Adding Markers on the map using Datawrapper and QGIS

Locator Map

Okvau Mine in Cambodia’s Chung Phlas commune is a lucrative gold mining project that aims to recover the country’s post-pandemic economy. Sitting on the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, the mine threatens the traditional lifestyle of the nearby indigenous Bunong residents. An article from VOD English News“‘Everything Changed’: Cambodia’s Gold Rush Weighs on Indigenous Livelihoods'' using the locator map to help understand this tension. This map helps pitching the story by visualizing how Okvau Mine interferes with the wildlife sanctuary and thwarts the local ways of living and traditions. We will recreate the exact same map, and after finishing this recipe, you will be able to make maps with point, line and area markers on it! 


Open Development Cambodia’s Wildlife Sanctuary Data; OCHA Humanitarian Dataset
Datawrapper, QGIS
Read in other Languages
No items found.


Locator maps serve as powerful visual aids which give the audience a better understanding of the geographic context for news stories, ranging from weather reports to sports events. When reporting incidence in unfamiliar territory or precise locations, locator maps highlighting places with points, lines, and areas are quite effective in storytelling. 

You can use Datawrapper, an open-source tool, to create and customize locator maps. In Datawrapper, there are three possible ways to add markers on the map. The first one (Using Datawrapper Built-in Software) is the most direct and easiest, while the last one (Using QGIS) may be time-consuming and the hardest.

  • Using Datawrapper Built-in Software: You can readily add geographic regions and layers by typing in at the search bar in Datawrapper. 
  • Using Google Maps: Sometimes, you cannot find some locations (such as address) in Datawrapper. At that time, you can search the location on Google Map and then copy and paste the link in the search box.
  • Using QGIS: Some map layers (such as forest, railway track) need to be extracted and customized using QGIS, which is a free mapping tool. We will then export the layer to Datawrapper to add as a marker.

Luckily, you will be exposed to all three methods of adding markers as you try to recreate the map!

So, here are a few things to do before we get started! 

  1. First, register an account for Datawrapper:

  1. Then Install QGIS

Once you have installed QGIS on your desktop, leave it for a while as we are revisiting as we customize area markers. 

Crafting and Adding Markers 

Adding markers help visualize the exact location of a place that you want to show. It helps readers accurately imagine where it is in the world conveniently. There are multiple methods to craft markers onto your map. In this section, we will explore how to add markers through Datawrapper’s built-in software, Google Maps, and QGIS.

First, we will use Datawrapper to set up the Cambodia map. 

The Datawrapper Work page will pop up. You can see that Datawrapper uses an easy 4-step method to create charts: Upload Data; Check & Describe, Visualize; Publish and Embed.

  • Click on the Create new… 
  • Choose Map

It will ask you the type of map which you want to create. 

  • Choose Locator Map since we are adding points and polygons on the Cambodia map. 

You will see a new page where you can start adding markers. Before adding markers, we will need to narrow down the geographic region we want to zoom in. For example:

  • In a search box under the +Add Marker, type in Cambodia. 

You will see the map will Zoom into Cambodia. 

We will need to delete the layer since the map will zoom into a province level in Cambodia. 

  • You can delete the layer by clicking the trash can symbol in the Cambodia tab. 


Using Datawrapper’s Built-In Software - Mondulkiri Province

We will add Mondulkiri Province where the gold mining occurs through Datawrapper’s website. Instead of putting a dot, we want to mark the area of the province in the map. 

That means we need to add a region as an area marker. 

  • Zoom into Cambodia on the map. 
  • Turn on “Add region as area marker” 

  • Type in Mondulkiri in a search bar. (This won’t show up unless you zoom into cambodia on the map)
  • When “Mondulkiri” pops up, select it. 

Now we have added the Mondulkiri Province shown in gray. 

  • Zoom into the Mondulkiri Province so that it fits the frame as shown below. 

Then we can customize the fill and outline of this area marker. 

  • Turn on the switch for Fill
  • For Color,  type in hex code: #aaaaaa
  • Set Opacity at 20% 
  • Select the first option (solid) for Fill Type

  • Turn on the switch for Outline
  • For Color,  type in hex code: #989898
  • Set Width at 1px
  • Set Opacity at 75% 
  • For Dash, choose the first option. 

Now you have completed adding the first area marker for the map. 


Using Google Maps - Okvau Gold Mine

Sometimes, Datawrapper does not have information on specific geographic locations. In this case, we can export data from Google Maps into Datawrapper. This next marker–Okvau Gold Mine–will be placed on the map through Google Maps.

Unlike the Mondulkiri Province, the gold mine will be shown in a point marker as it is a smaller geographic entity. One thing to be aware of is that the Datawrapper may or may not have location information for this goldmine. Good news is that we can find the location on Google Map and then add it to the map, simply by copying and pasting the link. 

  • So, first open Google Maps. 
  • In a search box, type in “Okvau Gold Mine” 
  • Once the result is shown, double check to see if it is the correct one. 
  • Zoom in/out the map. 
  • Take a closer look at the address
  • Visit the website provided to confirm if it is the right location. 

  • Once you are convinced that it is the correct location, copy the URL
  • Paste that URL in the box under the +Add marker
  • The dropdown menu will show “Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Limited” which is the company responsible for gold mining. Click it. 

A point marker named “Renaissance Mineral (Cambodia) Limited'' will be added on the map as shown below. However, we want to mark it as a mine. We need to change the name and symbol associated with the mine. 

  • Change the Text to “Okvau Mine”
  • Leave the Presets as it is.
  • For Symbol, pick the cross hammer sign which represents the mining industry. The color is Black. 

  • Click on the more option dropdown to make it look more apparent and tidy. 

  • In more options, we can change Font size, outline color and alignment by choosing a few options:
  • Change Format/ Font size to 18 px.
  • Select Black (#333333) for Text color and White (#ffffff) for Outline color. 
  • Choose Middle-Top for the Alignment of the Text. 
  • For Style, select just text. 
  • For Scale, select 1 x. 

Now the map looks professional with Okvau Mine and Mondulkiri Province. We still need two more layers with the help of QGIS. 

This process is  basically the same for both Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Chong Phlah Commune

Here is the simplification of the upcoming steps: 


Using QGIS

Sometimes, certain types of geographic information are too specific to be acquired through Datawrapper and Google Maps. In this case, QGIS can be used to extract the shapes that you need. It is a free, open-sourced geographical information system used for mapping census data, environmental information and other types of spatial data. 

QGIS Example: Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary 

First we will extract the layer for Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary. Cambodia has over 22 wildlife sanctuaries. The Open Development Data site provided geospatial information for all these wildlife sanctuaries. 

  • In the Search the Catalogue box, type in “Wildlife Sanctuary”.
  • You can select the dataset by clicking on the “NPAs Wildlife Sanctuary (English)”

It will show you the preview of wildlife sanctuaries across Cambodia. 

  • Click Download Dataset 

A new webpage will appear. There are eight datasets of protected areas in Cambodia (national park, wildlife sanctuary, protected landscape, multiple use, natural heritage site, Ramsar site, biosphere reserve and marine national park) with issuing dates starting from 1993 to 2021. 

  • Click the Shapefile tab under “NPAs: Wildlife Sanctuary (English)” as shown below. Make sure it is the 15th from the top. A shapefile named “wildlidfe-en.gpkg”will be downloaded. 

  • Make sure to create a folder and save the downloaded file. 
  • Afterwards, open QGIS

  • Click on the Layer panel. 
  • Then select Add Layer > Add Vector layer…

A new window will pop up. 

  • Click … on the right end of the Vector Dataset(s) bar. 
  • This will let you upload the Shapefile you downloaded. Go to the designated folder and upload the file named “wildlife_en.gpkg”. 

  • Click on the Add button . 
  • Exit. 

It will show the all shapefiles of the wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia. We only need the layer associated with Phnom Prinh. 

It will show the all shapefiles of the wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia. 

  • Right-click the "wildlife_en" layer and choose the "Open Attribute Table" option

  • When a new window appears, press Ctrl + F to select or filter features using form. Alternatively, you may click on the funnel shape as shown below.

This will allow you to select the feature and we will use the name of the sanctuary for this process.

  • Type in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary for the name tab (which is in the fourth row). 
  • Click Select Features and Exit. 

You will see the area associated with Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary turned yellow, which means that the area has been selected. Now we will export this area. 

  • Right click wildlife_en layer 
  • Select Export > Save Selected Feature As …

It will open a new window.

  • Make sure the Format is GeoJSON.
  • Click … next to File Name. Save the file name as “Phnom Prich”.
  • For CRS, Choose Default CRS: EPSG: 4326 - WGS 84 (which is the last option). 
  • Make sure Add saved file to the map is ticked. 
  • Click OK. 

Now the new shape file is added on the map and also stored as a GeoJSON file, which can be uploaded to Datawrapper to form an area marker. 

QGIS Exercise: Chong Phlah Commune

We are also adding another area marker–Chong Phlah Commune. This can be retrieved from OCHA Humanitarian Dataset, which is a great place to obtain administrative boundaries datasets. 

  • First go to Humanitarian Data Exchange website:
  • In a search box, type in “Cambodia Commune” and press Enter

  • Among the results, choose “Cambodia Admin Boundaries Level 3 (Communes). 

  • Download the shapefile. 

After downloading the shapefile, you can continue extracting the Chong Phlah Commune from the shapefiles of Communes as you did for “Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary”. 

  • Since it will come in a Zip file, you need to unzip and then save it to the folder created earlier. 

This time, screenshots will not be provided as the process is similar. Try to make it happen by following the prompts. You may revisit the previous steps if you need. 

  1. Upload the Shapefile/ .shp (as a Vector Layer) 
  2. Open the Attribute Table of the Commune Shapefile (By right clicking the layer) 
  3. Select the layer using administrative name (adm3_name) 
  4. Export the selected file 
  5. Save the file as “ChongPhlah” in GeoJSON (Using Default CRS: EPSG: 4326 - WGS 84) 

Now we have got GeoJSON files for both Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary and Chong Phlah Commune. Let’s get back to where we left off in Datawrapper to add them as area markers. 

  • Turn on the switch for Import line and area markers. 
  • Click Import GeoJSON or CSV. 
  • Add “PhnomPrich” and then “ChongPhlah”

You will see these two layers are added to the map. Now we are going to make adjustments in colors and outlines. 

We will begin refining with Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Select the layer Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Turn on the switch for Fill. 
  • For Color, type in #00dca6 as hex code. Green is better suited to signal wildlife sanctuary as the color represents forest. 
  • Set Opacity as 40% 
  • Choose the solid (the first option) as Fill Type
  • Turn on the switch for Outline
  • For Color, type in hex code: #888
  • Set Width at 1px
  • Set Opacity at 75% 
  • For Dash, choose the first option. 


We will continue adjusting the Chong Phlah Commune. It may be named “Area marker 1”. If so, we will need to change the name. 

  • Select the layer. 
  • Turn on the switch for Fill. 
  • For Color, type in #fa8c00 as hex code. 
  • Set Opacity as 20% 
  • Choose the solid (the first option) as Fill Type
  • Turn on the switch for Outline
  • For Color, type in hex code: #888
  • Set Width at 1px
  • Set Opacity at 75% 
  • For Dash, choose the first option. 
  • Click more options. Here we can change the name of the layer if it is not accurate. 
  • In the marker name box, type in Chong Phlah Commune. (Please note that it can be spelled either Phlas or Phlah. We will go with commonly used one–Chong Phlah) 
  • When done, click Proceed. 

Designing and Annotating 

Now all the markers are added to the map. We will move on to designing the map where we are selecting map styles and putting some elements. 

  • Click Design Map panel on the top

Map Style 

  • Select the map style as shown below: 
  • Tick only: Roads; Green areas; Country borders; Inner country borders; Water; Mountains. 

And then we are adding some map elements which assist the viewer to better understand the context. 

  • Turn on the Scale bar and choose kilometer (km) as Unit. 
  • Turn on North arrow (The top of the map is considered as north but most geographic maps add north arrow by default) 
  • Turn on the Inset map. We will insert a small map of Cambodia to show which part of the country this map is about. 
  • Choose region for type 
  • In the dropdown bar, select Cambodia. 
  • Type in Cambodia for Label
  • Position is bottom right 
  • Size is 165 px 
  • Offset is 8% Horizontal and 8% Vertical. 

Now the map looks a lot more stylish! We will need to put titles and legends to make it more professional. 


  • Type in Title, Data Source, and Link to Data Source as shown below: 
  • Title: Okvau mine is located in Chong Phlas, Mondulkiri
  • Data Source:  Open Development Cambodia 
  • Link to data source:

Then we will need to add legend for markers

  • Turn on the Show Key. 
  • No need to add Title 
  • Select Bottom for Position 
  • Select List for Layout. 
  • Type in the name of the associated markers as shown below: 

We can skip Layout as there are no specific things to be changed. 

  • You can proceed to “Publish and Embed” where you can share this visualization. 
  • Copying the link under “Share and Embed”, you can include this map in your article. 


Now you have successfully followed the recipe and created a visualization! Feel free to compare your result with ours: 

When done properly, locator maps help readers have a better idea of how a given set of geographic information looks like. It is best used to pinpoint where a specific location is on the map and where it is close to for reference. Without the need for long-winded explanations, this visualization effectively portrays geographic information in an easy-to-understand manner.

This technique is especially powerful in fields such as journalism where information is needed to be conveyed as fast as possible. In the following links, you can also see how mainstream journal articles use locator maps for various new reports. 

Recommended Recipes

Visualizing the Impact of COVID-19 and Policymaking on Mobility

Line Chart

Visualizing the Impact of Covid-19 on Tourist Arrivals in Cambodia

Line Chart