tips on how best to place grids and grid frame on your map; be it navigational or analytical. Reading a blog post is a piece of cake but the real task is in practicing what you have read. Practicing will help you create your own unique style and taste.

So, get behind your computer and practice. Don’t be shy to share ts post with your friends and colleagues if you think its useful.

Lastly, did I omit anything or didn’t explain anything well? I’ll be honoured to have your comments below.

And thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Map Grids and Grid Frame: Best Practices

  1. Hello sir
    I have a added grid coordianates to my map but it is giving a wrong coordinates. How do I know it is a correct coordinate for my map?

    1. A common cause of this problem is using a non-geographic crs for your grid lines.

      Typically, you’ll want to use a CRS that measures in metres, miles or kilometres for your spatial analysis. While these units are great for analysis and report, they’re not the best for designing maps. Imagine a map that measures/displays its longitudes and latitudes in metres, miles or kilometres.

      So, now we are at a t-junction and are confused which direction to take; use a geographic crs and risk incorrect result but neat/interpretable map layout or use a non-geographic result and get reliable results but poor/unreadable layout.

      Luckily for us, there’s a way around this. Use the CRS of your choice for your analysis. However, when you get to the print composer and add grids to your map (as explained in the article ), click the modify grid button, under the “appearance” section, you’ll see a
      a drop-down box labeled “CRS”. Click it and select a geographic CRS (EPSG 4326).

      Voila! Now your grids will display in the degrees not metres, miles and kilometres.

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