Tutorials and hands-on lessons for learning

Print Maps

Digital maps allow for more flexibility in map design with options like zoom-based styling rules. But some projects still need a printed map. Whether you’re producing a map for a publication, a participatory mapping poster, a craft project, or a print-friendly version of an interactive map, read these tips and tricks.

Mapbox Studio ‘print’ tool

Use the ‘Print panel’ in Mapbox to create an image file of your custom style. Check out the Studio reference manual section on the Print tool.



When working with the Print panel, use the cross-hairs guide over your map style to position the map so the center is where you want the center of your exported image.

Edit the dimensions of your exported image in the print panel. The exported image will capture all or most of the map that is visible in the preview.

Tip

It’s not uncommon for it to take a few tries to get the placement and zoom level right. If you export an image slightly larger than you need, and slightly zoomed out, you can then crop the image in a graphics editor for preferred placement.

Trick

Sometimes you need to go really big. The maximum image export using the Print panel is 8,000 px by 8,000 px. If you need a larger image, for a poster or special project, like participatory mapping workshops, contact the Community team for help.

Style for your printed zoom level

A common issue when exporting an image using the Studio print tool is related to zoom levels. In most Mapbox styles there are at least some layers that use zoom-based styling rules. Labels, icons, smaller roads, or other features might not show up until you zoom in beyond a certain point, or a color will change depending on the zoom level. This can interfere with your desired print export.

To correct this, explore the layers in question for zoom-based styling rules and adjust them (or remove them altogether) to force the layer to display at the zoom level you want to export.

PropertyWhat to look for
Opacity (Style tab)
Does the layer have a zoom-based rule to be transparent at certain zooms?
Size / Width (Style tab)
Does the size of a feature change based on zoom level?
Color
Does the layer change colors based on zoom level? Is there a opacity setting on the color?
Collisions and overlap (Style tab)
Labels and icons have additional settings governing how to handle collisions between features. You may notice certain labels or icons disappearing at some zooms because they are colliding with each other. You can adjust the ‘Placement’ and ‘Position’ settings to try to remove collisions, or you can allow collisions and/or overlap.
Zoom extents (Select data tab)
In the ‘Select data’ tab it is possible to restrict the zoom levels at which a layer will appear. Try adjusting this, or if there is a limit on how much you can adjust it, there may be a hard limit on the source tileset. If there is a limit on the tileset (which you can confirm in the Tileset information page), you will need to create a new tileset and force different zoom extents. If you need to adjust the zoom extent of a core Mapbox tileset, like Streets, try exporting the raw data that you need from OpenStreetMap using Overpass Turbo.
Tip

The Studio print tool estimates the correct zoom level to use for an exported image based on the dimensions of your export and the zoom level that you are viewing in the preview when you click ‘Export.’ The estimate does not always result in an exported image at the exact same zoom level that you were viewing. This can take some more trial and error to position the map at a zoom level that results in the desired map export.

Trick

If there are a small number of icons or labels that are proving difficult to force to display properly in your map export, it may be simpler to add them in manually instead. See the section on ‘Graphics editor’ below. You can remove the problematic features in the style, if needed, by hiding the layer or hiding individual points using a filter or ‘style with data conditions’ rule

Attribution and restrictions

The Studio print export does not automatically add the required attribution for print maps. This gives you flexibility in how and where to display attribution on your map.

Depending on your project, you can add a textbox and Mapbox logo on the map, underneath it, or in a text caption or other reference format.

For any commercial projects using images generated from Mapbox Studio’s print export contact Sales.

Tip

If you run out of print exports, you can contact the Community team (for non-profit, education, or social good projects) or the Sales team (for commercial projects) to have your limit increased.

Graphics Editor

Some things may be easier to add or edit using separate graphics editing software such as Adobe Illustrator, GIMP (free, open source software), or Google Slides / Google Drawings.

Export your map image from Mapbox Studio, then add it as a layer in your graphics editor. Add layers on top to manually add things like labels, icons, attribution, or decorative elements. You can also crop, rotate, or otherwise edit the image as needed.

Working in GIMP to combine an exported map image with other design elements

Tip

Running into problems with adding a custom icon SVG in Mapbox Studio? Or maybe you don’t have geospatial point data for the locations and don’t want to bother creating a Dataset to add them in Studio. In situations like these, if you are working with a small number of points that need icons or labels, and you know where they are, manually adding them in a graphics editor is a good solution.

Tip

If you want to add icons using a graphics editor, but need reference points on your map for where to add the graphics (because you can’t zoom in dynamically on your exported map image), try adding a circle layer in Mapbox Studio (e.g. small black dots, color-coded dots, or letter labels) and then cover over those reference marks with your icons in your graphics editor.

Trick

For a fun example, read this blog post about making map valentines cards.

QGIS print composer

Some maps for print require cartographic elements—such as grid lines, scale bars, or north arrows—that are not available within Mapbox Studio. This is especially common for maps printed in scientific publications or trail maps. These may be tricky to add using only graphics software because you need geospatial information to draw a correct scale bar or add in a longitude / latitude grid.

In this situation, geospatial software like QGIS can help. You can use the QGIS Print Composer to set up a map template that includes options for grid lines, scale bar, and other cartographic elements. To load in your map, follow these steps to load a Mapbox style as a WMTS layer.

Working in the QGIS print composer

Tip

Check out this tutorial on making a map for print in QGIS3

Trick

You may encounter issues with map exports from QGIS if the WMTS source does not render as expected (for example, it may render at a different zoom level than you intended). In this case, a workaround is to set up the QGIS print composer with a coordinates grid frame around the outside of the map canvas and a scale bar below the map canvas, export it from QGIS, and then combine your QGIS map image and Mapbox Studio map image in graphics editing software. Layer the Mapbox Studio image on top of the QGIS map image, adjusting it to match the map features and scale (setting the Mapbox image layer to partial transparency can make this easier). Crop the Mapbox Studio image to fit within the canvas area on your QGIS map image. Then save the combined product as a new image file.

Test for a ‘print-friendly’ design

Maps on your screen may not always translate well to a printed medium. The colors, saturation, and contrast may appear significantly different when printed. If possible, plan to test your printed maps in case you need to adjust your map style.

The Delivery Routes tool uses a modified Streets map style with roads that stand out better when printed, and lighter colors for filled areas (to use less ink).

Tip

Often map styles work better in print when there is more contrast between elements. A subtle color difference between a road and the background color may be visible on a screen, when you can zoom in, but much more difficult to see when printed. Try choosing a color that is more different from the neighboring color, or try making it lighter or darker. For an example, explore the printer-friendly map style used in the Delivery Routes impact tool.

Tip

Maybe you want to allow users to print a snapshot of an interactive web map, like the Delivery Routes impact tool, but you’re not sure what printer they will be using. Test your map design for multiple printer scenarios: black & white, greyscale, and ‘low ink’ color printing.

Trick

In Mapbox Studio you can use exact color codes (RGB, Hex codes) to set your color styling. If you know the recommended color codes for your printer, you can use that code in Mapbox Studio.

Trick

To save on ink, and to help distinguish between map features, try styling a map layer using a pattern instead of a solid color. Make a line have a unique dash pattern, or use a SVG icon in a Fill layer to add an effect like cross-hatching or a dot pattern. Patterns are often easier to see in black & white and greyscale printed maps.

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