I'm using TileMill from MapBox to generate tiles and export Mapnik xml files. So far so good. I've downloaded the entire Natural Earth dataset, and have so far successfully imported layers for lakes, coastlines, land and rivers. Now I would like to add labels, using the "Physical Labels" dataset.

When I attempt to add a layer using the shape file 'ne_10m_geography_regions_points.shp', I get a few dozen little red dots (all of which seem to be on a coastline), but no labels. I've tried combinations of the 'ne_10m_geography_regions_polys.shp' and points, but don't get anything nearly resembling the examples on the Natural Earth download site.

I'm a bit new at this, so I'm not sure if the problem is TileMill, the Natural Earth data, or me. I suspect it's me but I don't understand why this layer would be different than the others I've successfully used.

1 Answer 1


You'll need to create/style the labels yourself. The Natural Earth data provides, as indicated, the points where the labels will go, along with the text. You'll style them with CartoCSS. See https://www.mapbox.com/tilemill/docs/guides/styling-labels/ for basic guidance on styling labels.

  • I guess that makes sense - otherwise you'd be stuck with whatever language the data provider decided to use. What I still don't get is why there are only coastline points. I don't think I'm having any z-order or transparency issues, all I see is dots along the coasts when it's the only layer displayed.
    – Gojira
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 16:10
  • The ordering of your CartoCSS can determine layer order, which may be part of the issue you're encountering. Try swapping around CartoCSS blocks and see if you can get the points on top. mapbox.com/tilemill/docs/guides/symbol-drawing-order Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 18:32

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