Advice for Maptack Shoppers

The informative power of maps and similar static displays is undiminished in the multimedia age. A handmade presentation of pins stuck in a map never fails to attract and hold attention. For excellent reasons is "Pinpoint" noun, verb and metaphor. Map pins and map tacks will help you communicate effectively. Everyone wants to stick a pin in the map!

Tip #1: Insert tacks or pins into a wall map at a downward angle to help prevent them from falling out.

map tack sizes compared

Large, medium, small

Medium size 1/8 inch ball (#100 series) maptacks are the best choice in most cases. They are small enough that hundreds can be arrayed on a medium sized map without obscuring too much, yet they are large enough to be clearly distinguishable across an ordinary room. 21 colors plus an extra 15 marked combinations are available.

Small 1/16 inch (#200 series) maptacks may be best when pinning a small map. They are fairly visible from 6 to 8 feet away. The small size allows you to place more tacks in a crowded area of a map, but there are other ways to work in crowded situations.

Too many locations?  Dozens of tacks jammed in close proximity can dramatically convey intense blanket coverage but can also obscure text and detail underneath. Try letting a flag with a number written on it, a larger tack or a special color represent a cluster of individual locations.

Large 1/4 inch (#400 series) maptacks work best on large maps. These are visible from across a very large room.

Our Gemstone and Sculptured tacks are also larger than most common maptacks. Ordinary maptacks make their best impression when their numbers add up but these provide visual impact one at a time. They stand out well to indicate special locations among larger numbers of ordinary tacks. They can make your map display extra special even if it does not have a large number of tacks.

Map Flags are most highly visible but can hide one another or overwhelm the map itself if they are too numerous. One side of each flag has a matte surface for writing on. Pencil can be erased. On dark colored flags, use a fine point correction pen to write in white. You can also put stickers on flags.

Large 1/4 inch numbered maptacks (#1200 series) are are preferred in most circumstances where each tack must be unique. They are readable at 4 to 6 feet. Instead of a plain printed key to the numbers alongside your display, try using matching tacks for the numbers in your index table. This is especially helpful when using more than one color.

Small 3/16 inch numbered maptacks (#1100 series) Minimal and unobtrusive, these are recommended where space is very limited or you want as little distraction as possible near the object of attention and do not mind if only the more attentive viewers notice the number. Small numbered tacks make an ideal key to miniature objects that will be viewed up close in a gallery or museum. Most people can read these numbers at about twice their normal reading distance. Unless you really need the numbers to be as small as possible, you probably want the larger size.

But I don't want to make holes in my map! We say get over it, they are pinholes. We have poster sized maps with close to 1000 holes scattered across them, still perfectly serviceable and ready for more tacks. It takes more pinholes than that to ruin a map. Besides, most people who stick a tack in a map intend it to remain indefinitely. If inserted into the little black dot that represents a city, a tack, when removed, leaves a hole that is especially unnoticeable. Nevertheless, when you can not make holes, or when too many holes will be a problem, we have you covered:

Colored stickers, dots or arrows are an ideal alternative to map tacks when you need to annotate a map that will be folded or rolled or whenever there is just no place for the sharp ends to go. Unlike maptacks however, an opaque sticker hides what is under it such as part of the name of what you are trying to emphasize.  The bigger the sticker, the easier it is to notice, but the more it hides. Transparent stickers let you see underlying text and detail but they can be harder to notice. It is important to pick sticker colors that contrast with the background, especially when using transparent stickers. Arrow shaped stickers can often be positioned to unambiguously point out what you want without hiding essential detail, but things get cluttered if you use a lot of arrows in a small area. The adhesive on our stickers is not permanent, so they can be safely removed from most surfaces with never a pinhole.

Magnets on the map make sense to those reluctant to make pinholes. But consider how magnets obscure detail exactly where you wish to place emphasis. If you need to indicate a large number of locations, you can fit hundreds more maptacks than magnets on a map before it becomes difficult to read. Magnet-ready maps cost more than regular pinboard. If you are like most people, most pins you insert will stay there for a while, only some will be removed, and you need not worry about pinholes for a long time. We think that the only situation where magnets offer a decisive advantage is when you expect to frequently move them about and repeatedly apply and remove them at the same locations.

Choosing colors that contrast with the colors on your map is much more important with stickers or flat magnets than maptacks. A tack offers visibility even when its color resembles the background. Some people want their maptacks to subtly harmonize with the map colors,  some want to maximize contrast. In any case, you can benefit by these rules: Choose dark colored tacks if the map's background colors are white or pale.  Choose white and light colored tacks if the map has strong colors. Pale map colors or better yet, black and white are what you want under a multicolored arrangement of tacks or stickers. Nothing gets attention like red but red tacks can be overused. Mind that red connotes alarm. After considering all that, whatever color first came into your mind will probably seem just fine!

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