How does WMS interpret the SLD it receives? Does it parse the document and immediately draws the layers defined from top to bottom? Or does it rely on the 'layers' and 'style' parameters you can send along with the 'GetMap' request to specify what it should draw from the SLD document?

I am basing my question on the reference I found here http://docs.geoserver.org/stable/en/user/services/wms/reference.html. As you can see I can send along a comma separated list of layers and styles and I can send an SLD document. Is it valid to send both? What would happen if I only send an SLD document? And what would happen if I send both an SLD document and a comma separated list of layers and styles?

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    Perhaps this blog post helps you a bit geo-solutions.it/blog/….
    – user30184
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:02
  • Thank you, this explains it clearly. Do you know if this is a GeoServer specific implementation or part of the WMS standard?
    – Mathyn
    Sep 1, 2014 at 9:58
  • As far as I know GeoServer implements it as in document portal.opengeospatial.org/files/?artifact_id=22364. However, SLD support is not mandatory part of WMS and I am not at all sure that for example MapServer behaves in a similar way. So it may be both: part of standard but still a little bit GeoServer specific.
    – user30184
    Sep 1, 2014 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


The behaviour of SLD with WMS service is specified in the OGC document Styled Layer Descriptor profile of the Web Map Service Implementation Specification

Specification may be a bit hard to read. A good layman document about using SLD with WMS service and the difference between regular and library modes is this blog post

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