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Tiles are rectangular slabs of ceramic affixed in a grid arrangement to your bathroom wall! But here we're much more likely to be talking about map tiles:

  • square bitmap graphics displayed in a grid arrangement to show a map
  • We may also be talking about tiled map data.

This page includes lots of information and technical detail. If you want to use map tiles in your web page or application you can have a look at this tutorial about how to use OpenStreetMap tiles.

Graphical Map Tiles

Map tiles are typically 256 x 256 pixel images. e.g.:


This isn't always the case, For example CloudMade offers OpenStreetMap 64 x 64 pixel images for mobile use, however 256 x 256 pixel images are becoming a de facto standard driven by Google Maps.

A "tileset" typically includes enough tiles to form a very large image, if they were shown all at once, and also several zoom levels. Generally the idea is not to show them all at once, but to display a particular area of the map on a website. Normally this is done using a javascript map library to provide panning and zooming functionality, and request downloading of new tiles as necessary to show the user new areas of the map (a Slippy Map)

Using tiles

  • Tiles@Home, was a rendering engine that lets lots of clients render small tiles for the slippy map

Technical data



Name type covered latency comment tiles url [1] Tile example
OSM mapnik
basic map
Tile usage policy
base a b c 42.png
OSM mapnik
Mapquest OSM
base 1 2 3 4 Tile mapquest.png.jpeg
MapQuest Sat
base 1 2 3 4 http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/sat/7/63/42.jpg
Cycle map
base a b Tile cycling.png
HOT style
Humanitarian focused OSM base layer
base a b Humanitarian style.png
Ski map
overlay [2] Tile pistemap.png
Sea marks
overlay Sea marks only, background transparent [3] Tile seamark.png
Hiking routes
overlay 1D Using osmc:symbol=* [4] Tile lonviahiking.png
Cycling routes
overlay 1D [5] Tile lonviacycling.png
Cycling routes
overlay a Tile cycling toolserver.png
Hike & Bike
Hiking map
DE ? Using osmc:symbol=* [6] Tile hikebike.png
[7] Tile hillshading.png
mapnik map grayscale
base a b Tile mapnikb&w.png
Stamen Toner
Black & White map
base Black&White, printing, uses Natural Earth at low zooms, retina tiles available, variants available: toner, toner-hybrid, toner-labels, toner-lines, toner-background, toner-lite [8] Tile stamentonerb&n.png
Stamen Watercolor
Artistic map
base Watercolor [9] Tile watercolor stamen.jpg
Transport map
base a b Tile transport.png
Transport map
base [10] Tile opnvtransport.png
Transport map
overlay Transport [11] Tile openptmaptransport.png
Lyrk Geodienste
general map
base specific amount of delivered tiles are for free, more traffic available by paying. retina tiles optional. Lyrk tile.png
CartoDB Light ("Positron")
general map
Required attribution: "Map tiles by CartoDB, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL."
base unlimited use permitted, uses Natural Earth at low zooms, no_labels variant available [12] Cartodb light tile.png
CartoDB Dark ("Dark Matter")
general map
Required attribution: "Map tiles by CartoDB, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL."
base unlimited use permitted, uses Natural Earth at low zooms, no_labels variant available [13] Cartodb dark tile.png

Also see for example map compare service at bbbike.org. Please obey the usage restrictions of each tile server if you use it heavily.


  1. Copy the destination of the link to get the url for OpenLayers

Tiled map data

  • QuadTiles, a scheme to make OSM database indexed by tiles
  • OJW's tile data server, first implementation of a cacheable data server, that servs data in the same way as the tileserver.
  • Tile data server, generic definition of how data served as tiles should work. (written by ojw as well...)


  • Switch2OSM, The Basics This page gives some introductory information on the tiles, licence and JavaScript libraries to display the tiles.