Maps are complex, static images are simple: Using the Mapbox Static Images API for print, mobile, and location enlightenment

December 10, 2020
December 10, 2020
Rob Chohan
Geospatial Architect
Stephen Gheysens
Technical Account Manager, Mapbox
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Maps tell stories about a location – and static maps are the "stock photo" version of a map: a simple snapshot, complete with points and lines that direct the viewer to precise location knowledge.

How a map is distributed and consumed is as important as the cartography elements. A static map for print will need plenty of pixels for proper output. A static map for social media or messaging applications might look best as motionless, or the story could be enhanced with animation. The ultimate use case for a static map is to create an anchor to click through to your web or mobile map.

The Mapbox Static Images API can be used in applications where Javascript or an interactive maps cannot be used.

You’ll learn how to...


1. Image of a baseball field in Solano County, CA, produced using the Mapbox command line interface.  The goal is to tell the story of a location through its metadata or physical dimensions:

2. Image of the Valley Fire in San Diego County, Sep 2020, created with Mapbox Styles + for collaboration; text added in post processing. Stock MAKI icons, line fill and thickness done using Mapbox Simple Styling in (see it on Twitter):

Valley Fire, September 10, 2020
Valley Fire, September 8, 2020

3. — Public education on the proposed Harvest Hills development near Escondido, CA.  Map built for the Sierra Club, North County Group using the Mapbox Static Images API.  Map was provided as a URL so that proper accounting could be done.  

The map also includes proper attribution:  "Map courtesy of © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap."

Rob's Projects

Static maps can be animated to give the proper affect – see The Valley Fire in San Diego County for an example of enabling "location enlightenment" to propagate widespread understanding of a piece of spatial information.

How to distribute a static map — visualizing the Harvest Hills Development in San Diego County:

  • Get your attribution on to meet your obligations with Mapbox TOS:

Make a PDF of your Mapbox map (with attribution):

Using static maps or static tiles in other visualization tools such as & QGIS:

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