TileMill is a free-to-download application for Windows and the Mac that will let you build beautiful, data driven maps. If the bland sameness of Google maps is giving you ennui, TileMill might be a good alternative for you. There are many beautiful stylesheets to make TileMill maps visually distinct, and you can control the colors, line widths, and much more about your map using Carto, a CSS-derived language. Here's a beautiful map of Montreal using a watercolor-like stylesheet:
What follows is a detailed, highly-illustrated guide to creating your first map in TileMill. We will be using real data from the Rhode Island Data Hub, a catalog of public data about education, employment, health, and much more from Rhode Island.