Tippecanoe is the tool I always use for converting Shapefiles/GeoJSONs to Mapbox vector tiles in PBF format, for rendering in Mapbox-GL-JS. But it doesn't seem ideal: its primary use case seems to be processing enormous point datasets such as tweets which means:

  • It focuses on points, not lines or polygons.
  • Many of its settings are focused on determining which features to drop.

There are other limitations in practice:

  • its processing of line and polygon features can be really ugly,
  • its "base zoom" model is not well explained, so that working through its dozens of configuration parameters is pretty hit and miss.
  • although it has some per-feature properties like maxzoom and minzoom it doesn't have a way to vary which properties are included per level
  • its functioning is pretty opaque, there's not much information generated about what choices were made at each level, how "heavy" the tiles are overall, etc.

So my question is: are there other ways to convert vector files to vector tiles that work better for polygons and lines?

  • github.com/mapbox/mapbox-tile-copy is an alternative. I believe that's the exact process that happens when you upload to Mapbox. For a bunch of reasons it's less user friendly than tippecanoe. And you still need to then bundle up your mvt into an mbtiles. Jan 9, 2018 at 10:11
  • Also github.com/NYCPlanning/geojson2mvt outputs mvt static files using node. Very simple. Uses geojson-vt.
    – Malcolm
    Jan 10, 2018 at 1:24
  • Huh, that's strange @AndrewHarvey - cutting vectors into tiles and uploading to S3 seem like pretty separate tasks. Wonder which bit does the actual vector tile generation. Jan 10, 2018 at 1:58
  • Tilelive-omnivore or one of its dependencies maybe... Jan 10, 2018 at 11:30
  • How do you store the data? Is PostGIS an option? I am using PostGIS to generate and store tiles in separate table to the table with the geometry. Apr 24, 2018 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


Tippecanoe is designed for lines and polygons as well. Here's a recommended starting point for representing polygons at all zoom levels, with one property you want to aggregate at low (zoomed-out) levels when features are combined to keep tiles small and visually useful.

tippecanoe -o out.mbtiles -P --coalesce-smallest-as-needed --detect-shared-borders --extend-zooms-if-still-dropping -z12 --accumulate-attribute=my-attribute:sum|max|min|avg mydata.geojson
  • 2
    Thanks, I hadn't seen the --accumulate-attribute flag before, interesting. (I'm definitely aware that Tippecanoe supports lines/polygons, but some of that support feels quite bolted on, and the default behaviour is often pretty terrible without a bunch of flags...) Apr 25, 2018 at 12:57

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