Throughout history, we can find examples of cartography used as aspirational propaganda. After all, land can be easily claimed on the map, where it might be more challenging to hold in person. Countries can seem more significant with slight projection adjustments, and colonies can appear more populated and robust. 1733’s A Map of the British Empire in America by Henry Popple is the perfect example of this—laying out the intent of the British Empire and her colonies in the New World rather than the realities of the time.
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I love this map. It’s a deviation from standard styles of the 18th century that I haven’t seen before. It manages to capture the wildness of a new frontier (to European eyes at least) in ways that cartography of the old continent hadn’t done before. The map itself was huge—nearly eight feet square when assembled, and the level of detail wasn’t something I could just ignore. It’d be perfect for fantasy maps.
With that in mind, I am releasing Popple, an enormous brush set with all of these beautiful details ready to be used in your fictional cartography. I think you’ll dig it.
Variety is what sold me. Each mountain and forest is one-of-a-kind, giving each area its own unique look. Plus, it has wetlands! Swamps! Interestingly enough, swamplands seem to be a rarity among historical maps—despite their near-ubiquitous presence in fantasy maps. (I guess we “blame” Tolkien for that?) One thing of note, it was challenging to determine what constitutes a town, a city, or a farm. Since there was no key or legend, I made my best guesses based on my research. That said, you can use any of these signs however you like. My system is more to keep the brushes organized so you can find what you’re looking for when browsing.
Within Popple, you’ll discover over 400 brushes, including:
- 20 Individual Habitations
- 10 Double Habitations
- 30 Grouped Habitations
- 20 Small Towns
- 3 Large Towns
- 10 Small Cities
- 30 Medium Cities
- 15 Large Cities
- 10 Huge Cities
- 20 Missions
- 20 Forts
- 5 Border Forts (the sort you’d find along rivers)
- 10 Tents
- 6 Random Habitations
- 30 Scrub Lands
- 30 “Round” Forests
- 30 “Tall” Forests
- 30 Swamps
- 40 Hills
- 40 Mountains
- 30 Mountain Ranges
The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP, Affinity Photo, and I’m told Procreate now) as well as several large transparent PNGs, including Settlements, Flora, Landforms One, and Landforms Two in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there. Like this set? Click here to learn how you can support this project.
As with all of my previous brush sets, Popple 2.0 is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in personal or commercial work and distribute adaptations. No attribution is required. Easy peasy!
Enjoy Popple? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me or finding me on Twitter. I love seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers. Let me see what you make!
🌏 Popple In Use
Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Popple. Just click on any of the images below to view them larger.
Support this Work
Brushes and tools released through the #NoBadMaps project will always be free and released under a public domain CC0 license. If you’d like to support the project and help me cover the cost of hosting, research, and tool-set development, I’ve put together three ways you can help, and all are detailed below.
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