Natural Earth Data – Free GIS Public Domain Data

Natural Earth Data
Natural Earth Data

Last Updated: Jan 21, 2017

What is Natural Earth Data?

If you’ve been in GIS for awhile, you probably know that it’s difficult sorting through all the different data sources that exist.

There are a couple of sources that really stand out. If you want to make a beautiful map, Natural Earth Data should be on the top of your list.

Natural Earth data is a free raster and vector data package containing the most common elements that you need to create a map. The scales of data are at 1:10m, 1:50m and 1:110m.

Natural Earth GIS Data Download:

Natural Earth Logo

Because time is valuable for all of us, Natural Earth gives a quick start map layout file – ArcMap MXD and QGIS QGS file.

With a double click of any of these map layouts, you get all the necessary files for a visually-pleasing cartographic map.

But keep in mind that the quick start maps don’t come with all the data available. You can sift through all the freely available data to really add more value to your map.

Public Domain GIS Data:




The best thing of all is that Natural Earth data is public domain. The authors give permission to modify, disseminate and use the data in any manner. (With that said, users are always welcome to cite the source of the data.)

This public domain map data was created by a group of volunteers and is supported by the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS).

Natural Earth Data – Cultural Vectors:

Natural Earth Cultural Data
Natural Earth Cultural Data

Countries, boundary lines, disputed areas, states, provinces, populated places, airports, ocean and sea ports and urban areas.

Natural Earth Data – Physical Vectors:

Natural Earth Physical Data
Natural Earth Physical Data

Coastlines, major and minor islands, coral reefs, oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers, bathymetry, geographic lines and graticules.

Natural Earth Data – Raster:

Natural Earth Raster Data
Natural Earth Raster Data

Cross-blended hypsometric tints, natural Earth, ocean bottom, bathymetry, shaded relief and gray Earth.

They’re not the highest resolution, but certainly can be used for global or continental basemaps.

Natural Earth Data

Here are more reasons why you need Natural Earth in your repetoire.

  • Contains most major map features (cultural, physical and raster)
  • Data is public domain
  • Aesthetically pleasing in vector and data format

Give these free public domain GIS datasets a try. It just may be the GIS basemap data you were looking for all along.

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