Is there any way to get detailed (close zoom) OSM tiffs at the county level in the USA?

I would like to use them as basemaps for a class I am teaching in GIS, using QGIS.

I know about (and love) the OpenLayers plugin, but it can be flaky (http://hub.qgis.org/issues/5827) and it depends on a decent network connection.

I don't care if the maps are a year or so old, and I also don't care if they are really big. I would like full coverage of Thurston County WA with full detail, though.

I would most like to have an FTP site to download from, not some app or on-the-fly generated thing.


Here is the workflow I am using, which I think will satisfy my needs:

  1. Download pbf file for my state from Geofabrik

  2. Use Maperitive to generate an MBtile for the region I want (a few square miles only currently, for demonstration, will try the county later today). I can run this overnight if necessary (generat-mbtile minzoom=1 maxzoom=18)

  3. Load the mbtile into QGIS as a raster format (yay GDAL!)

Thanks to everyone for your help, even though I didn't take any of your ideas in total they helped me figure out the pieces.

I keep thinking I want to produce an "atlas" (metaphorical) of US Census tracts, and one of the things I would include for each tract would be an mbtile and tiff, I think.

It might be a good service to provide these, maybe at the Census Tract level too, for us desktop mappers...

If I am missing something critical, please clue me in....


I suggest to download the US data from Geofabrik, and clip the data to your county's extent with osmfilter or osmosis.

Alternatively to Tilemill, you can use Maperitive to render OSM data. It can create single images (default is png, but it creates also tif), and local tiles. You can then share the tile folders with all participants.

The software also includes a tool to get SRTM data for creating contour lines and hillshades, and creating tiles from Web services.

The TileLayer plugin is a good choice to use local tiles, with a chance to set transparency (which Openlayers plugin does not provide).

  • 1
    I think I will do the following: download a state from Geofabrik, use Maperitive to generate an MBtile for a region, import into QGIS, and use that to map-compose. The MBtile doesn't have the offset bug of the openlayers plugin. – forkandwait Sep 4 '14 at 23:43

You might try downloading the data yourself, styling it with Tilemill, exporting to MBTiles as a file accessible on the network, and use a method described below to bring it into QGIS:

Local Tile Cache in QGIS


Using a tile downloading software like Mobile Atlas Cache, you can download the tiles to mbtiles format.

Gdal supports this format and hence you can add it as a raster layer in Qgis.

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    Please regard the tile usage policy of Openstreetmap. Your IP gets blocked if you do mass tile downloading for larger areas. A single county might be ok for zoom levels up to 16 or 17. – AndreJ Sep 4 '14 at 7:49
  • I think downloading a cache is the best way. I wonder if I pre-confirmed, if I could do a mass downloading (I will ask on the OSM list if I get that far)? I would prefer having really good resolution and building pyramids locally (never done that, though...) – forkandwait Sep 4 '14 at 15:20
  • Building pyramids is not the same as using different zoom level tiles. You can not read anything from the pyramids, because any text will be scaled down too. – AndreJ Sep 4 '14 at 15:25
  • Yes, correct. I though download at close-in zoom level (I guess I would have to stitch together with GDAL...), build pyramids for performance and ability to zoom quickly in QGIS. – forkandwait Sep 4 '14 at 15:33
  • @forkandwait:you don't need to build pyrimids or such yikes if you download in mbtiles format. This is because the tiles will be downloaded for all the zoom levels that you specify. – Devdatta Tengshe Sep 4 '14 at 18:22

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