Free Natural Earth Vector Data

Natural Earth Logo

We are extremely happy about yesterday’s launch of the new Natural Earth data set.  Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales.  The site is now fully available for downloading of all data.

The idea was to create tightly integrated vector and raster data, to make it much easier to make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software.  Started by Nathaniel Kelso of the Washington Post, and Tom Patterson of the U.S. National Park Service Natural Earth is a NACIS and MapGiving co-branded product with assistance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison cartography lab, Florida State University, and others including Springer Cartographics (we designed the logo and did the design and development of the website).

One of the goals of Natural Earth is to help solve a major problem in cartography: finding suitable data for making small-scale maps. The web is awash in geospatial data, and cartographers are forced to waste time sifting through confusing tangles of poorly attributed data to make clean, legible maps.  The carefully generalized linework maintains consistent, recognizable geographic shapes at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales. Natural Earth was built from the ground up so you will find that all data layers align precisely with one another. For example, where rivers and country borders are one and the same, the lines are coincident.

"Going Rogue" Map

I used a pre-release version of the data for the map in Sarah Palin’s book and it made the data gathering and editing process so much easier.  It was only about 30 minutes from download to GIS compilation to Illustrator export, rather than the usual hours of work.

Another goal is to include many features missing from people’s mental map of the world in the hope of improving overall geographic literacy.

The terms of use for Natural Earth are wide open: All versions of Natural Earth raster + vector map data found on this website are in the public domain. You may use the maps in any manner, including modifying the content and design, electronic dissemination, and offset printing.

One Thought

  1. Rafael Gutiérrez says:

    Saludos desde México:
    Trabajo como académico en la Universidad Veracruzana. Difundiré los materiales entre los estudiantes de nuestra facultad… gracias por la iniciativa de Natural Earth. Es muy interesante y útil para los que trabajamos en la geografía.

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