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Scale Maps for Printing

Maps are often printed at a size that makes objects on paper a particular fraction of their real size. The linear ratio of the mapped to real object sizes is called map scale, and it is usually notated with a colon as "1:1,000,000" or "1:24,000." Another way of specifying scale is to call out the printed and real lengths, for example "1 inch = 1 mile."

You can specify the printed scale using the paperscale function. It modifies the size of the printed area on the page to match the scale. If the resulting dimensions are larger than your paper, you can reduce the amount of empty space around the map using tightmap, zoom, or panzoom, and by changing the axes position to fill the figure. This also reduces the amount of memory needed to print with the zbuffer (raster image) renderer. Be sure to set the paper scale last. For example,

set(gca,'Units','Normalized','Position',[0 0 1 1])
tightmap
paperscale(1,'in', 5,'miles')

The paperscale function also can take a scale denominator as its first and only argument. If you want the map to be printed at 1:20,000,000, type

paperscale(2e7)

To check the size and extent of text and the relative position of axes, use previewmap, which resizes the figure to the printed size.

previewmap

For more information on printing, see Printing and Saving.