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 →