At eSpatial, we talk mostly about the types of maps you can create, the types of analysis you can run, and the outcomes you can get from mapping your business data.

With the latest release of eSpatial including two new basemaps, we thought it was a good time to learn about the importance of choosing the right basemap for your data. So read on to learn why a basemap is important and which basemaps are best for you.

What is a basemap?

A basemap is a collection of GIS data that forms the background setting for a map. As well as making your map more aesthetically pleasing and professional looking,  it provides a level of detail that allows the viewer to identify the location of the map. The level of detail included in the basemap will vary depending on the purpose of the map. For example, if you wanted to identify potential coffee shop locations near a train station, then a rail network basemap would be better than a satellite basemap.

Why are basemaps important?

By their very nature basemaps are the foundation for your map. They provide a canvas for your data to tell its story. The right basemap can be the difference between a map with dots on it and a map that gives you real value from the insights uncovered. While one basemap will work well to showcase the results of one type of analysis, it may not work as well with another.

In the images below you see two types of map; a simple pin map and a regional heat map. For the pin map, on the left, you can see that a the Mr Blue basemap doesn’t do anything to help the viewer understand the data. The Pale Dawn basemap is a better choice here because there is more contrast for the data to stand out and be understood. Similarly with the regional heatmap examples – the Terrain basemap is not the best choice for showcasing the results of a regional heat map analysis. As you can see with the image on the far right, the Clean Gray base map suits this purpose better. The basemap you choose depends on the data you display and the story you want the data to tell. There are lots of variations of data, so that is why we include so many basemaps as standard in eSpatial.

What basemap should you use?

With eSpatial, you can choose from 37 different basemaps to ensure your data tells the right story. Some basemaps only differ based on color scheme, others differ in the amount of detail they provide and they each serve their own purpose. You should select the basemap that works best with your data, to produce a professional, engaging map. We’ll take a look at some of the more common basemaps used by our customers here.


This is the default map you will see when you create a new eSpatial workspace and also the most commonly used. It has clear labels for naming States, Cities, Towns. It also lightly shows the various land areas and waterways. This basemap is best used for plotting and analyzing data across large geographical areas, such as sales territories as you can see in the map below.

Basemap - Roadmap

Transit Map

One of our brand new basemaps to join the list after our latest release last Sunday. This basemap provides greater detail on the main transit routes around the globe. You will see highways (purple lines), railways (black lines), national roads (red lines), local roads (white lines) and airports (orange) on this map. It is great for analysis when transport and logistics is a key deciding factor.

Basemap - Transit

Light Dream

This one is very similar to the roadmap but the features are more muted. It allows for a larger range of colours to be used for other styling elements of the map such as pins, borders, territories and labels.

Basemap - Light Dreams

Clean Gray

For the purpose of clear data visualization, where the data and analysis you have on your map tells its own story, then our Clean Gray basemap is a great one to use. There is very little detail in it and allows your data to speak for itself without any distraction.

Basemap - Clean Gray

Plain White

Another brand new basemap added this weekend. This really is a blank canvas for your map. You can use this to really highlight a particular area, a particular dataset, or a particular analysis. Only the data you put on the map, is what is visible so you won’t see any geographical markers, unless it’s included in your data. It is great for presenting a map of a specific area in a powerpoint, pdf or printed document.

Basemap - Plain white

As we mentioned above we have 37 basemaps in our collection. Log in or sign up for a free trial today to view the full range.

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Gillian McCarthy
Written by

Gillian McCarthy

Gillian has an extensive education across multiple business spaces and schools, including UCD‘s prestigious Smurfit Business School. This wealth of knowledge is evident in the many eSpatial blog contributions Gillian has authored. Having written on many subjects Gillian has become a particular authority on how integrating eSpatial with other tools can bring enhanced customer value.