With all of the open source movement going around and new licenses like the creative commons you would have expected someone should be able to grab a simple jpeg or a png of the world map for free, without any licensing issues. Well, I’m not sure when I actually started looking for one, but at some point in time I did, and couldn’t actually find an appropriate map of the world countries that’s free to download and royalty free to use in projects. Sure some of you would say that Bing and Google maps have their own maps and API which is great for some purposes. but just grabbing a simple map world map with countries borders and without any companies watermarks or restrictions is just not available. (and if you do happen to find one , please let me know).
So anyway I’ve decided to play the role of a cartographer and create my own maps and share those with the rest of the world , for free!. the first step was to find a reliable data set of country borders . Took a look in the CIA world Fact book which was good but not enough , took also a look here in this database which seemed very outdated. Eventually, I’ve stumbled upon this marvelous Natural Earth Data website. here is the Natural Earth Data site’s description
|Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales. Featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with Natural Earth you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software. |
Seeing the potential of this site , I’ve made sure the data had a very unrestrictive usage policy. here are their terms
|All versions of Natural Earth raster + vector map data found on this website are in the public domain. You may use the maps in any manner, including modifying the content and design, electronic dissemination, and offset printing. The primary authors, Tom Patterson and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, and all other contributors renounce all financial claim to the maps and invites you to use them for personal, educational, and commercial purposes. |
Perfect. now that we have the usage policy out of the way I went ahead and starting playing with the data.
Natural Earth exposes the data as a zip file which contains ..shp. files. shp files contain very basic information about the polygons that compose the different countries borders. here is a sample zip file (unzip it to find the actual shp file)
Following the understanding how shp files are structured it was relatively easy to read those values , construct polygons and draw those polygons on a bit map.
The results can be shown below. To make sure the these images are free to use , the world map images linked below are licensed under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ which basically means that you can do what ever you want with these images , remix them, embed them in your projects or even sell them on ebay , furthermore , no credits or links are required when you use those. hope that makes it clear enough that these images can be used for free.
If youe conscious doesn’t allow you to take something for free without saying thanks, just put a link to to this post and that should suffice. But again , you don’t have to.
So here are the free to use world countries maps:
A simple black and white
2 colors Large version
A greenish version
Greenish Large version
Multicolor Large version
Just be aware that the data which these maps are based on is take from the Natural Earth website. I just took at as is without any modifications or corrections. if you do find any mistakes or errors , I encourage you to read the information in the Natural earth website in the about page and corrections page as well. send me a note as well in case the maps are becoming outdated and when there is a need for new maps.
Hope this helps.
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