For a long time, making highly stylized maps has been an extremely manual process with tedious Photoshopping or drawing using Illustrator, but beautiful and accessible map creation is becoming a reality with Map Stack from Stamen. Stamen’s excellent team is up to their usual fantastic cartographic remixing with this new tool for creating visually stylized maps.
The tool is very similar to the Photoshop layers palette, with controls for masking, opacity, blend mode, coloration, and order.
The beauty of the system is that the available layers come from the Open Street Map API, so you have no data to load in, and all the hard work is done already. The tool really lets you focus on getting the visual qualities you want out of a map, instead of struggling with all the tedious details of creation.
After creating the map, Map Stack generates an image for you to share or download for use in something else. They are still unclear on the future of the application because it generates immense quantities of data. In the first day alone it created over 10GB of data. The service currently has hours from 11am to 5pm PST on weekdays, and you can follow @mapstackStamen for updates on its availability. Here’s to hoping they keep it around and turn it into an API for creating highly stylized interactive maps.