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A stylish alternative for caching your map tiles.
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a stylish alternative for caching your map tiles

TileStache is a Python-based server application that can serve up map tiles based on rendered geographic data. You might be familiar with TileCache, the venerable open source WMS server from MetaCarta. TileStache is similar, but we hope simpler and better-suited to the needs of designers and cartographers.


import TileStache
import ModestMaps

config = {
  "cache": {"name": "Test"},
  "layers": {
    "example": {
        "provider": {"name": "mapnik", "mapfile": "examples/style.xml"},
        "projection": "spherical mercator"

# like
coord = ModestMaps.Core.Coordinate(0, 0, 1)
config = TileStache.Config.buildConfiguration(config)
type, bytes = TileStache.getTile(config.layers['example'], coord, 'png')

open('tile.png', 'w').write(bytes)




Install the pure python modules with pip:

sudo pip install -U PIL modestmaps simplejson werkzeug

Install pip ( like:

curl -O
sudo python

Install Mapnik via instructions at:


TileStache can be run from the download directory as is. For example the scripts:

Can all be run locally like:


To install globally do:

python install
  • Note: you may need to prefix that command with 'sudo' to have permissions to fully install TileStache.

Installation on Heroku

Heroku currently complicates matters by lacking sqlite support. Until the situation improves, you can get tilestache working on Heroku with a custom buildpack.

Because there's no sqlite on Heroku, you must provide a statically-linked build for pysqlite to compile against. Hopefully this change will make its way into the mainline python buildpack, but for now you can use an alternative. Tell your Heroku app to use an alternate buildpack with the following command:

heroku config:add BUILDPACK_URL="git://"

In addition, you'll have to add pysqlite to your requirements.txt.


To make sure TileStache is working start the development server:


Then open a modern web browser and you should be able to preview tiles at:


This is a previewer that uses ModestMaps and OpenStreetMap tiles from as defined in the default config file 'tilestache.cfg'


The next step is to learn how build custom layers and serve them.

See the docs for details.


Rendering providers:

  • Mapnik
  • Proxy
  • Vector
  • Templated URLs

Caching backends:

  • Local disk
  • Test
  • Memcache
  • S3

Design Goals

The design of TileStache focuses on approachability at the expense of cleverness or completeness. Our hope is to make it easy for anyone to design a new map of their city, publish a fresh view of their world, or even build the next 8-Bit NYC (

  • Small

The core of TileStache is intended to have a small code footprint. It should be quick and easy to to understand what the library is doing and why, based on common entry points like included CGI scripts. Where possible, dynamic programming "magic" is to be avoided, in favor of basic, procedural and copiously-documented Python.

  • Pluggable

We want to accept plug-ins and extensions from outside TileStache, and offer TileStache itself as an extension for other systems. It must be possible to write and use additional caches or renderers without having to modify the core package itself, extend classes from inside the package, or navigate chains of class dependencies. Duck typing and stable interfaces win.

  • Sensible Defaults

The default action of a configured TileStache instance should permit the most common form of interaction: a worldwide, spherical-mercator upper-left oriented tile layout compatible with those used by OpenStreetMap, Google, Bing Maps, Yahoo! and others. It should be possible to make TileStache do whatever is necessary to support any external system, but we eschew complex, impenetrable standards in favor of pragmatic, fast utility with basic web clients.


BSD, see LICENSE file.

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