What is a vector map? Examples you can download

All maps use a collection of data known as Geographical Information System (GIS) data. This collection of data covers the whole area of Earth.

GIS data has the capability to represent various levels of detail. When discussing the question: what is a Vector map? GIS data is key information.

All maps use GIS data that are in a visual format.

Technology, Online maps, and the Vector Map

Before advances in technology were made, maps were Raster tiles technology.

Raster maps use square tiles placed next to each other to represent a geographical region and scale. Raster maps displayed in an internet browser have limitations.

Vector technology delivers data in squared tiles too, buthas greater capabilities.

What is a Vector Map?

What is a Vector Map?

Vector maps are also known as Smart Maps. A Vector map has the capability to zoom in without losing its visual quality. These maps can better represent more detailed areas. Zoomed in, they can show greater data than any other digital map could.

Raster maps represent larger mapped areas.

In a lower resolution image, there are less squares that need to make up the image displayed. These squares are pixels. An image that is of low resolution will lose its quality and allow the squares to become visible.This is also true of Raster maps.

Raster maps use fewer pixels and are suited to larger style maps. Vector maps have a higher resolution and represent more detailed data.

Vector Maps Technical Features

Greater Data Capabilities

Greater Data Capabilities

A Vector map has the capability to allow a greater amount of data assigned to each tile. This means demographic data on the maps shows greater detail.

Analysis of the GIS data makes it a powerful decision-making tool.

Vector tiles can define map components such as rules for data representation. For example, street-level data layers can be set with constraints, such as always being on top. Other conditions can be set such as map design elements, fonts used for labels, the language used, as well as tags.

The Vector map data is also faster and easier to update and keep current. Vector tiles are flexible.

Levels of Resolution of Vector Maps Explained

There are three standard levels of resolution of Vector maps. Level 0 represents low resolution, level 1 represents medium resolution, and level 2 is high resolution. The following outlines each category with examples.

Level Zero (VMAP0)

Level Zero (VMAP0)


Level Zero covers the worldwide area of GIS data and is the smallest scale resolution. The data sets for this level are available for public use.

The data structure standard is the Vector Product Format (VPF).

This data is used to map large areas and/or data sets including the following:

  • North America
  • Europe and North Asia
  • South America, Africa, and Antarctica
  • South Asia and Australia

Level One (VMAP1)

Level One is subject to a standard named the MIL-V-89033 standard. This level must meet the following criteria:

  • Horizontal accuracy: 125-500m
  • Vertical accuracy: 0.5-2 Contour Interval (for example: if contour interval is 50 m, accuracy will be 25 to 100m)

Example Data sets that this level covers are as follows:

Level One covers 234 geographical areas. These include Costa Rica, Libya, United States, Mexico and Iraq.

Level Two (VMAP2)

Level Two data represents the largest scale resolution. Level Two tiles are subject to the MIL-V-89032 standard. This level must meet the following criteria:

  • Horizontal accuracy: 50-200m
  • Vertical accuracy: 0.5-2 Contour Interval (for example: if contour interval is 50 m, accuracy will be 25 to 100m)

Level Two data represents all data that covers the most detailed mapping information.

It is important to note that this data is subject to copyright. There are strict standards for its use in the creation of maps.

Vector Map Attributes

Vector Map Attributes

A vector map is a database of polygons, lines, and points which make up all the features on the map. Vector data is not made up of a grid of pixels. Instead, Vector images use vertices and avenues.

The three basic symbol types for vector data are points, lines, and polygons (areas). Cartographers use these symbols to signify attributes on maps.

Vector points are generally longitude and latitude, and use a spatial reference framework.

Enhanced Visual Display

There are limitations with large scale maps.

Raster data, for example, is represented in pixels. A good example of Raster data is imagery, having data saved in pixels.

Vector information has attributes saved against capabilities. A good example of vector data collection can be data for the road network of a city.

Raster tiles are images stitched together and do not have detail. Raster tiles have fixed styles, defined when created.

Vector maps have the capability to display:

  • major road networks
  • railroad networks
  • hydrologic drainage systems
  • utility networks (cross-country pipelines and communication lines)
  • major airports
  • elevation contours
  • coastlines
  • International boundaries
  • populated places
  • index of geographical names

More Benefits of Vector Maps

Vector Map created with MapSVG

Another element that makes vector tiles the better choice for rendering is that raster tiles are pre-rendered when viewed.

Vector tiles are smaller, approximately 20–50% of the size of Raster tiles. This means that they are more efficient, taking less time to and fewer resources to use.

Vector tiles offer high-resolution displays. Raster tile file sizes vary and don’t provide a high resolution on zoom levels.

Summary of Vector Maps Advantages

  • Reduced bandwidth consumption
  • Vector data displays streets, rivers, land
  • Useis easier than Raster data
  • No need for zoom levels , as consumerscan zoom and pan throughout all scales
  • De-facto mobile standard
  • Vector data are compatible with the relational database management program
  • Easy customization - with one small text file

Examples of Vector Maps Currently Used Online

Vector maps that are currently used on the web, for both private and commercial use, can be found below.Raster maps are still used for mapping requirements, but vector maps are gaining popularity.

The examples set out here show vector maps, their key features, and their technical capabilities.

Free blank SVG vector map of the world

World Map Vector that you can download for free, courtesy of MapSVG

Map of Larger scale earth and side by side visual examples of the data levels

Map of Larger scale earth and side by side visual examples of the data levels

This example outlines the three levels of data as mentioned above. It provides an excellent representation of all three levels in use. Shown side by side, it provides an excellent visual explanation of each data set.

Vector map of Japan customisable and scalable

Vector map of Japan customisable and scalable

Vector map of Japan which covers the area of Japan. This map is customisable and editable. It has the ability to zoom into the province level and create maps of smaller areas.

Map of Portland interactive 3D map

Map of Portland interactive 3D map

This vector map demonstrates its ability to create interactive maps. It has 3D feature capability, is customisable, multi-layered, and includes many other features. This map is a good example of the features of high-quality vector maps.

Example of mapping product that incorporates directional data

Example of mapping product that incorporates directional data

This vector map combines features in many geographical areas and shows directions.

Map of Germany with States – Single Color Product other options available

Map of Germany with States - Single Color Product other options available

This vector map covers the country area of Germany. It contains several attributes that are unique to vector maps. It is one colour with many more features and attributes available.

Map of London Centre – Multi-layer design options with single format output

Map of London Centre – Multi-layer design options with single format output

This is a vector map of the London Centre. It includes features that include major landmarks. It is available in Adobe Illustrator format which will accommodate extra design features.

Map of Washington in the United States – outline format

Map of Washington in the United States – outline format

This vector map covers the state of Washington. It is customisable and is available in various formats. Features include flags, name state, name state area, state area, texture and vignette.

Map of France and it surrounds

Map of France and it surrounds

This vector map covers France and surrounding countries. It is customisable and is available in several formats.

Colour maps of Rio de Janeiro Brazil Map

Colour maps of Rio de Janeiro Brazil Map

This colour vector map of Rio de Janeiro Brazil covers a 1200 square mile area. It includes features such as arterial and major road networks. It has various other details and is customisable. It is available in Adobe Illustrator format.

Outline map of the world

Outline map of the world

This vector map is an outline map of the world and includes outlines of each country. Each country is in alphabetical order with one country per layer.

There is a free version and paid version of this map.

Vector map of Italy outline

Vector map of Italy outline

This vectormap is a free map of Italy. It is printable and customisable. Its layers include country area, flag, name capital, name of country and vignette.

Map of Iceland broken down by regions in multicolour

Map of Iceland broken down by regions in multicolour

This map covers Iceland and has region level detail represented in different colours. It is available in many formats. It is a free version with an option for the user to provide attributes.

Globe Map Europe and Africa Centred (outline)

Globe Map Europe and Africa Centred (outline)

Thisvector map represents Europe and Africa. This is a paid product and is available in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe PDF formats. It is a compressed ZIP file. This map has a high-quality range and magnification features.

Single Colour High level map of Australia

Single Colour High level map of Australia

This map of Australia covers the whole country. This is a high-level vectormap that covers the country in a solid colour. It is available in customisable formats. There is a paid and free version depending on whether you wish to provide attribution.

Vector map of New York region

Vector map of New York region

This coloured vector map covers the region of New York. It includes features such as a landscape overview. The details displayed are urban areas, parks, major roads, and other significant landmarks. This map is available in a printable version and JPEG or PDF format.

Solid single colour Vector Map of the Netherlands with Provinces

Solid single colour Vector Map of the Netherlands with Provinces

This is a solid colour vector map of the Netherlands with a breakdown of provinces. This version is free and available in many formats.

Vector Map of the World – Blue

Vector Map of the World - Blue

This vector map covers the world as a whole and is in a blue visual display. It is editable and layered. It is available in many formats and is suggested for use in backgrounds and presentations. Paid and free options are available.

Vector map of the United States of America

Vector map of the United States of America

This is a vectormap of the United States which includes land and oceanfloorterrain data. This vector map is a digital page size map for illustration and display purposes. It customisable within Photoshop.

Vector map of Greece (outline)

Vector map of Greece outline

This vector map of Greece is printable and customisable. It covers the whole area of the country. It is free and available for download in limited formats to use for its display quality.

Vector map of Sweden

Vector map of Sweden

This vector map of Sweden covers the whole area of the country. It is available as a free download in many formats.

Vector World map of the United States and Canadian Provinces centred

Vector World map of the United States and Canadian Provinces centred

This vectormap of the United States featuresland andoceanfloorterrain data. It features the United States and Canadian Provinces and is a large yet detailed map. It displays the digital terrain that covers the entire world area.

Details include rivers, lakes, capital cities and other world terrain data. The map has high display quality for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator formats.

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