Natural Earth is a GIS data package that has all the essential layers you need to create a map. For example, it has administrative, hydrographic, and general land information. Map scales are at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m.
Natural Earth provides you with quick-start kits so they make the perfect base map in any GIS software you use.
The best part? It’s built by volunteers from around the world and is supported by the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS).
Download Natural Earth GIS Data
Because time is valuable for all of us, Natural Earth gives a quick start map layout file as an 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 all in the 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).
What data is part of Natural Earth?
1. Cultural Vector Data
You will find a range of vector data specifically for different map scales.
For example, it includes the following cultural features:
- Administrative boundary lines (countries, states, provinces, populated places, urban areas, and disputed areas)
- Transportation (airports, roads, railways, and sea ports)
- Geographic lines and graticules
2. Physical Vector Data
For physical features, it contains a mix of hydrography, terrain, and ocean features. For example, it includes the following:
- Hydrography (Oceans, rivers, and lakes)
- Terrain (Mountain peaks, major and minor islands)
- Ocean (Coastlines, coral reefs, and bathymetry)
3. Raster Data
The raster data sets consist of low-resolution grids on a global scale. These are perfect for continental or global scale base maps.
- Cross-blended hypsometric tints
- Ocean bottom bathymetry
- Shaded relief and gray Earth
The Perfect Base Map: Natural Earth Data
Here are more reasons why you need Natural Earth in your repertoire.
- It contains most major map features (cultural, physical, and raster data)
- The data is public domain
- Its layers are aesthetically pleasing in vector and data format
Give these free public domain GIS data sets a try. It just may be the GIS base map data you were looking for all along.