Converting Vector Tile Protobuf to PNG with a Stylesheet

What will you learn?

In this tutorial, you will learn how to convert vector tile protobuf data into a PNG image using a specific stylesheet. You’ll explore the process of parsing vector tile data, applying styles for rendering geographical features, and saving the styled features as a PNG file. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of transforming vector tiles into visually appealing images.

Introduction to the Problem and Solution

Vector tiles are an efficient way to store and deliver geographic data for mapping applications. They use Protocol Buffers (protobuf) to encode data in a compact binary format, enabling fast transfer and rendering on client applications. However, there are scenarios where converting these vector tiles into a more universally accessible format like PNG becomes necessary. This is particularly useful for static maps or platforms that do not support vector tile rendering.

The solution involves decoding the vector tile protobuf data, applying styles defined in a stylesheet to determine how geographical features should be rendered, and then drawing these styled features onto an image canvas which is saved as a PNG file. Python libraries such as mapbox-vector-tile for parsing vector tiles and Pillow (PIL Fork) for creating images play a crucial role in this conversion process.


import mapbox_vector_tile
from PIL import Image, ImageDraw

def convert_vector_tile_to_png(tile_data, style_dict):
    vtile = mapbox_vector_tile.decode(tile_data)

    img ="RGBA", (256, 256))
    draw = ImageDraw.Draw(img)

    for layer_name in vtile:
        layer = vtile[layer_name]
        for feature in layer['features']:
            points = feature['geometry']
            style = style_dict.get(feature['type'], {'fill': '#0000FF', 'outline': '#FFFFFF'})
            if feature['geometry_type'] == 'Polygon':
                draw.polygon(points[0], fill=style['fill'], outline=style['outline'])
            elif feature['geometry_type'] == 'LineString':
                draw.line(points[0], fill=style['outline'], width=2)

    return img

with open('path/to/vector/tile.pbf', 'rb') as f:
    tile_data =

style_dict = {
   'Polygon': {'fill': '#00FF00', 'outline': '#000000'},
   'LineString': {'fill': None,'outline':'#FF0000'}

png_image = convert_vector_tile_to_png(tile_data, style_dict)'output.png')

# Copyright PHD


In this solution: – Parsing Vector Tiles: The function decodes the Protocol Buffers binary format into Python objects. – Creating an Image Canvas: Initializes an RGBA mode image with Pillow. – Applying Stylesheets: Iterates through each feature in the parsed object (vtile) and draws them based on styles defined in style_dict. – Saving as PNG: Finally saves the drawn features as a PNG file using Pillow.

This approach allows easy customization of appearance by modifying style_dict.

    1. How can I handle different zoom levels?

      • Adjust styling or preprocessing based on detail granularity at different zoom levels.
    2. Can I add text labels?

      • Yes! Utilize Pillow’s text methods within your drawing loop for adding text labels.
    3. What if my vector tile uses custom projections?

      • Ensure coordinate transformations align with projection variances between source tiles and output space.
    4. How scalable is this solution?

      • While suitable for moderate loads or offline tasks, consider parallelizing heavy operations for scalability.
    5. Can I apply external CSS-like stylesheets directly?

      • Direct application requires parsing CSS-like syntax into compatible Python dictionaries first.

By following this guide on converting vector tiles from Protocol Buffers format to visually appealing PNG images using Python, you’ve gained insight into modern geospatial workflows and Python’s library ecosystem catering towards cartographic applications. Whether integrating static map imagery or generating assets during application builds, this method offers adaptability and efficiency.

Leave a Comment