All the data that appears in our template map styles comes from one of four Mapbox tilesets. A tileset is a collection of raster or vector data broken up into a uniform grid of square tiles at 22 preset zoom levels.
Tilesets can be made up of either raster or vector tiles. Raster tilesets contain a collection of images at various zoom levels that make up a complete map. The Mapbox Satellite style is made from a raster tileset source.
The rest of our map styles are created using vector tilesets. Vector tilesets contain geometries and metadata – like road names, place names, house numbers – in a compact, structured format. Vector tiles are rendered only when requested by a client, like a web browser or a mobile app.
All of our template map styles are built using some combination of our Mapbox tilesets:
- Mapbox Streets includes streets, buildings, areas, water, and land data based on OpenStreetMap.
- Mapbox Terrain includes a worldwide elevation data set complete with contours, hillshade, and landcover data.
- Mapbox Traffic provides congestion information that is constantly updated every 5 minutes, with road geometries originating from OpenStreetMap.
- Mapbox Satellite includes a global satellite imagery from a range of sources, processed and seamed together by Mapbox. You can read more about our satellite imagery in the Satellite imagery guide.
You can also create your own tilesets in Mapbox Studio and add the to your map alongside any Mapbox tilesets you’re already using.
How our data works
This guide covers Mapbox vector tilesets, which are the main source of Mapbox-provided data you’ll work with if you’re using Mapbox tools. For more information about our raster tilesets, see the Satellite imagery guide.
Working with vector tilesets opens up a number of powerful features for building dynamic maps, including:
- Dynamic styling. Using Mapbox GL JS or the Mapbox Maps SDKs for Android and iOS, you can adjust your map’s appearance dynamically, without having to download new tiles.
- Smooth interactions. Because all of your map data is loaded in the map client, you can re-render the map very quickly, enabling smooth zooming, tilt, and rotation.
- Size and speed. While the vector tile format is not inherently small or fast, Mapbox’s cartographers have done a lot of work to ensure that Mapbox-provided vector tiles are well balanced between level of detail and performance.
- Dynamically querying. You can use this feature to access your map data’s properties right from your vector tileset.
Mapbox provides three different vector tilesets that you can use in your maps. Note that not all data included in a tileset exists at every zoom level. To keep maps fast and lightweight, Mapbox cartographers have carefully chosen which data should appear at each zoom level.
Read about the Mapbox vector tile specification, and see a complete list of all layers included in each Mapbox vector tileset in the layer references: Mapbox Streets v7, Mapbox Terrain, Mapbox Traffic v1.
The data in Mapbox tilesets come from a variety of sources.
Mapbox Streets is a Mapbox-provided tileset that includes features like streets, buildings, and places from all around the world. The Mapbox Streets tileset is powered by open data from OpenStreetMap. Think of OpenStreetMap as the Wikipedia of maps. It’s a project founded on the belief that when data is open, everyone can work together to build the map. Anyone can quickly add roads and buildings to keep up with a changing world.
The Mapbox Streets tileset is updated regularly as features are edited or added to the map, which means that if you edit OpenStreetMap, you will eventually see your changes reflected on your Mapbox map. To learn more about how you can contribute to OpenStreetMap, check out our OpenStreetMap mapping guides.
To learn more about how Mapbox contributes to the OpenStreetMap community, check out the OpenStreetMap wiki entry on Mapbox.
In addition to the daily efforts of contributors all over the globe, the OpenStreetMap community employs several other methods for identifying errors in the data, including multiple quality-assurance feedback tools and a flagging system that allows users to identify where a mistake may have been made, or areas that may need special attention from someone with local knowledge.
Mapbox is also home to a dedicated OpenStreetMap data team, who are committed both to ensuring the quality of the map and also to adding and improving features all over the world. We also employ an automated quarantine system that detects changes to the map that look like accidental editing mistakes or vandalism and stages them for manual review by our data team.
Mapbox Terrain is a Mapbox-provided tileset that includes features like topography, hillshades, and landcover. Mapbox Terrain is built from a wide variety of data sources from government-provided datasets as well as third-party commercial data. To learn more about the datasets in the Mapbox Terrain tileset, visit our mapping platform page.
The Mapbox Traffic is a mapbox-provided tileset for displaying real-time traffic conditions. Mapbox Traffic is continuously updated and built from anonymous sensor data. Mapbox SDKs collect anonymous data about the map and device location to continuously update and improve your maps. To learn more about the telemetry data that goes into the Mapbox Traffic tileset, visit our telemetry page.
Mapbox Terrain-RGB, our global elevation layer, contains raw height values in meters in the Red, Green, and Blue channels of PNG tiles. You can use the elevation data stored within Terrain-RGB for a wide variety of applications both visual and analytical, from styling terrain slope and hillshades to generating 3D terrain for video games.
Terrain-RGB uses each color channel as a position in a base-256 numbering system, allowing for 16,777,216 unique values. We’ve mapped these to 0.1 meter height increments, which gives us the vertical precision necessary for cartographic and 3D applications.
You can use this endpoint to get Terrain-RGB tiles:
Then use this equation to decode pixel values to height values:
height = -10000 + ((R * 256 * 256 + G * 256 + B) * 0.1)
See our Access elevation data troubleshooting guide for more information.
Mapbox map projections
Mapbox supports the popular Web Mercator projection, and currently does not support any other projections for display. Web Mercator is a nearly conformal projection that is adopted by the vast majority of web maps and its use allows you to combine Mapbox’s maps with other layers in the same projection.
Commonly this projection is referred to as
EPSG:3857. See epsg.io for more information and alternative encodings.
Using our data
You can use our map data as source data for your map styles in Mapbox Studio, access our data directly using the Mapbox Maps API, or contribute to our data sources through OpenStreetMap.
You can use our tilesets directly in Mapbox Studio on the Tilesets page. Any time you create a new style from a template style in the Mapbox Studio style editor, you will be using a Mapbox tileset.
Mapbox Maps API
Contribute to OpenStreetMap
We contribute to OpenStreetMap, and you should too!
Sign up for a free account to start contributing. The OpenStreetMap web editor allows you to draw or edit features such as roads, buildings, parks, traffic signals, and labels. Check out LearnOpenStreetMap for a step by step guide to start contributing to the project.
We’ve covered how Mapbox works with OpenStreetMap data, the quality controls behind it, and how you can be a part of this growing movement to provide a free and open data set for everyone.