For a while, I’ve been sharing brush sets based on historical maps and named after the original artists or engravers who created them. I call this project #NoBadMaps. These sets are perfect for fantasy maps and can add a touch of authenticity to any project, be it a novel or a role-playing game. All my brushes are released under a CC0 License and are free for personal or commercial use. You can download them here.
A Guide to Naming
Each of my sets has particular names that will hint as to what’s inside each of them. The guide below will help you find the right set for you. Individual posts will further break down the sets in detail, listing everything included.
Units, camps, gun emplacements a set designed to help illustrate your story’s campaign.
The most common. These are robust sets focused on all aspects of maps usually on a regional or global scale.
A set designed to paint-in coastal or landmass edges.
These are landform-focused sets.
- Road Atlas
These sets are focused on the route linking settlements.
Looking for cities? These sets are for you.
- Urban Cartography
Sets focused on creating city-maps.
Links below will go to individual posts with information about the set, its history, and links to download. With few exceptions, brush sets are ordered by their release. The newest will always be at the top.
This is an enormous cartography brush set based on 日本海山潮陸圖 (Map of Sea, Mountain, Tide, and Land of Japan) by Ishikawa Ryūsen depicting the Japanese islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshu during the Edo Period. For the most part, this is a hill-profile set with its unique style from the almost kanji-inspired flora to the elegant, calligraphic mountains. Still, more modern iconographic touches for settlements and points of interest exist. We end up with a fascinating hybrid style, not precisely hill-profile and yet not thoroughly “modern.” A great set that will help your fantasy maps stand apart.
This is an extensive cartography brush set based on the first plate of de Fer’s Le Cours de Missisipi, ou de St. Louis, an early 17th-century map depicting headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes region. The source map isn’t as accurate as other maps from the period. Still, like his other work, de Fer’s artistic ability shines as he goes into extensive detail, creating a unique art piece with signs and symbols that stand apart from others and work exceptionally well for fantasy maps.
This extensive battlefield brush set is based on de Fer’s Le Combat de Leuze ou de la Catoire, a late 17th-century map depicting the fortification of the Belgium city of Leuze-en-Hainaut in 1691, and the Battle of Leuze, a French calvary victory from the Nine Years’ War. It’s full of the sort of stuff that makes these maps fascinating, charging calvary units, stalwart pike men, soldiers, explosions, battles, villages, and more. Perfect to add a bit of narrative drama to your fantasy maps.
This 18th-century settlement set is the first in a series coming from French cartographer Nicolas de Fer who eventually became the official geographer to the Spanish and the French court. This set comes from La Banlieue De Paris, an 18th-century map of the homes, towns, and villages that filled the Parisian countryside. Filled with lots of interesting little details, this set should work alongside any of my previous brush sets and allow a bit of variety to your fantasy map settlements.
This mountain-focused set is my first taken from 19th-Century sources, and as one would imagine, it’s a hybrid of more modern styles paired with older topographical landforms. Based on an 1828 map of the road from Lhasa, Tibet, to Chengdu, China. The source was created by the archimandrite monk Nikita Bichurin who took on the monastic name “Hyacinth”—hence the name. This set serves as another transitional example of cartographic evolution. One can see the hill profile approach to elevation, but the landforms are beginning to adopt some of the aspects commonly found in hachure relief—a refreshingly different approach to landforms.
Little different from my other sets, Ende, is a 17th/18th century hatch-style paint-in littoral edger for your fantasy maps allowing you to quickly paint in your coastlines. Ende will work best when placed on its own layer behind an opaque “landmass” layer. It’s designed to be a base point. I recommend adding noise, applying some texture, or using subtle distortion to rough them up. That way, they’ll fit whatever aesthetic you’re looking to achieve.
This set comes from L’Isle de Cadix du Detroit de Gibraltar, a 1788 map of the Strait of Gibraltar, by Johann Baptist Homann, a prolific German geographer, cartographer, and wig-haver. The OG map it comes from is pretty unique as it mixes many different styles. So the set is also a bit eclectic. It’s partly a battlefield set with fortresses, defensive positions, towns, camps, and unit locations. It’s partly cartographic with mountains, flora, and even agriculture represented. It’s partly nautical with anchorages and sounding markers. It should work well alongside my other sets.
This fuzzy-caterpillar/hachure set comes from L’estremadura Di Portogallo, a 1775 map of southern Portugal created by Italian cartographer Antonio Zatta as part of his Atlante Novissimo. This transitory set, sitting somewhere between hill-profile and top-down hachure design, is perfect for flintlock fantasy, steampunk, or anything that sits on that historical edge between the 18th and 19th centuries.
This is a topographical brush set with a nautical focus based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal. Along with the standard symbols of settlements, flora, and landforms, I’ve also made sure to incorporated a whole host of maritime signs—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more. It’ll be handy if you’re telling a tale set on the high seas or want to add a flash of authenticity to the coasts of your map.
A topographic set based on the Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697. The style is unique and features a few stylistic touches that really help set it apart. Hills do double duty serving as forests, and most of the cities, towns, and villages are rendered quite intricately, giving each their own unique look.
The brushes within this set are based on the incredible work of Georg Braun taken from his Civitates orbis terrarum—easily one of the most significant volumes of cartographic antiquity featuring bird’s eye maps of over five hundred and forty Renaissance cities. The detail and density represented in these symbols give an extra layer of texture and is perfect for the right fantastical city map.
Taken from John Ogilby’s 1675 book Britannia, Volume the First, this set allows the creator to recreate road atlas from the 17th century in stunning detail, placing the traveler’s experience front and center. With over 800 brushes, this is my most extensive set to date and useful for a variety of projects. Several bonus downloads are also available, as well.
This set based on a map by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. It’s a beautifully rendered version of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia. While not as extensive as other sets, the size of the map allowed for larger brushes that helps highlight the uniqueness of each symbol.
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 1652 map of Paris. The style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, 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.
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 robust 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 solid 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.
A small set of six compass roses in various languages taken from the first atlas volume of the Atlante Veneto by… you guessed it, Vincenzo Coronelli! The link above will download the file. (I didn’t announce this one with a blog post.) They are included as a Photoshop .abr file and as six individual .pngs labeled by their language. A handy addition for any fantasy maps.
Supporting This Work
If you like my brush set 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!
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