Using a new Mapbox Studio map in an R Leaflet project

May 17, 2016

(This article was first published on Kyle Walker, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Mapbox recently announced that map styles designed in the new Mapbox Studio are now available as basemaps in other platforms, such as Tableau, CartoDB, and ArcGIS Online: Previously, this wasn’t possible due to these tools’ incompatibility with the GL-based vector tiles produced by Studio. However, Mapbox now translates GL vector tiles to tiles that are compatible with these products, as well as Leaflet.js, with its Tiles API: This means that beautiful maps designed in Studio are accessible to R users as well!

Let’s say that you have some data you’d like to plot on a map:

## Loading required package: methods

df <- data.frame(longitude = runif(10, -97.365268, -97.356546), 
                 latitude = runif(10, 32.706071, 32.712210))

coordinates(df) <- ~longitude+latitude

leaflet(df) %>% addMarkers() %>% addTiles()

There are many great basemaps that you could use in RStudio’s Leaflet package to provide a visual reference for the data; however, let’s say that you’ve designed a basemap in Mapbox Studio that you’d like to use yourself. With a little extra code, you can get this done!

One use case of Mapbox Studio is to create tiled basemaps from georeferenced TIFF images, like scanned-in and georeferenced paper maps. I’ve uploaded an old georeferenced map of TCU (we have new construction constantly here!) to my Mapbox Studio account and published it already as a style. I then navigate to the style in Mapbox Studio, and look for the “Share and Use” link, which takes me to this screen:

Under “Develop with this style” I click “Leaflet” which gives me a URL to use my Mapbox Studio style in a Leaflet project. I then head back to RStudio, where I can pass this string to the urlTemplate parameter in the addTiles() function. I add an attribution (be sure to do this if you are using Mapbox tiles and/or a georeferenced image) and generate the map.

tcu_map <- "{z}/{x}/{y}?access_token=pk.eyJ1Ijoia3dhbGtlcnRjdSIsImEiOiJjaW9jenN1OGwwNGZsdjRrcWZnazh2OXVxIn0.QJrmnV9lJzdXHkH95ERdjw"

map_attr <- "© Mapbox Basemap © Texas Christian University"

leaflet(df) %>% 
  addMarkers() %>%
  addTiles(urlTemplate = tcu_map, attribution = map_attr)

Please note: your map won’t show up in the RStudio Viewer pane; pop it out to a web browser to view it.

Of course, Mapbox Studio can also be used to generate your own custom basemaps by styling OpenStreetMap data right in the application. When I first demo Mapbox Studio in class, we quickly run through the various options to show how easy it is to style the OpenStreetMap data – and often make rather garish-looking maps for fun, like the basemap below!

ugly_map <- "{z}/{x}/{y}?access_token=pk.eyJ1Ijoia3dhbGtlcnRjdSIsImEiOiJjaW9jenN1OGwwNGZsdjRrcWZnazh2OXVxIn0.QJrmnV9lJzdXHkH95ERdjw"

mb_attribution <- "© Mapbox © OpenStreetMap"

leaflet(df) %>% 
  addMarkers() %>%
  addTiles(urlTemplate = ugly_map, attribution = mb_attribution)

Though the above is purposely not a good example, Mapbox is capable of stunning customized cartography, which is available to R users in their cartography projects, Shiny applications, etc.

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