We’re putting out some very saturated pixels. Why? Simple: The world really looks like that. When I demonstrate this I like to pull up photos of the Australian outback on Flickr, for example:

red sand

Red sand by Rupert Ganzer.

Here’s another:

Simpson Desert Scrub

Simpson Desert Scrub by John Benwell. It looks exaggerated at first, but notice that the sky and leaves are normal hues. The sand is truly that colorful.

We show interior Australia as bright red-orange because interior Australia is bright red-orange. And the same goes for everywhere that other mapmakers tend to artificially subdue​ —​ we show what’s there:

Arches National Park, in Eastern Utah

Arches National Park, in Eastern Utah by faungg, and our imagery:

Or take the Alaskan tundra. It isn’t quite as vivid, but it still has more numerous and delicate colors than many people would imagine (perhaps because of traditional satellite maps that “correct” it to greenish gray):

Take a Big Deep Breath

Take a Big Deep Breath by Western Arctic National Parklands.

Our goal is to show the earth’s colors exactly as they are.

Of course it’s not always so easy. As Ian’s work on satellite labels shows, it can be very tricky to layer text and other design elements over bright satellite imagery. But that’s why there’s a saturation control built into our editing interface. If you need a more muted basemap, you can simply drag the slider. Radical customizability is what lets us get away with radical accuracy.