OS Open Basemaps

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Why We Love It

A basemap’s job is to be an effective backdrop for your data. A good basemap provides critical reference information to enhance your map and lets overlain layers play the lead role in telling the story. This collection of basemaps does just that, using Ordnance Survey OpenData from Great Britain. We love the deliberate changes as you zoom into the map. Details adjust to map scale thereby avoiding clutter and ensuring minimal disruption.

Why It Works

Instead of trying to make a single basemap that performs adequately in all situations, this mapmaker offers five unique basemaps. Each basemap can serve as a backdrop, depending on what story you want your data to tell. This basemap collection works because it suits many map endeavors—whether you need to highlight geography, present thematic data in bright colors, overlay critical content, or present all raster map datasets.

Important Steps

To make an effective basemap, be mindful of the map information included at each scale. Find a balance between detail and clutter.

Set scale ranges on label classes to avoid labelling congestion.

Choose symbols and colors wisely.



The Carto, Background and Greyscale maps use the following OS Open Datasets: Strategi, Vector Map District and Open Map Local.

The Raster map uses the following OS Open Datasets: Miniscale, OS 250K, Vector Map District raster, and StreetView.


OS Open Map Local data is shown at the two largest scales to provide greater detail and more accurate building footprints. Road and place names are well attributed in this dataset, improving labeling. Spot heights, heritage sites, and public amenities were not included in order to limit map detail and labeling in favor of roads and buildings.

At scales 1:50,000 and smaller place names are not shown. Place names in OS Open Map Local were replaced by the Vector Map District place names at scales 1:50,000 and larger. At 1:50,000 Vector Map District roads are used in place of Strategi.


These basemaps as services have evolved over a number of years, beginning in 2010 as Server Services that Ordnance Survey provided to their customers. Over the years they’ve been added to and changed in terms of both the content and the way in which they are served to customers.

Map Author

Esri UK

Esri UK

@esriuk | LinkedIn

Esri UK gives you access to maps, apps and analytics on any device.

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