I am new to this whole GIS thing (my background is software-development, but not GIS) but I am super interested in making maps. So I started playing around with TileMill and was making my first steps there. Now I know the basics of where to get data from, CartoCSS, Elevation Data, GeoTiffs and so on...

My goal: A outdoor map as an MBTiles file with raster data in it. The data should cover parts of Europe.

Alright... I guess I should start by asking the following questions:


Which tool would you suggest for that job? Would TileMill work? Will I have problems with TileMill2 if I want to render raster data? (Would this tool help?)

I need to add GeoTiff overlays as well. TileMill2 wont be able to do that right? I also don't want to add the raster data on top of the rest, but as a layer in the middle.

I am on a Mac, so Tools that would run on my machine would be best :) But if there is like THE tool for it that only runs on Windows or Linux I should be able to get my hands on it as well... Oh, and inexpensive/free tools are preferred


Where do I best get my data from?

When playing in TileMill1 I downloaded data from geofabrik. Now it seems as if the data isn't complete in there. Especially information about mountains... where there is forest and so on is pretty limited it seems...

So I went over to TileMill2 and started playing around there. The "Mapbox Streets V4" layer has quite some information in there... But then I get very little information about f.e. where buildings are.

Are there any other remote sources I can add to TileMill2? Some that are more suitable for an outdoor map?

Style my map:

In MapQuest when you zoom out you get this nice world map with sand in Africa, green in Europe, Ice at the poles.... how do they draw that? Is that the Humanitarian Data Model?

I already learned how to get elevation data and how to make it visible with gdal. Is this the way to go? But then I would need a tool (like TileMill1) where I can add this raster layer. TileMill2 wont support that, right?

So many questions! Thanks in advance for any tips!

  • 1
    My comment is... there are too many questions here and not enough clarity about what you want. you want to re-work data, find tools, style the data?
    – Brad Nesom
    May 21, 2014 at 20:03
  • Yes, sorry... I am at the beginning of my whole GIS-Learning... So I have many questions... So basically I'd like to know which tools will be the best to create a good outdoor map. And where to get the data for it? (Preferably for TileMill2) Maybe you can start by answering some of the questions posted? I would really appreciate any tip! Also hints to good tutorials are very appreciated.
    – Georg
    May 21, 2014 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


Tools: TileMill can export a map to MBTiles out of the box, there is an item in "Export" drop-down menu.

And yes, you can add GeoTIFF as a layer.

Data: If you want complete freedom, download a PBF extract (geofabrik's are good), install PostgreSQL and import data there (see this tutorial). This way you can use any data that OpenStreetMap provides.

For outdoor maps you might be interested in highway=track and path features. Buildings are tagged as building=*. All of those should be available in shape files you downloaded from Geofabrik.

As for vector tiles of TileMill 2, I don't know which kinds of those are available, sorry.

Style: They use alternative, non-OSM data sources, like Natural Earth. You can download NE shapes from this site and style in TileMill as you wish.

For contour lines you would need to download DEM data and postprocess it with gdal_contour. See this and this articles. As I understand, TileMill 2 should support everything TileMill 1 does (I didn't try it).

  • Thank you so much for you answer! What I found out that OSM Data doesn't seem to give me all information about landuse/natural... Can that be? I style f.e. everything of type forest as a green shape... but many parts of Austria where there are forests, I don't see my green shapes. Any idea if this is related to the geofabrik export? I did read that they don't have ALL the landuse/natural information in their extracts...
    – Georg
    May 23, 2014 at 14:43
  • Forests can be tagged as either landuse=forest or natural=wood. For rendering a map, those tags can be considered interchangeable. Try adding the natural one (I don't actually know what's inside Geofabrik extracts, but I assume it has tags). May 23, 2014 at 15:06

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