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

This spring, I released the second in a series of sets coming from one individual: Nicolas de Fer. He’s an interesting historical figure, a famous French geographer who eventually became the official geographer of the Spanish and French courts. He was a prolific engraver and publisher, stole unabashedly, and while his work isn’t considered historically accurate, he brought a uniqueness with his cartography that helps it stand apart artistically from his contemporaries, making his work the perfect base for fantasy map brush sets.

Hey look it’s Nick de Fer! His wig is freshly fluffed and he’s ready to impress you with his maps.

Today, I am happy to announce the release of de Fer Cartography, the third and final set in my de Fer Collection, and my twenty-fifth brush set! 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 map itself isn’t as accurate as other maps from the period, but like his other work, de Fer’s artistic ability is what shines here. He goes into extensive detail, creating a unique art piece with signs and symbols that stand apart and work exceptionally well for fantasy maps.

A sample of what you’ll find in de Fer Cartography

Much of what you’d expect in a standard cartography set will be found here settlements, landforms, and fauna; however, there is a uniqueness de Fer brings to his work that would add a nice spin to fantasy projects. I particularly like how he’d rendered each building in settlements really fills out a space. And, I hope you like cartouches because this set comes with plenty! They work well to decorate empty spaces and bring an air of authenticity to a fictional piece. While they aren’t historically (and occasionally biologically) accurate and often feel like the illustrative version of a game of telephone, they’d be easy to manipulate for other narratives and purposes.

The cartouches within this set are varied and can really add flavor to a map

The de Fer Settlement set features over 290 brushes and includes the following:

  • 30 Grouped Settlements
  • 15 Individual “Peaked” Structures
  • 15 Individual “Arched” Structures
  • 10 Individual “Square” Structures
  • 14 Forts
  • 5 Unique Settlements
  • 50 Mountains
  • 20 Mountain Pairs
  • 10 Swamps
  • 30 Forests
  • 50 Trees
  • 11 Animal Cartouches
  • 6 Canoe Cartouches
  • 13 People Cartouches
  • 4 Burial Cartouches
  • 1 weird thing I couldn’t figure out
  • 3 Anchorage Symbols
  • 8 Portage Symbols
  • 2 Map Elements

But wait… there’s more. While most of the interesting signs and symbols came off the first plate, there was a second plate as well, and while the second wasn’t as detailed as the first, it was filled with many more cartouches. Not everyone needs ’em, but if you want to round out the set, there will be a link below the button for the de Fer Cartography BONUS set that includes sixty other cartouches to decorate your maps! HOORAY for bonuses! Unless you hate cartouches. Then BOO for bonuses. Cheer or boo, whatever.

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 (3 Mb) in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.



DOWNLOAD THE DE FER CARTOGRAPHY BONUS
– View the BONUS transparent PNG –
(2.5 Mb)


As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Cartography and its bonus cartouches are 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 de Fer Cartography? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me 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!


de Fer Cartography in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? I created a sample map based on “The Peninsula of the Palm” from Guy Gavriel Kay’s wonderful 1990 fantasy novel Tigana. (Link goes to IndieBound. Pick it up!) It was fun to rework another map as a sample and doing so has made me want to revisit the book. You can see the results below. There are three versions, a colored version, one black and white, 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 projects!

2238 x 4050
2238 x 4050
1080 x 1350

Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Cartography brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work or just help cover the cost of hosting, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels instead of a donation. 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. They make great gifts. 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

de Fer Cartography is just one of many brush sets I’ve released over the years. 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!


Want 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 →

de Fer Battlefield: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

Last September, I released the first in a series of sets coming from one individual: Nicolas de Fer. He’s an interesting character, a famous French geographer who eventually became the official geographer to the Spanish and French court. He was a prolific engraver and publisher, stole unabashedly, and while his work isn’t considered historically accurate, he brought a uniqueness with his cartography that helps it stand apart artistically from his contemporaries, making his work the perfect base for fantasy map brush sets.

Why it’s Nick de Fer! Prepared to wow you with his engravings.

Today, I am excited to release de Fer Battlefield. An extensive battlefield brush set 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 and energetic: charging calvary units, stalwart pike men, soldiers, explosions, battles, villages, and more.

Even in their time, Battlefield maps were a storytelling element as much narrative as informative. But, I know many people don’t understand how to effectively use brush sets based on them. My sample map for this set strives to inspire how these sets can enhance a narrative and help tell a story. There are many opportunities for fantasy maps to employ a similar tactic in their maps, moving away from a static approach of borders and cities that we are familiar with to one that details events in a fresh and exciting way.

A sample of what you’ll find in de Fer Battlefield

The de Fer Battlefield set features over 230 brushes and includes the following:

  • 8 Army Units
  • 2 Marching Army Units
  • 10 Pike Units
  • 12 Organized Lines (Could also work as fields)
  • 10 Organized Units
  • 20 Individual Soldiers
  • 15 Cavalry Units
  • 20 Charging Cavalry Units
  • 5 Marching Cavalry Units
  • 5 Attacking Cavalry Units
  • 25 Individual Cavalry Units
  • 10 Individual Cavalry Units Rearing
  • 6 Mixed Combination Units
  • 7 Battles
  • 10 Bushes
  • 30 Trees
  • 5 Forests
  • 10 Hillsides
  • 12 Towns
  • 4 Explosions
  • 9 Unique Brushes

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 (3.5Mb) in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.



As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Battlefield 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 de Fer Battlefield? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me 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!


de Fer Battlefield in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a colored version, one black and white, 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!

3000 x 3000
3000 x 3000
1080 x 1080

Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Battlefield brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels instead of a donation. 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

de Fer Battlefield 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!


Want 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 →

Check Out My SPFM Interview!

September was Self Published Fantasy Month, and I was lucky enough to participate and I gave an interview with the crew there. It’s varied, and much is discussed from my reasoning for indie publishing, how I celebrate the wins, common pitfalls for new writers, some of my favorite indie books, and I describe a tavern in Lovat—The Marsh Bed—a place I now consider canon. Click the button below and read it today.



While you’re there, be sure to follow/bookmark the SPFM blog. They’re a great site with a ton of content. It’s a solid place to find a fantastic collection of indie titles to fill out your TBR list. They’re also active on Twitter and Instagram. So give ’em a follow across the web, and you’ll be set when the next Self Published Fantasy Month rolls around.


🎙 Interviews & Articles

Looking for further conversations with me? Perhaps you’re interested in articles I’ve written elsewhere? You can find all of this and more at my About Page. There’s a lot of great stuff with posts going back as far as 2013.


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

3000 x 3000
3000 x 3000
1080 x 1080

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!


Want 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 →

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!


Want 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 →

Raunch Review: Malazan Book of the Fallen

Raunch Review: Malazan Book of the Fallen

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.


Raunch Review: Malazan Book of the Fallen

The Author: Steven Erikson

Work in Question: Malazan Book of the Fallen Series

The Profanity: “Hood’s [Body Part]”


If there is one set of offensive language that has staying power, it’s oaths. Language changes far too often for slurs and expletives to have much impact after a few hundred years. Over time they tend to shift and change, losing their potency. But oaths stick around—especially blasphemous oaths. It doesn’t matter how you do it; if you insult someone’s deity or use its name in a profane way, you’re bound to spark emotion with its followers.

Enter Hood, God of Death and King of High House Death, from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. He becomes just one punching bag for various and extensive oaths throughout the series that mimic their cousins of the real-world Middle Ages. And I do mean extensive. “Hood’s bones” get discussed, “Hood’s fists” and “Hood’s feet” are evoked, “Hood’s breath” is mentioned. Of course, it wouldn’t be period-authentic oath-craft without mentioning “Hood’s [your reproductive organ of choice.]” But Hood is used in other places as well; there are Hood-centric curses like “Hood drag you down,” and a few Hood-focused expletives as well. (If you want to see the list, the Malazan Wiki goes into exhaustive detail.) The poor fellow can’t catch a break. Occasionally there are a few instances where the name is used oddly: “Shut the Hood up” or “Get(ting) the Hood out of here” are a few examples where the context doesn’t work. But those instances are fleeting and feel more like a character’s mistake rather than something inherent to standard use. In fact, there are so many other uses that it’s hard not to be impressed.

While I’d love to see more minced varieties of Hood-centric oaths in Malazan, this sort of language was prevalent in the Middle Ages. That makes these oaths and exclamations a solid example of period-authentic faux-profanity.

Final Score: 5.0


🤬 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.