Getting Started with PostGIS in QGIS on macOS

What is PostGIS?

PostGIS is an extension for the popular relational database PostgreSQL. It adds support for storing, indexing and querying geographic data.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use PostGIS but the primary advantage of using a database over files is the fact that multiple people can access, query and update information in a database at the same time.

Downloading and Installing

To get up and running fast we’re going to use an app called which includes PostGIS. You can download it from

While this app provides a great way to start learning PostGIS, it’s likely not what you should use for an enterprise level application.

  1. Head to and download the latest release
  2. Open the Disk Image and drag the Postgres application to your Applications folder
  3. Start up the application from your Applications folder or Spotlight
  4. Confirm that you want to open it
  5. Click the Initialize button to create a PostgreSQL 16 instance
  6. This will create a server with 3 databases:

Enabling the PostGIS Extension

Before we can do anything we first need to enable the PostGIS extension in our database.

Double-click the database named after your username and it will bring up a psql session in a terminal window. psql is a command-line tool for interacting with a Postgres database.

Enter the following commands to enable the PostGIS Extension on the database named with your username. In my case it’s named brian.

CREATE EXTENSION postgis_raster SCHEMA postgis;
ALTER DATABASE brian SET search_path=public,postgis;

Schemas are namespaces that help you organize the tables, views and other things you create in your database. We created a schema named postgis so that all the information associated with the PostGIS extensions won’t pollute or collide with other schemas we create. The extensions will still be available to all other schemas in the database.

Connecting to PostGIS from QGIS

Now that we have a database running with the PostGIS extension installed we can connect to it from QGIS:

  1. Start up QGIS
  2. In the Browser right-click on PostgreSQL and click New Connection
  3. Enter the following:
  4. Under Authentication click Basic
  5. Click Test Connection
  6. Click OK

Creating Schemas

As I mentioned previously, schemas are a convenient way to organize the tables, views and other database objects you create. Let’s create a dedicated schema called tutorial for the work we’ll be doing today:

  1. In the Browser, under PostgreSQL, right-click on your new connection and choose New Schema…
  2. Enter tutorial for the Name
  3. Click OK

Creating Tables

Now that we have a dedicated schema, let’s create a table to hold some point data:

  1. Right-click on the tutorial schema and choose New Table…
  2. The Schema should already be set to tutorial
  3. Change the table Name to points
  4. Click Add Field
  5. Change the field’s Name to name
  6. Change the field’s Type to Text, limited variable length (varchar)
  7. Change the field’s Length to 64
  8. Set the Geometry Type to point
  9. Click OK
  10. Double-click the new points table in your tutorial schema to add it as a layer to your map

Adding Data to a Table

Once we have our points table as a layer in our project we can add data like we would with a GeoPackage or Shapefile:

  1. Select the points layer
  2. Click the Toggle Editing button to enable editing
  3. Click theAdd Point Feature button to start adding points
  4. Click on the map view to add a point
  5. Leave the ID value as is — it’s automatically set to a function that grabs the next available ID for the table
  6. Set a Name for the point
  7. Click OK
  8. Click the Save Layer Edits button
  9. Right-click the points layer choose Open Attribute Table to see your points

Importing Layers into PostGIS via QGIS

Another thing we can do with PostGIS is import data from other formats, such as Shapefiles. Lets import that US States and Territories from

  1. Download and unzip the US States Shapefile:
  2. In the Database menu choose DB Manager…
  3. Under PostGIS choose the tutorial schema
  4. Click Import Layer/File…
  5. Click the next to the Input field and navigate to where you unzipped the file s_08mr23.shp
  6. Make sure Schema is set to tutorial
  7. Change the Table name to usstatesand_territories
  8. Check Primary Key and ensure it’s set to id
  9. Check Geometry Column and ensure it’s set to geom
  10. Check Convert field names to lowercase
  11. Check Create spatial index
  12. Click OK
  13. Double-click the us_states_and_territories table under the tutorial schema in the Browser to add it as a layer to your map


You’ve now have a PostGIS database running on your machine and you know how to create your own schemas, create your own tables and import data using QGIS.

There are a couple of books you might want to check out — one I’ve been working through and the other I haven’t picked up yet:

If you’re interested in learning more please follow me on YouTube. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out to me on Mastodon.