Using Open Layers 3 to Render a loklak Emoji Heatmap

In Emoji Heatmapper App I am implementing a heatmap with the help of Open Layers 3. Open Layers 3 contains a really handy class, ol.layer.Heatmap. In this blog post am going to tell you how the heatmap actually works in the backend.

A heatmap is an impressive way to visualize data. For a given matrix of data in which each value is represented by a color. The heatmap implementation is usually expensive in computation terms: For each grid’s pixel we need to compute its color from a set of known values. It is not a feasible method to be implemented on the client side because map rendering would take so much of time.

Open Layers 3 contains an easy-to-use class called ol.layer.Heatmap, which allows to render vector data as a heatmap. So how is this implemented?

The ol.layer.Heatmap layer uses a smart estimation to the design which produces relatively good results and which is also fast. The steps can be outlined as:

  • A gradient of colors is created as an image.
  • Each value is rendered in a canvas as a blurred point using the default radius and gradient. This produces a canvas where the blurred points may overlap each other and create more fuzzy zones.
  • Finally, an image is obtained from the canvas. The color is obtained from the previous image and the obtained color value may vary from 0 to 255.

Example usage of ol.layer.Heatmap class:

var heatMap = new ol.layer.Heatmap({
  source: vector,
  blur: parseInt(15, 10),
  radius: parseInt(5, 10),
  opacity: 0.9,
  gradient: ['#0000ff', '#f00', '#f00', '#ff0', '#f00']


The colored image is then rendered in the map canvas, obtaining a nice effect suited to be used for density maps. The ol.layer.Heatmap offers some properties we can use to visualize the map in a better way. The properties include blur, radius, gradient, shadow and weight. This can be configured as per feature, according to the level of importance to each feature determining in more or less measure of the final color we want.

Fig: Default colors of gradient property

Fig: Used gradient property for different colors


Published by

Kavitha Nair

Open Source Enthusiast and Wanderlust.