I am just getting started using QGIS. I am aiming to create a heat map of Census tracts in Georgia based on population. I have all of the data - the population for each census tract in Georgia.
I've been able to create the heat map successfully by importing a census tract shapefile and following this tutorial: http://qgis.spatialthoughts.com/2012/03/using-tabular-data-in-qgis.html
However I am stuck on how to add a nice looking map layer underneath which will show common geographical features - highways, cities, water courses etc. I have tried importing OSM data from cloudmade but there is far too much detail. The map is supposed to be fairly high level but the shapefiles from there show every single road. I am trying to replace MS MapPoint (no 2010 census tracts). The functionality I am trying to get would allow for different levels of detail depending on how far I zoom. Generally just showing major roads / cities etc. I don't mind if this is automatic or manual.
Could anyone point me in the right direction? Any help would be much appreciated.