History is rife with “impregnable” walls and it’s a long list full of failure. The ancient Wall of Amurru didn’t last long, invaders got around the Great Wall of China (many times), and the Walls of Constantinople couldn’t stop the Ottoman forces. And that’s only three examples. The record goes on and on (Berlin, Hadrian’s Wall, Walls of Ston, the Red Snake, etc.) and we see the colossal scars they leave behind all across the earth.
With that in mind, I’m happy to present a new set based on Mingrelie autrefois Colchis by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. A beautifully rendered map of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia complete with, you guessed it, a wall. (The Kelasuri Wall to be precise.)
That’s right, you too can let your arrogant fantastical kingdoms erect a border wall! Watch as they bankrupt the royal treasury and overextend their defensive forces! Finally, shake your head as the barbarians invade anyway and the whole ordeal proves once again to be a monumental waste of effort and resources. Hey, it’s drama, and at least someone gets a tourist attraction out of it. Think about it, future generations of hotel owners will thank the ancient paranoid rulers for their ignorance.
Van der Aa isn’t my most extensive set, nor is it my most complex. But what it does, it does rather well. Because of the map’s size, the brushes tend to run a little larger than other sets (the biggest is over 1000px wide), and the settlements and landforms have a very unique style. Lots of little details in the settlements and craggy mountains. I think you’ll like it.
Inside Van der Aa you’ll find over 180 brushes, including:
- 11 Hamlets
- 1 Elevated Hamlet
- 30 Villages
- 7 Elevated Villages
- 2 Unique Villages
- 30 Towns
- 12 Elevated Towns
- 8 Large Towns
- 3 Unique Towns
- 3 Towers
- 25 Mountains
- 25 Mountain Ranges
- 3 Unique Mountain Ranges
- 25 Forests
- 4 Walls
- 1 Well
- 2 Cartouches
The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll work in GIMP as well) as well as a set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. I’ve separated them by type, Settlements, Flora & Cartouches, and Landforms. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.
As with all of my previous brush sets, Van der Aa is free for any use. As of July 2019, I now 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 commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!
Enjoy Van der Aa. Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email 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!
🌏 Van der Aa In Use
Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Van der Aa, and you can see a few variants below. Just click on any of the images below to view them larger.
💸 Supporting This Work
If you like the Van der Aa brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my speculative fiction novels. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. I think you’ll dig it. You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!
🗺 More Map Brushes
Van der Aa isn’t the only brush set I’ve released. You can find other free brush sets with a wide variety of styles over on my Free Stuff page. Every set is free, distributed under a CC0 license, and open for personal or commercial use. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works for your project.
My first brush set to focus on creating realistic maps for fantastical urban environments! Gomboust is a huge set, and its symbols are extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s beautiful 1652 map of Paris, France. His style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, packed with intricacies, and it brings a lot of personality to a project.
Based on Eugene Henry Fricx’s “Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France,” this set leans into its 1727 gothic styling and its focus on the developed rather than the natural. It’s hauntingly familiar yet strikingly different. If you’re looking for more natural elements, Harrewyn works well alongside other sets as well.
This set has quickly become a favorite, and it’s perfect for a wide variety of projects. The brushes are taken from 1746’s A Map of the British Empire in America by Henry Popple, and it has a fresh style that does a fantastic job capturing the wildness of a frontier. Plus it has swamps! And we know swamps have become a necessity in fantasy cartography.
While not my most extensive set (a little over one hundred brushes) Donia boasts one of the more unique takes on settlements from the 17th century. If you’re looking for flora, I suggest checking out other sets, but if you want to pay attention to your maps cities, towns, castles, churches, towers, forts, even fountains then this is the right set for you.
Based on Joan Blaeu’s Terræ Sanctæ—a 17th-century tourist map of the Holy Land—this set includes a ton of unique and varied signs as well as a large portion of illustrative cartouches that can add a flair authenticity to any fantasy map. Elegant and nuanced, everything works within a system, but nearly every sign is unique.
An 18th Century brush set based on a map from 1767 detailing the journey of François Pagès, a French naval officer, who accompanied the Spanish Governor of Texas on a lengthy exploration through Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. A unique southwestern set with a few interesting deviations—including three volcanos!
A departure from the norm, this set is based on the Plan Batalii map which was included in a special edition of The First Atlas of Russia in 1745. A detailed view of a battle during the Russo-Turkish War of 1735–1739. Canon! Units! Battles! Perfect for mapping out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.
A 17th Century brush set based on the work of Georgio Widman for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s atlas published in 1692. A fantastic example of Cantelli da Vignola’s influence and a solid set for any fantastic map. This is the workhorse of antique map brush sets—perfect for nearly any setting.
An 18th Century brush set based on the work of Gabriel Walser with a focus on small farms and ruins and a robust set of mountain and hills. This is a great brush set to see how Vignola’s influence persisted across generations. It was etched over 80 years after the Widman set, but you’ll find a few familiar symbols within.
A sketchy style brush set I drew myself that focuses on unique hills and mountains and personal customizability. My attempt at trying to channel the sort of map a barkeep would draw for a band of hearty adventurers. It includes extra-large brushes for extremely high-resolution maps.
Named after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann creator of the Lehmann hatching system in 1799, this is a path-focused brush set designed for Adobe Illustrator that attempts to captures the hand-drawn style unique 19th Century hachure-style mountains. This set works perfectly in conjunction with my other sets from the late 18th century.
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