Why does my map look so different when I look at it in the QGIS print composer? The widths of lines change, the size of markers change, the size of fonts change.

Is there any way to have the two always in sync? My goal is generated a printed map so it's frustrating to have to load the Print Composer and then go back and tweak everything in the regular view. Everything is always smaller in the editor view and bigger in the print composer view.

I feel like there's something obvious I'm missing or not getting.


Print Composer View

  • Have you used the Item Properties tab in the composer? It is up there on the right. Middle tab of 3.
    – Willy
    Oct 14, 2013 at 3:09
  • How does the Item Properties tab achieve what OP was asking for?
    – rovyko
    Mar 18, 2018 at 3:37
  • Is there any update on this in newer versions of QGIS? I would love for it to use a reference scale for map items like ArcMap
    – AWGIS
    Aug 7, 2018 at 13:18
  • @AWGIS Take a look at my proposed solution Aug 28, 2020 at 21:51

3 Answers 3


You could also use "map units" instead of "points" to scale your labels and lines (you'll need rather huge values in most cases). This way your labels will always have a fixed size in relation to your map, and you'll be able to place them very precisely within the map canvas - no need to switch over to the composer (useful in very crowded maps).

This disadvantage is, of course, that you might not be able to read the labels in too small or large scales, because they might be either too small or too large.


7 years later I'm back making maps again and trying to solve this problem... and I think I found a solution:

  • In the Layout Compose, take note of the Scale of your map (22861 in my case)
  • In the Editing window, set the scale to same number (22861)
  • In the Editing window, set the Magnify to 200%

When I do this, both the Edit window and Layout window seem to show the same scale of things!

  • Thanks, I'm gonna try this.
    – M Bain
    Aug 28, 2020 at 21:46
  • So far this seems to be working well for me. I don’t really know WHY it’s working, and I’d like to sort it out, but it’s working! Aug 28, 2020 at 22:38

Well what you see in print composer depends on what paper size you are aiming to print to. The editing canvas can't know that in advance.

It's the nature of the document preparation beast in my opinion. Nothing to do with QGIS really. As you allude to, there is a workspace for editing which allows fluent changes.

Once you build a print composer template you can save it for reuse. So it is worth the investment to make things look right.

  • One thing I just tried is setting the scale of the editing canvas to the same as the map in the print composer. Unfortunately they still don't match up. Oct 14, 2013 at 3:20
  • 1
    This happens also in other software, usually you set up a scale in the layout view and then apply line weights and simbology on the data view by looking at how the output will look in the layout. It is a bit of a hassle so I suggest annotating the values for future reference Oct 14, 2013 at 3:29
  • 1
    It has plenty to do with QGIS. This issue is easily solved in ArcMap with reference scales, and even if it wasn't the ability to manipulate layers in the composer makes it easy to work with.
    – rovyko
    Mar 18, 2018 at 3:49

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