Hyacinth: A 19th Century Mountain Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Hyacinth: A Free 19th Century Mountain Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

It’s not too often I delve into the world of 19th Century maps. In fact, this is my first 19th Century set. Don’t get me wrong, I adore maps from this era. Stylistically they’re often my favorites. But they’re not as easy to develop for brushes. By this time, most map styles had moved past the hill-profile approach fantasy fans are accustomed to seeing. (Thank Tolkien.) By the 1800s, cartography had embraced hachure relief. It was a style that would dominate until the late 19th Century and well into the early 20th Century when contour lines, hypsometric tints, and relief shading started to overtake it and become more prevalent. There are exceptions to every rule, and those deviations often produce unique results. Today’s set is born from one of those anomalies. Meet my newest free brush set, which I’m calling Hyacinth.

This set is based on an 1828 map of the road from Lhasa, Tibet, to Chengdu, China, created by the archimandrite monk Nikita Bichurin. Buchurin took on the monastic name “Hyacinth,” which is where today’s set pulls its name. It’s another stunner and a transitional example of cartographic evolution. You can still see the hill profile approach still present within the elevation, but there’s a shift happening. The technique has begun to adopt some of the aspects more commonly found in hachure relief. The result is beautiful and gives an illustrative quality to the more rigid approaches that will emerge in the future.

Hyacinth is a very focused set with 198 bushes. Don’t expect forests and swamps here. This is strictly focused on mountains with a small nod toward simple settlements. I’ve organized the landforms by size. Mountain Spurs are small mountain ranges less than 200px high or wide. Mountain Ranges extend between 200 and 600px. Large Mountain Ranges go well beyond. The three together should give you plenty of options to layout your mountains any way you want. The full set includes the following:

  • 50 Mountain Spurs
  • 80 Mountain Ranges
  • 13 Large Mountain Ranges
  • 4 Unique Landforms
  • 20 Villages
  • 20 Towns
  • 2 Cities
  • 5 Churches
  • 4 Unique Settlements

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, Hyacinth 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 Hyacinth? 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!

Hyacinth in Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. 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 as you get started on your own projects!

An example of Hyacinth in use (black and white)
3000 x 3000
An example of Hyacinth in use (color)
3000 x 3000
An example of Hyacinth in use (decorated)
1080 x 1080

Supporting This Work

If you like the Hyacinth 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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Visual Inspiration: Marilyn Mugot

Visual Inspiration: Marilyn Mugot

The urban landscape has long been a fascination of mine. Lovat—the central city in my Bell Forging Cycle—is my own love letter to the city form with its allure and optimism and the gritty shadows cast by those glowing ideals. Those contrasting juxtapositions are what makes the urban environment so appealing. I love the spaces between spaces, the often ignored corners where lives are lived, and the drama of humanity is played out. Whenever I find an artist who can capture that essence, I find that it enlivens me creatively.

“I strive to create a visual universe where fantasies, dreams and travels come together. Landscapes at night exacerbates a specific contemplative feeling which has encouraged me to create a new, obscure and sparkling world full of secrets and mystery.”

—Marilyn Mugot

So, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m an enormous fan of Marilyn Mugot’s photography, in particular, her Night Project series and much of the work she shares on her Instagram account. She excels at finding those small places and capturing them from angles that make me dwell on the city and its impact on our lives. There’s a beauty inherent within the urban environment, and in each of her pieces, Margot encapsulates those spaces with a cinematic quality, a touch of the surreal, and a subtle tenderness.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite pieces below. You can click on any image to view it larger.

This is just a tiny sample of Mugot’s work. I’d encourage you to check out her Venus’ Gardens series where she brings her iconic use of color to the natural world. It’s stunning stuff. You can see much more on her website, and I’d encourage you to follow her on Instagram as well. If you’re looking to purchase any of her pieces, you can buy prints from her online store.

If you like Marilyn Mugot’s work, be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, and moods.

Cyberpunk is Real

Cyberpunk is Reality

Yesterday, I came across a tweet from Carl Zha (okay, technically it’s from his auntie) that included a video clip of evening skyline above the city of Chongqing in southwestern China. There is a cyberpunk quality to the city that enthralled me. I felt as if Chongqing was plucked from the pages of William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Below the tweet, Zha also linked to the following video which goes even further, giving the viewer a close-up view of the city which only further cemented my opinion, check it out below.

The slick soundtrack and artistic jump-cuts only add a level of depth that expands the ultra-cool visuals of a city of the future. For a Westerner, it’s almost hard to imagine Chongquing as a real place. Our own cities are dull by comparison. This is the stuff of anime and Hollywood blockbusters, not reality.

It’s easy to become absorbed in the sleek aesthetic and forget that the cyberpunk genre was meant to serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unregulated capitalism, economic inequality, and the rampant abuse of technology. Warnings we’ve mostly ignored. I hesitate to prognosticate on the ramifications we’ll face. As Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

At least Chongquing looks cool.

Friday Link Pack 10-16-2015

Friday Link Pack 10/16/2015

Friday is here! That means it’s time for the Friday Link Pack. My weekly post covering topics such as writing, art, current events, and random weirdness. Some of these links I mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…


This will be the last week for the Red Litten World category. If you haven’t picked up your copy there are plenty of ways. Paperbacks can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or direct from My Store. EBooks can be purchased from  KindleKoboiBooksGooglePlayNook, and of course, My Store. (Always DRM Free.)

Red Litten World, 1 Week Old
A week after the launch I reflect on the happenings around Red Litten World. I discuss early reviews, direct folks to inspiration, the delay I experience with some minor printing issues, and more.

Jazz Saints Of The Bell Forging Cycle
In the first entry for my ongoing series, Wild Territories, I explore the reasons behind the Jazz Saints that crop up through The Bell Forging Cycle. I look into individual songs and explain why I selected them.


Three Reasons Your Writing Career is Stuck
Author and blogger, Kristen Lamb, offers some tough-love advice on shifting your attitude, changing your perceptions, focusing your time, and unsticking your writing career.

See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-Earth
Yay! A maps link (and a bit more)! If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, then do yourself a favor and check out these early sketches and notes for Middle Earth. Heck, if you’re a fantasy fan at all this article and the associated imagery is worth your time. Show’s how much work Tolkien put into his world.

100,000 Books Sold – What Happened?
Indie-author John Ellsworth, writer of legal thrillers, discusses his career and what it took for him to sell his first 100,000 books and what he plans on doing to sell many more.

How to Market Your Book to a Niche Audience
Handy advice from BookBub on how to sell to a specific audience. From nailing down that metadata to creating a solid social campaign strategy.


The Most Mysterious Star In Our Galaxy
Strange things are circling a very distant star located between the constellations of Cygnus the swan and Lyra the harp. Is it a natural occurrence or some enormous an ancient superstructure? Maybe Commander Shephard knows? Scientists are struggling to find out. [Thanks to Mike for sharing this.]

It Could Be Worse
Charles Stross takes a serious look at China’s new and controversial Citizen Score. A dystopian dream made into a creepy reality. [Thanks to Jim for sharing this.]

Holy City Of The Wichitas
My favorite blog, Atlas Obscura, looks at a little piece of old Jerusalem smack in the middle of Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. Bonus points for their use of the pun: faux-ly land.

Monty Python Releases 14 Minutes Of Unseen Animation From Holy Grail
I have always really enjoyed those weird little animations in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So I was extra excited when the A.V. Club shared this look at never before scene footage from the classic movie.


Taman Shud Case
“The Taman Shud or Tamam Shud Case, also known as the Mystery of the Somerton Man, is an unsolved case of an unidentified man found dead at 6:30 am, 1 December 1948, on Somerton beach, Glenelg, just south of Adelaide, South Australia. It is named after a phrase, tamám shud, meaning “ended” or “finished” in Persian, printed on a scrap of paper found in the fob pocket of the man’s trousers. This turned out to have been torn from the final page of a particular copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a collection of poems attributed to 12th-century poet Omar Khayyám. Following a police appeal, the actual book was handed in – six months after the body was found, a businessman (given the name Mr. Francis) said his brother found it in the back footwell of his car at about the time the body was found. The book was handed to Detective Leane who made the decision to keep the finder’s real name out of the papers. Imprinted on the back cover of the book was something looking like a secret code as well as a telephone number and another unidentified number.”


The Call Of Cthulhu
So, oddly, I don’t think this has ever been a featured story of the week. This is one of the biggest (and some might argue one of the best) of Lovecraft’s story. Also, the only tale to feature the tentacle-faced monstrosity himself, Cthulhu.

When you’re done reading this, make sure you go and read my Guest Geek editorial, Cthulhu The Wimp.



Friday Link Pack 12/13/13

The First Track of Footprints, 1960 Chao Mei (晁楣), b. 1931, Heze, Shandong
The First Track of Footprints,1960 — Chao Mei (晁楣)

It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have any suggestions, let me know.


SIGNED copies of The Stars Were Right are now available!
Check it out at my new store: store.kmalexander.com – also there is still have time to enter the Goodread’s Book Giveaway and win a copy! It’s also available on Amazon as well… while it will arrive faster (and be slightly cheaper) it won’t be signed.

Dr. Seuss’ lesser know The Seven Lady Godivas
This look at an early Seuss book follows the story of seven nudist sisters who swore to postpone their marriage when their father died from being thrown off a horse.

Ten More Gifts for Writers (2013 Edition)
Chuck Wendig suggests ten items to get for the writer on your gift list. There is some good stuff on here. I have more than half the stuff on this list and I use ’em all daily.


Kari-Lise Alexander featured on Google’s Open Gallery
This week Google launched their Open Gallery, and my wife Kari-Lise was one of the artists featured for the launch. The site is cool allowing you to flip around and zoom up really really close. It’s the next best thing to actually being in front of an original.

The Revolving Moon: 25 Prints from China
50 Watts posts a collection of 25 prints collected between 1950 and 2006. Quite beautiful work. What’s your favorite?

E21 Washington Topo
Designer Erik Hedberg‘s abstract take on the topography of the state of Washington. It’s a limited run and only 30 are available. Make sure you check out the making of video.


Do “Digital Natives” Exist?
PBS Idea Channel explores the concept of “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants“.

There is a tunnel-boring machine currently stuck below Seattle
Just sayin’.

Puddles—the sad clown with the golden voice—covers “Another Tear Falls”
…and, like his cover of Lorde’s “Royals“, it’s fantastic.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Terrible Old Man
“He is, in truth, a very strange person, believed to have been a captain of East India clipper ships in his day; so old that no one can remember when he was young, and so taciturn that few know his real name.”

Farewell Gif(s) of the Week:

'Fake' sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela memorial provokes anger


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