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Download slices of OSM data and create similarly-scaled maps in svg/png/eps format from the data.

This workflow is based on the workflow used to creating subways at scale. I've generalized it it to serve as a template for others with the same problem: drawing OSM for many parts of the world into similar maps.

The workflow uses make, which is an ancient but rock-solid tool for processing files. The Makefile is well documented, take a look.



Check that you have Make, Homebrew and pip installed, then run:

make install

Make can be installed (along with other useful tools) with xcode-select --install.

Other platforms


On Linux, Make is likely already available. To install the prerequisites, do something like yum/apt-get install imagemagick libgdal1-dev gdal-bin.

If you're on Windows, look into Cygwin to provide a bash shell, and OSGeo4W for providing GDAL.

Once those are installed, run make install to install SVGIS, the map-drawing tool. Check if the prerequisites are set to go with make ready.


To build maps, you'll need to create files to tell the workflow what to do:

  • a bounds file tells the Makefile where to download
  • a query file tells it what to download
  • A css file tells it how to style the maps

Set the locations of these files by editing config.ini.


The Makefile needs bounds to determine where to download. It reads a simple CSV file that contains place names and bounding box coordinates:

placename,(western latitude),(southern longitude),(eastern latitude),(northern longitude)

This file shouldn't have a header row. Coordinates should be in WGS84.

The example/ directory has an example file with boundaries around Boston, Oxford and Chicago's Loop.

Place names must not contain commas, spaces, colons, slashes or quotes (, :\/'"), nor the words lines, points or multipolygons.


OSM Overpass queries use a unique and fairly complicated syntax, See Overpass Turbo and the Overpass API language guide for help in writing a query.

The example directory has a simple query that downloads pedestrian paths:

out body;
out {{verbosity}} qt;

Note the {{bbox}} and {{verbosity}} placeholders. If you want to download OSM data that can be edited (e.g. with JOSM), run commands with VERBOSITY=meta. The valid verbosity levels are: skel, body and meta (in increasing verbosity), the default is body.


Editing the map styles, requires a basic understanding of CSS. Styling SVGs is exactly like styling HTML, but instead of div and a elements, there are g and polygon elements. To get an idea of how it works, start by picking a layer and adding a style rule for all of the elements it contains, e.g.:

/* Add a huge red stroke on lines in the boston SVG */
#bostonlines * {
	stroke: red;
	stroke-width: 5px;

Next, you might change all elements:

/* Make all polygons blue */
polygon {
	fill: blue;

Like HTML, the best way to fiddle with this is to look at the source. Open the SVG in your favorite web browser and poke around with the Web Inspector.

SVGIS can style output svgs features based on their properties, but ogr2ogr needs to told explicitly which keys to read from the OSM file. This is controlled by the config file osm.ini. For instance, to include the highway key, often seen on roads, add 'highway' to the attributes key in the [lines] section.

To let svgis know which fields to add to the SVG, provide an argument for svgis's --class-fields option:

make svgs CLASSFIELDS="surface,leisure"
svgis draw ... --class-fields surface,leisure ...

With this option set, the styles in example/style.css will create simple maps with asphalt bike paths in blue and parks in green. Edit the STYLEFILE option in config.ini to use your own file, and use different class-fields to create more elaborately styled maps. Read the svgis documentation for details on styling.

Fun part

Once the bounds, query template and css files are ready, save them in the same directory as the Makefile and add them to conf.ini:

QUERYFILE = my_query.overpassql
BOUNDSFILE = my_bounds.csv
STYLEFILE = my_styles.css

To make sure that everything looks right, run: make info. This should print something like:

query template: my_query.overpassql
bounds file: my_bounds.csv
css file: my_styles.css
osm conversion settings: osm.ini
bounds count: 42
available commands: qls, osms, svgs, geojsons, pngs

Then run one of the available commands, e.g: make pngs.

This will create query files, download OSM data, convert to GeoJSON, to SVG, then to PNG or EPS, if necessary.

You may find that it's faster to run make osms && make pngs -j 3. This will take advantage of parallel processing for the image manipulation steps. OpenStreetMap only allows one connection per IP address, so running parallel for that step doesn't work.


The Makefile is intended to be edited and adapted. There are some built in ways to customize the output, but first let's clear up how it works.

The tools used are:

  • bash builtins format the template query, converting each line of the bounds.csv file into a .overpassql query
  • curl, the standard builtin file downloader, uses the .overpassql file to download OSM data from the Overpass API
  • ogr2ogr converts the OSM data into GeoJSON, a standard geodata format
  • svgis draws the geojson files as SVGs
  • convert, part of ImageMagick, converts the SVGs into EPS or PNG files

Stated another way:

bounds.csv -> .overpassql (bash creates queries)
.overpassql -> .osm (curl downloads from OSM)
.osm -> .geojson (ogr2ogr converts)
.geojson -> .svg (svgis draws)
.svg -> .png/.eps (ImageMagick converts)

You'll find the docs for the different tools useful:


OpenStreetMap geometries come in three flavors: points, lines, and multipolygons (This is a gross over-simplification). By default, osm-tiny-maps processes lines and multipolygons. To change this, use the GEOMETRY variable:

# process only multipolygons
make svgs GEOMETRY='multipolygons'
# process points, lines and multipolygons
make pngs GEOMETRY='points lines multipolygons'

Map scale

Map scale in SVGIS is the ratio between svg units and projection units. Most map projections use meters or feet, and svg clients usually represent an svg units as a pixel or a fraction of an inch.

The default scale is 10, which is appropriate for a creating a small map of a neighborhood. To get larger output PNGs, use a smaller scale, and vis versa:

# really big
make svgs SCALE=1 
# really small
make svgs SCALE=1000

Map projections

By default, maps are drawn in comparable Transverse Mercator projections. To use a custom projection, use pass additional options to svgis draw:

# Use the local UTM projection
make svgs PROJECT=utm
# Use New York state plane
make svgs PROJECT=EPSG:4456

The EPSG:4446 in the second example is a map projection ID. The websites and are a good references for finding the EPSG codes.


Copyright (C) 2015, Neil Freeman. Available under the GNU General Public License, version 3.


Download slices of OSM data and create similarly-scaled svg/png/eps graphics from the data







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