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Create self-hosted maps and vector tiles for a limited area with Tilemaker

Create and use self-hosted maps and vector tiles with Tilemaker

When a digital map is shown in a web application, web developers usually use online services. However, for many applications this is not necessary. It is not that complicated to create maps yourself and host them on your own web space. Freely available data from OpenStreetmap and open source tools help to create individual vector tiles for a website. The only problem in my eyes is the amount of data. But mostly it is not necessary to include the whole world in the map.

Hosting the whole planet requires significant amounts of storage. In November 2022 the file size is 66 GB[^planet.osm.org/].

In this post, I show how I created a map using data from OpenStreetmap and Tilemaker for the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate on my local machine. I am currently working under Ubuntu 22.04.

Creating a regional openstreetmap data export

The bounding box [^wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/EN

] of Rhineland-Palatinate is bbox=6.1173598760,48.9662745077,8.5084754437,50.9404435711. A handy tool to determine the bounding box coordinates is boundingbox[^boundingbox.klokantech.com] or calc[^tools.geofabrik.de/calc/].

First of all, we need the data to create the map. If we want to display a limited area, it is not necessary to download the data from the whole planet. We need an export of the data of the region we want to host. Various vendors, always provide up-to-date pre-built exports. The GeoFabrik[download.geofabrik.de] is one of them. Note though that when we want to export a region, we actually want a rectangular export. So we also want to include some parts around the border. The Geofabrik exports will be extracted around the borders of the region, and the adjacent areas will appear as gray areas when we display the map on a rectangular area. And then it is not uncommon that the area you want to display is not available as an export.

So we want to export a German state, Rhineland-Palatinate. We can generate a rectangular section from a larger region, for example, Germany. I create the section with the Osmium tool. So, we first download the data for the surrounding area from GeoFabrik. The next step is to determine the bounding box of the region we want to extract.

Because Rhineland-Palatinate is on the western edge of Germany, I have to choose Europe as the larger data source so that it is actually rectangular.

The bounding box I chose is: 6.1173598760 48.9662745077 8.5084754437 50.940443571[^tools.geofabrik.de/calc/#type=geofabrik_standard&bbox=6.1173598760,48.9662745077,8.5084754437,50.9404435711&tab=1&proj=EPSG:4326&places=2]

Under Ubuntu I install the tool Osmium via:

$ sudo apt-get install osmium-tool

Then I create the regional export for the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate:

$ osmium extract --bbox=6.1173598760,48.9662745077,8.5084754437,50.9404435711 --set-bounds --strategy=smart europe-latest.osm.pbf  --output rlp.osm.pbf

At the end I have a rectangular section of the data of the region I wish in the file rlp.osm.pbf. This I can further process for self hosting.

Creating Vector Tiles

The next step is to create vector tiles from the regional export. For this I use Tilemaker[^github.com/systemed/tilemaker].

git clone https://github.com/systemed/tilemaker.git
cd tilemaker

Install the nessesary packages.

sudo apt install build-essential libboost-dev libboost-filesystem-dev libboost-iostreams-dev libboost-program-options-dev libboost-system-dev liblua5.1-0-dev libprotobuf-dev libshp-dev libsqlite3-dev protobuf-compiler rapidjson-dev

After that I compile and install Tilemaker via make and sudo make install.

$ make
$ sudo make install
Using Lua 5.1 (include path is -I/usr/include/lua5.1, library path is -llua5.1)
install -m 0755 -d /usr/local/bin/
install -m 0755 tilemaker /usr/local/bin/
install -d /usr/share/man/man1/
install docs/man/tilemaker.1 /usr/share/man/man1/

It is not relevant for Rhineland-Palatinate, but sometimes data from international waters and coastal areas or data from National Earth complement the output positively.

Openstreetmap provides the coastlines on the website osmdata.openstreetmap.de.

wget https://osmdata.openstreetmap.de/download/water-polygons-split-4326.zip
unzip water-polygons-split-4326.zip

National Earth[^naturalearthdata.com/downloads/] offers download options through their website[^naturalearthdata.com/downloads/] or Github[^github.com/nvkelso/natural-earth-vector]. Get the data for ne_10m_urban_areas, ne_10m_glaciated_areas, and ne_10m_antarctic_ice_shelves_polys here. Create a subdirectory named landcover and endpack the data here.

If these data are important to you, then inside tilemaker now the following data have been added. If not, you can go on this text further. You will only be told that the data is missing when you create the vector tiles.

.../tilemaker/coastline$ ll
insgesamt 1106544
drwxrwxr-x  2 youruser youruser       4096 Nov 19 19:20 ./
drwxrwxr-x 12 youruser youruser       4096 Nov 20 12:23 ../
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser        836 Nov 18 06:25 README.txt*
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser          6 Nov 18 04:43 water_polygons.cpg*
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser    1013349 Nov 18 04:43 water_polygons.dbf*
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser        145 Nov 18 04:40 water_polygons.prj*
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser 1131628636 Nov 18 04:43 water_polygons.shp*
-rwxrwxrwx  1 youruser youruser     426732 Nov 18 04:43 water_polygons.shx*

.../tilemaker/landcover$ ll
insgesamt 20
drwxrwxr-x  5 youruser youruser 4096 Nov 24 19:25 ./
drwxrwxr-x 12 youruser youruser 4096 Nov 20 12:23 ../
drwxrwxrwx  2 youruser youruser 4096 Nov 24 19:25 ne_10m_antarctic_ice_shelves_polys/
drwxrwxrwx  2 youruser youruser 4096 Nov 19 19:26 ne_10m_glaciated_areas/
drwxrwxrwx  2 youruser youruser 4096 Nov 19 19:01 ne_10m_urban_areas/

Now I have everything I need and create the map using Tilemaker. First I get an overview of the options:

$ ./tilemaker --help
tilemaker v2.2.0
Convert OpenStreetMap .pbf files into vector tiles

Available options:
  --help                       show help message
  --input arg                  source .osm.pbf file
  --output arg                 target directory or .mbtiles/.sqlite file
  --bbox arg                   bounding box to use if input file does not have 
                               a bbox header set, example: 
  --merge                      merge with existing .mbtiles (overwrites 
  --config arg (=config.json)  config JSON file
  --process arg (=process.lua) tag-processing Lua file
  --store arg                  temporary storage for node/ways/relations data
  --compact                    Reduce overall memory usage (compact mode).
                               NOTE: This requires the input to be renumbered 
                               (osmium renumber)
  --verbose                    verbose error output
  --skip-integrity             don't enforce way/node integrity
  --threads arg (=0)           number of threads (automatically detected if 0)

Output options

When you generate your maps with Tilemaker, there are two output options: directory and mbtiles.


With Tilemaker it is possible to generate the tile files as single files into a directory.

Be sure to set "compress": to "none" in the configuration file. In this example this is the file config-openmaptiles.json!

Do you want to create all pbf files one by one into one directory? Then it is sufficient not to use an extension in the output parameter. For example --output rlp.mbtiles puts all pbf files into the file rlp.mbtiles. --output rlp puts all pbf files individually in the rlp directory.

$ ./tilemaker --input /mnt/hgfs/Downloads/osm/rlp.osm.pbf --output rlp --process ./resources/process-openmaptiles.lua --config ./resources/config-openmaptiles.json

When the conversion is finished and everything went without errors, the following is displayed at the end

Filled the tileset with good things at rlp

In this example the files are created in the directory rlp. In this directory there are a number of directories and a file called metadata.json, in which the directory to the tiles must be adjusted.


The mbtiles file is a sqlite3 database that can be read by server-side scripting languages like PHP LUA or NodeJs. Tileservers like tileserver-php open this file and read the tile data as soon as the client requests it. This is the environment I choose for my working environment.

I call the following command, using the provided sample configuration from openmaptiles.org for simplicity.

If you plan to offer the vector tiles later not as a file, but to unpack them into a directory, it is important to set the property "compress": in the file config-openmaptiles.json to "none"!

$ ./tilemaker --input /mnt/hgfs/Downloads/osm/rlp.osm.pbf --output rlp.mbtiles --process ./resources/process-example.lua --config ./resources/config-example.json

When the conversion is finished and everything went without errors, the following is displayed at the end

Filled the tileset with good things at rlp.mbtiles

Hosting the vector tiles

Tileserver.php from Maptiler

For hosting the vector tiles we need a web server with PHP enabled. Also, the PHP server should be sqlite-enabled, since the mbtiles files are basically a sqlite database file that will be opened by our tile server.

To host the map, we will use tileserver-php[^github.com/maptiler/tileserver-php]. Clone this repository to your web server using git:

/srv/www$ git clone  https://github.com/maptiler/tileserver-php
Klone nach 'tileserver-php' …
remote: Enumerating objects: 574, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (7/7), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (7/7), done.
remote: Total 574 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 567
Empfange Objekte: 100% (574/574), 1.47 MiB | 739.00 KiB/s, fertig.
Löse Unterschiede auf: 100% (290/290), fertig.

In the example, /srv/www is the web server root. Please adapt this specification to your situation.

Copy the mbtiles file you just created into the tileserver-php directory. In our example this is the file rlp.mbtiles and it should be in the directory /srv/www/tileserver-php at the end.

Edit the path to the tiles in the file srv/www/tileserver-php/rlp/metadata.json. In my local example, the file is located in the srv/www/tileserver-php/rlp/metadata.json directory and I set the path to the tiles to http://localhost/tileserver-php/rlp/{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf.

    "tilejson": "2.0.0",
    "scheme": "xyz",
    "type": "baselayer",
    "format": "pbf",
    "tiles": [
    "bounds": [

Note that if you have changed the example to show a different area, you must change the coordinates in all places. In this file, the variable bounds must be adjusted.

If you are using the Apache web server, everything is now set. Open the url to tileserver.php and look at your map. In my case this is the URL https://localhost/tileserver-php/tileserver.php. You see the raw version of the lines and points. The function test has been passed.

Tileserver PHP

View properties when navigating with the mouse over an element.

View properties when navigating with the mouse over an element.

Vector Tiles on your website

Now we are ready to use the generated tiles on our own website. For this we use the MapLibre GL JS[^maplibre.org/] library along with a style from OpenMapTiles[^openmaptiles.org/styles/]. Create a small HTML document that displays the map. The code below shows a simple example:

<!DOCTYPE html>

    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <title>Display a map on a webpage</title>
    <meta name="viewport" content="initial-scale=1,maximum-scale=1,user-scalable=no" />
    <script src='https://unpkg.com/maplibre-gl@2.4.0/dist/maplibre-gl.js'></script>
    <link href='https://unpkg.com/maplibre-gl@2.4.0/dist/maplibre-gl.css' rel='stylesheet' />

    <div id='map' style='width: 800px; height: 800px;'></div>
        var map = new maplibregl.Map({
            container: 'map',
            style: 'rlp.json',
            center: [7, 50],
            zoom: 4
        map.addControl(new maplibregl.NavigationControl());


Furthermore, you need styles to make the raw lines and points more attractive. For now, choose a ready-made style file. You can download it from the demo of this post [astridx.github.io/vectortiles/rlp.json] or use another style from OpenMapTiles. Customize two URLs to your individual environment. The URLs point to your tile server. The name rlp.json is mandatory if the mbtiles file is called rlp: the name of the mbtiles file must match the name of the json style file!

In the rlp.json file it is important that the URL in the glyphs property points to fonts. We will get these fonts in the next step. Also, the URL in the sources property may be different in your environment and therefore need to be modified.

    "version": 8,
    "name": "Basic",
    "metadata": {
      "mapbox:autocomposite": false,
      "mapbox:type": "template",
      "maputnik:renderer": "mbgljs",
      "openmaptiles:version": "3.x",
      "openmaptiles:mapbox:owner": "openmaptiles",
      "openmaptiles:mapbox:source:url": "mapbox://openmaptiles.4qljc88t"
    "sources": {
      "openmaptiles": {
        "type": "vector",
          "url": "metadata.json"
    "glyphs": "fonts/{fontstack}/{range}.pbf",
    "layers": [

I store the data for the property sources in the file metadata.json, which I save in the same directory as the rlp.json. In this file I modify the URL in the property tiles.

    "tilejson": "2.0.0",
    "scheme": "xyz",
    "type": "baselayer",
    "format": "pbf",
    "tiles": [

When modifying the glyphs property you have already seen that fonts are necessary on your server. Here you can also use ready-made fonts for the time being. klokantech[^github.com/klokantech/klokantech-gl-fonts] offers a package with fonts on Github. Clone it into your webserver directory and set symlinks.

git clone https://github.com/klokantech/klokantech-gl-fonts fonts
ln -sf 'KlokanTech Noto Sans Bold' fonts/Bold
ln -sf 'KlokanTech Noto Sans Regular' fonts/Regular

In my web server directory I now have the following files:

Webserver directory to publish a mbtiles file

If you use a mbtiles file instead of individual tiles, it will look like on the next picture.

Webserver directory to publish a mbtiles file

Check out your own hosted map now.

Webserver view to of the mbtiles file

Unpack MBTiles

You have seen: It is possible to host the mbtile file generated by Tilemaker, via tile servers like tileserver-php. This is convenient for a development environment. However, it is more performant to load the vector tiles directly from a static web server. Besides, handling large files is problematic in certain environments. For example, special steps are required to publish a demo [astridx.github.io/vectortiles/index.html] on github.io if there is a file larger than 100 MB in the package.

As mentioned before, you can use Tilemaker to create individual pbf files in a directory. In my workaround I prefer to work with mbtiles files and unzip the file intended for publishing at the end. For this purpose there is a tool called mbutil.

Install mbutil and Python and get an overview of the options of mbutil.

git clone https://github.com/mapbox/mbutil.git

sudo apt-get install python3 

cd mbutil/

./mbutil/mb-util -h

I unpack the file rlp.mbtiles via

./mbutil/mb-util rlp.mbtiles rlpdir --image_format=pbf 

Reminder: For static hosting the tiles must not be compressed! When creating them, "compress": "none" must have been activated in the configuration of Tilemaker.

In my web server directory I now have the following files:

webserver directory for publishing static vector tiles

I do not need the file tileserver.php anymore. The file rlp.mptiles has been replaced by the directory rlp. I have to adjust the URL to the tiles in the file metadata.json. This is now "https://localhost/tileserver-php/rlp/{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf" instead of "https://localhost/tileserver-php/tileserver.php?/index.json?/rlp/{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf".

Webserver Verzeichnis zum Veröffentlichen von statischen Vector Tiles

    "tilejson": "2.0.0",
    "scheme": "xyz",
    "type": "baselayer",
    "format": "pbf",
    "tiles": [

You can see the result under Demo[^astridx.github.io/vectortiles/index.html].

  • Generating self-hosted maps using tilemaker[^blog.kleunen.nl/blog/tilemaker-generate-map]
  • VectorTiles mithilfe von Tilemaker erstellen und nutzen[^youtube.com/watch?v=8J0J41YsAbc]
  • Tipps zur Performance[^blog.kleunen.nl/blog/improving-tilemaker-hosting-speed]
  • Planet[^wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Planet.osm]
  • GeoFabrik[^download.geofabrik.de]
  • OSMData[^osmdata.openstreetmap.de/download/water-polygons-split-4326.zip]
  • GeoFabrik Calc[^tools.geofabrik.de/calc]
  • Osmium-tool[^github.com/osmcode/osmium-tool]
  • OSMConvert[^wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Osmconvert]
  • Tilemaker[^github.com/systemed/tilemaker]
  • Tileserver-php[^github.com/maptiler/tileserver-php]
  • MapLibre[^maplibre.org]
  • Klokantech GL fonts[^github.com/klokantech/klokantech-gl-fonts]
  • OpenMapTiles styles[^openmaptiles.org/styles]