de Fer Settlement: A Free 18th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

It’s been a while since I’ve share any new tools for fantasy cartographers. I released my last brush set way back in January. Since then I’ve been a little busy. I launched Gleam Upon the Waves, the fourth novel in my cosmic horror series (you should buy it!), expanded my “Old Haunts” project significantly, and since I was fully vaxxed I took some time after the launch to travel a bit. It was quite an eventful summer. But autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, and I want to get back into the swing of things and continue supporting the community of fantasy cartographers—I’m long overdue for a new brush set.

Nicolas de Fer in all of his wiggy glory

Let’s fix that! Today I’m releasing the first in a collection of sets all coming from the same cartographer. Nicolas de Fer was a famous eighteenth century French engraver who eventually becoming the official geographer to the Spanish and French court. His work is stunning, and his styles varies depending on what he was depicting and/or plagiarizing. He also wasn’t the most accurate of cartographers. These days most of his work is viewed for its artistic merit as opposed to its historical accuracy. Think of him as a quantity over quality guy. Lucky for us, when it comes to fantasy maps, historical accuracy isn’t something with which we concern ourselves. Instead, we’re looking at signs and symbols that are unique and can help our work stand out while still feeling period-authentic, and de Fer’s work serves us well in that regard.

de Fer Settlement is the first of three planned sets I’ll be releasing. Each will highlight a different aspect of cartography. As the name implies, this first set is focused on settlements. Taken from La Banlieue De Paris—translated “The Suburbs of Paris”—the map is an 18th-century map of the homes, towns, and villages that sprawled across the Parisian countryside in 1717. It’s a diverse set with a lot of little details. While there isn’t much in the way of landforms or flora, the set will work well with any other brush sets I’ve released, allowing for a bit of variety in your fantasy maps. Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match to get the look you want!

The de Fer Settlement set features 300 brushes, and includes the following:

  • 50 Homesteads
  • 13 Mansions
  • 25 Villages
  • 50 Towns
  • 9 Combinations of the Above
  • 7 Unique Settlements
  • 12 Chapels
  • 2 Abbeys
  • 7 Churches
  • 10 Ferry Landings
  • 10 Water Mills
  • 10 Tiny Windmills
  • 35 Windmills
  • 6 Gallows
  • 2 Gibbets
  • 20 Crosses (The French loved erecting random crosses along the roadside.)
  • 5 Fields
  • 3 Big Trees
  • 20 Forests
  • 3 Map Elements

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and Affinity Photo) as well as a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. Remember, they’re black, so they’ll look broken viewed in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.



As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Settlement 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 commercial work and distribute adaptations. No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy de Fer Settlement? Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email or finding me on Twitter or heck, leave a comment below. I adore seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers (let me know in your message.) Let us see what you make!


de Fer Settlements in Use

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Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Settlement brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror soaked dark urban fantasy 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 the Bell Forging Cycle hub to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle

Not interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.


More Map Brushes

Hyacinth just one of many brush sets I’ve released. You can find it and other free brushes covering a wide variety of historical styles on my Fantasy Map Brushes 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. Click the button below to check them out!


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It Cannot Be Reversed

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

Cesar Chavez

For those of you who live in the United States, may you have a happy Labor Day! For those who live elsewhere, have a happy Monday!

A Return to the Indie Pub

Back in May I was lucky enough to be the first guest for J. Rushing’s indie-publishing focused podcast, The Indie Pub. Well here we are a few months later and in the waning days of summer and I’m excited to say I’ve returned to the pub for its tenth episode! Listen to it below.

This time around Jim and I discuss maps—how they’re used in fantasy books, how to go about creating them, and the toolsets I provide to empower creators to make their own authentic looking maps. We had a great discussion and I was happy to share another aspect of the writing process I’m passionate about. I think you’ll dig it.Tell your pals, drop Jim a review, and subscribe to the Indie Pub from any of the links below.



Enjoy the episode everyone!

Wunderkammer

So, for a while now, along with being painters Kari-Lise and Redd have been running Moth & Myth, becoming purveyors of hyper-realistic paper moths and butterflies for artists to use on… well, whatever.

They’re incredible works of art, and it’s been amazing to see what people do with them over the last few years. All that said, I’m even more excited to share their latest foray—the Wunderkammer relics. They’re incredible paper recreations of delicate skeletons of snakes, frogs, and seahorses and you can buy ’em today. I love how how three-dimensional these look. It’s hard to believe they are paper. You can check out pictures of the specimens below.

These paper relics are available over at Moth & Myth’s webpage. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitter to stay on top of their releases. They also have a newsletter, I recommend signing up.

I’ve been watching the development of these sets for months, and I’m excited they’re finally seeing the light of day. This has been a labor of love, and the quality and attention to detail really shows through in the final product.

Raunch Review: Star Wars Rebels

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


The Author: Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni, & Carrie Beck

Work in Question: Star Wars Rebels

The Profanity: “Karabast”


As a universe, Star Wars doesn’t have a lot of fantasy cursing. A few bits of subdued real-world swearing can be found interspersed in dialogue (mostly coming from Obi-Wan or Han Solo), but beyond that, language in Star Wars is relatively mild. Even the insults are goofier than serious, leaning on silly words and phrases like “scruffy-looking nerf herder,” “fuzzball,” “goldenrod,” and “laser brain,” among others.

To find fictional expletives, you need to move away from the core films and into the expanded universe of shows, movies, series, and books. Today’s word comes from there. The Lasat exclamation “karabast” is initially found in the animated series Star Wars Rebels but has spread to other properties. This phrase is typically used as an expletive by the Lasat crewman, Garazeb Orrelios, affectionately known as Zeb. The meaning of it is unknown, which is unfortunate. Language is a fantastic way to explore culture, and keeping the meaning a secret does more of a disservice to the civilization which invented it.

The meaning of the phrase doesn’t matter all that much. But adding definition extends a language. There’s plenty of expletives that don’t translate well. (I talked about this when reviewing Star Trek’s “petaQ.”) Understanding those can expand a culture’s identity in fiction just as it does in the real world. For example, Mandarin Chinese has a few egg-centric profanities that, while I’m sure have an impact in Chinese, do not work as well translated. One of my favorites is 滚蛋 (gǔn dàn), whose literal translation is close to “rolling egg,” but its meaning when in use is more impolite. There’s a cultural context that has turned it into something offensive. This is where “karabast” falls flat. Without the weight of meaning, what we end up with is nonsense. A word used to punctuate and nothing more. It sits in an interim spot and fills a void usually reserved for something more offensive. Even Han and Obi-Wan’s mild go-to expletives have both historical and cultural weight and meaning. That makes “karabast”—a unique sounding word—nothing more than a fancy censor slip.

Final Score: 2.0


🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


A middle-aged Octavia E. Butler looking off into the distance.

Octavia E. Butler’s Notes to Self

Today happens to be the birthday of Octavia E. Butler, one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time (and one who deserves to be named as an SWFA Grand Master). I often share quotes from authors here, but since it’s Butler’s birthday I’m going to go a different direction and share some images of the colorful and inspirational messages Butler left to herself in her private notebooks. They’re a fantastic glimpse into her mind, and perhaps these can serve as an inspiration for our own creative work.

This is just a handful of notes left by Butler. Upon her death, she bequeathed her extensive archives to the Huntington Library, which is where the images above are taken. They have loads more, with Butler’s notes on specific work as well. It’s worth checking out.

If you haven’t read any of her work you should fix that! I’d recommend starting with Kindred which remains a poignant time travel tale, or consider the Xenogenesis trilogy starting with Dawn. It’s unlike any science fiction tale I’ve read before. I’ve also heard great things about The Parable series, the first of which is The Parable of the Sower, and while I own both books, they’re still on my TBR pile. I’m hoping to get to the first a little later this summer.