Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

For December, I am releasing my thirteenth free fantasy map brush set of the year and it’s the most extensive collection I’ve ever assembled. I think you’ll dig this one.

Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Today’s topographic set is 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 the skylines of the cities, towns, and villages are rendered intricately, giving each their own individual look.

Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

There’s also the matter of the Schlösser—the catchall German term for a château, manor houses, or palace. Vischer drew and labeled each of these. Often these buildings were moated, and while German has a word for “castle” (burg), it wasn’t uncommon for castles to also be dubbed “schloss.” (I recommend reading the linked page, there’s fascinating history surrounding those buildings, and it goes into much more detail.) For the sake of organizational sanity, I divided the schlösser into those that looked more manor-like and those that appeared more castle-esque.

Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Vischer included a key, in both German and Latin, and I did my best to follow it when labeling the signs and symbols. However, he didn’t always do the best job sticking to his own legend. Towards the latter plates, the symbol marking the schlösser changes, and it begins to often include an arrow (typically used to indicate a fortified location). I’m also half-sure that the mark for “town” might be more of an indicator that there is a market in that particular village or city. Likewise, he lists bathhouses on the legend, but they never showed up in the map itself! Those sorts of aberrations aren’t uncommon on old maps, and it’s part of what makes cartographic antiquities such fun.

Vischer: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

This is a beautiful set, with a style that sets it apart from other maps of the era. I’m excited to be bringing it to everyone. I can’t wait to see what you do with it. With over nine hundred and fifty brushes, Vischer is my largest set of the year. There is a TON here allowing the map designer to make a really unique looking topographical map quickly and effectively. It includes the following:

  • 20 Small Settlements
  • 165 Villages
  • 20 Elevated Villages
  • 40 Towns
  • 25 Cities
  • 50 Manor-style Schlösser
  • 20 Elevated Manor-style Schlösser
  • 40 Castle-style Schlösser
  • 20 Elevated Castle-style Schlösser
  • 10 Monasteries
  • 15 Monasteries w/ Other Settlements
  • 30 Combined Settlements
  • 20 Houses
  • 10 Churches
  • 25 Unique Settlements
  • 20 Open Fields
  • 20 Furrowed Fields
  • 20 Hedgerow Fields
  • 20 Hedgerows
  • 20 Vineyards
  • 30 Wetlands
  • 20 Scrub
  • 20 Individual Trees
  • 15 Forests
  • 150 Regular Hills
  • 20 Steep Hills
  • 30 Cultivated Hills
  • 10 Mountains
  • 3 Windmills
  • 5 Glass Kiln Markers
  • 15 Postal Markers
  • 5 Transport Cartouches
  • 10 Ruins & Monuments
  • 5 Crosses
  • 5 Unique Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work in GIMP). I normally include a set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files, but I’ve separated them out this time to save on file-size. You can download them via the link below. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


Download all the PNGs

As with all of my previous brush sets, Vischer 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. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Vischer? 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!

🌏 Vischer In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Vischer. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you in your projects!


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Vischer 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 to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging CycleNot interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.

🗺 More Map Brushes

Vischer 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.

Braun: A Free 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City MapsBraun: A 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

The brushes within this urban-focused 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. The detail and density represented in these symbols give an extra layer of texture and is perfect for the right fantastical city map.

Ogilby - DecoratedOgilby: A Free 17th Century Road Atlas Brush Set

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.

Van der Aa Sample Map - DecoratedVan der Aa: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

This regional map set is 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. It also features a failed wall!

Gomboust: A 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

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.

Harrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetHarrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

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.

Popple: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush SetPopple: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

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.

Donia: A Free 17th Century Settlement Brush SetDonia: A Free 17th Century Settlement Brush Set

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 map’s cities, towns, castles, churches, towers, forts, even fountains, then this is the right set for you.

Blaeu: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush SetBlaeu: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

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.

Aubers: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetAubers: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

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!

L’Isle: An 18th Century Battlefield Brush SetL’Isle: An 18th Century Battlefield Brush Set

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.

Widman: A 17th Century Cartography Brush SetWidman: A 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

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.

Walser: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetWalser: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

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 mountains 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.

Lumbia: A Sketchy Cartography Brush SetLumbia: A Sketchy Cartography Brush Set

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.

Lehmann: A Hatchure Brush SetLehmann: A Hatchure Brush Set

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.

Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →