Making A Map with Mapbox Studio

#maptime Boulder March 12, 2015


A provider of online maps and contributor to many popular online mapping libraries and applications.

Mapbox offers commercial mapping services. Many of them use OpenStreetMap data and involve large open-source efforts. Mapbox is a main contributor to the Mapnik renderer project, they helped create the web editor iD and they created Tilemill, the software used to design the OpenStreetMap map style. (from

Mapbox was created as a part of Development Seed in order to offer map customization for non-profit customers, in 2010. It was bootstrapped until a 2013 $10M funding round by Foundry Group. Early work on OpenStreetMap tools, including the iD editor, was funded by a $575,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. (from

Mapbox Editor

  • An online mapping interface for basic map customization and data creation


  • An open source tool used to design maps for the web
  • Uses Mapnik for rendering and CartoCSS for styling

Mapbox Studio

  • An open source tool used to design maps for the web using vector tiles
  • Uses Mapnik for rendering and CartoCSS for styling
  • More on Studio later...


  • A JavaScript library built on top of Leaflet
  • Used to wrap Mapbox based maps and other functionality into web applications

iOS and Android SDK

  • Tools used to build native mobile applications for iOS or Android

Mapbox API

  • Used to power functions in maps like geocoding, routing, and offline caching

Mapbox Studio


Vector Tiles

Mapbox Studio gives you instant streaming access to massive global datasets like:

  • Mapbox Streets
  • Mapbox Terrain
  • Mapbox Satellite


Mapbox Studio comes bundled with over 300 pro fonts selected for use with digital cartography.

Imagery & effects

Built directly into the Mapbox Studio style editor:

  • aerial imagery
  • textures
  • compositing effects

Resolution independence

Every Mapbox Studio project adapts automatically to HiDPI and Retina displays making it possible to design maps for multiple screens and devices at once.

Mapbox Studio Install

Install Overview

  1. Go to the Mapbox Studio download page.
  2. Click the download button
  3. Follow the instructions for your specific system.
  4. Start it up.
  5. Create a Mapbox account (required).


Click the big green button on this page.


  1. Unzip the downloaded file
  2. Double Click the App

Create an Account 1/4

Click the connect button

Create an Account 2/4

Click the Need an account? button

Create an Account 3/4

Fill in your information

Create an Account 4/4

Allow Mapbox Studio access to your account

Using Mapbox Studio

The Mapbox GUI

  1. Create a project
  2. Left Sidebar
  3. Top Bar
  4. Map Preview
  5. Right Sidebar

Creating a project

Select a style from the styles window

Left Sidebar

Left Sidebar

Save As

Allows you to save your mbstudio style and associated datasets.

Left Sidebar


Allows you to export your vector tiles to a file or directly to Mapbox's servers
Allows you to change attributes for your projects such as:
  • name
  • description
  • attribution
  • center
  • format
  • zoom levels

Left Sidebar


Allows you see what layers are available to use in your map.

Left Sidebar


Displays what fonts are available for your to use.

Left Sidebar


Answers to all kinds of questions about Mapbox Studio.

Left Sidebar


Open an existing project.
Create a new project.

Top Bar

Left Sidebar


Search for a city to pan the map.

Left Sidebar

Expand Map

Toggles the display of the right sidebar.

Left Sidebar

Zoom + / -

Zooms your map in or out.

Left Sidebar

View Wireframe

Allows you to see the raw data behind the map.

Left Sidebar


Allows you to view your style in many different places around the world.

Map Preview

A straightforward preview of what your final map will look like

Right Sidebar

Contains the CartoCSS used to style the map

Creating A Map with Mapbox Studio

Heavily adapted from here:

Quickstart Overview

  1. Download your dataset
  2. Create a new project
  3. Add your dataset
  4. Adjust its settings
  5. Verify the dataset's properties
  6. Add field desciptions
  7. Save and Upload

Download your data

You can use the Boulder Restaurant Data here:

Or download your own GeoJSON dataset with Overpass Turbo:

Create a new project:

Click Projects

Click New Project

Click Blank Source on the right side of the screen

Add your dataset

Click New Layer on the top right

Select the layer downloaded in step 1

Adjust its settings

Add a description

Set the buffer size to 32

Click Done in the upper right

Verify the dataset's properties

Save your project

If you can't find your data, search for Boulder (or whatever city your points are located) using the Top Bar

Verify the dataset's properties

Zoom in and click on a point

Verify the properties listed

Add field descriptions

Click on your layer in the Layers section in the Right Bar

Click the Fields button in the top right

Write a description for each of your fields

Click Done

Add field descriptions

Save and Upload

Save again, the same way as before

Click Settings in the Left Bar

Click Upload to Mapbox

When it is done, click Back and then Settings, and copy your Map ID for use later

Styling your Map with Mapbox Studio

Heavily adapted from here:

Styling Overview

  1. Create a new project
  2. Select a basemap
  3. Add your vector data source
  4. Add a stylesheet for your dataset
  5. Add a simple style
  6. Add labels
  7. Save and Upload

Create a new project

Click Projects on the bottom left

Click New Project

Select a basemap

Select Satellite Afternoon

Add your vector data source

Click Layers on the Left Bar

Click Change Source

In the list at the bottom add your layer's Map ID (comma separated)

Press Apply

Add a stylesheet for your dataset

On the Right Bar, Click the Plus sign

Name your new tab

Click New tab

Add a simple style

          #boulder_restaurants {

Add labels

          #boulder_restaurants::label[zoom>=17] {
            text-face-name:'Open Sans Regular';

Save and Upload

Save your map the way you've done it before

Go to setting and click Upload to Mapbox

Go to the website linked from the Map ID

Click on the button with an arrow pointing out of it to the top right

You can now view your map anywhere online!

CartoCSS Styling with Mapbox Studio

I think we've had enough for tonight, but if you'd like to learn more about styling in CartoCSS, you can view Mapbox's Style Quickstart Guide