How can I just get land and water layers that I can style with different fills and outlines?

Really - Just "land is green, water is blue" layers (that I can then add other layers on top of)

I'm wanting/tempted to use QuickOSM and get a vector layer of one or many polygons to use as "land" such that I can color the land and also color the water (or background, or "not land").

I'm new to GIS so please let me know if there are better ways to do this. Natural Earth Isn't detailed enough - I'm looking at roughly 1:10000 scale.

I've been able to get some boundaries and lines and admin zones but none are just the land. They all are bits and pieces that would need to get stacked and flattened and there must be an easier way (right?). I'm exporting as an image into illustrator/inkscape so I'm looking to create areas that I can fill and style and outline etc.

2 Answers 2


In OSM, there are no land polygons. If you download a small area of coast, you'll see that the border between ocean and land is actually modeled as lines with natural = coastline key-value pairs.

Instead of preparing the data yourself, you might want to use https://osmdata.openstreetmap.de

If you don't specifically need OSM data, you could download land and ocean data from https://www.naturalearthdata.com/downloads/

  • The land polygons download from osmdata.openstreetmap.de work perfectly! I could see the natural=coastline lines but couldn't figure out how to process or fill them (still don't know how to close those loops. Thanks for your help!
    – JRock
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 18:06

You can download water body outlines from the USGS EarthExplorer. The data resolution is approximately one arc second (approx. 30-meter). The description for this layer is here.

To download, select your area of interest on the interactive map, and choose SRTM Water Body Data from the Data Sets selection. The data is free, but you do have to register and log in.

  • Cool, I hadn't seen this dataset yet! I'm loving getting into GIS but it is a challenge to figure out where to get the data - it seems spread out all over the place!
    – JRock
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 16:23
  • Check out the [geospatial] tag on opendata.stackexchange.com. Lots of links to data sets.
    – csk
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 1:19

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