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

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

When the British crown was restored in 1660, King Charles II received an enormous atlas as a gift from Professor Joannes Klencke. Enormous is not an understatement here. The Klencke Atlas is one of the largest books in the world, standing nearly six feet tall and over six feet wide when opened and weighing in at over four-hundred pounds. It’s impressive. But it’s not the atlas itself that we’re looking at today, it’s one of the copperplate maps tucked away inside. It’s the last map in the atlas that served as the source for my latest free brush set: Joan Blaeu’s beautiful Terræ Sanctæ.

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As best I can tell, Terræ Sanctæ (“Holy Land” in Latin) is essentially a tourist map of what is now Israel and Palestine. With a unique style, Blaeu details events, sites, and cities made famous in the Bible and he does so with flair. Each city feels distinctive, and the mountains and hills are meticulously rendered. Each object fits within its family but each feels unique. Despite the difficulty of conversion I vowed to make this a useable brush set. After hours of labor, I’m happy to announce Blaeu: an enormous brush set (over 500 brushes in total) with a wide variety of options and variants.

Blaeu Sampler

Most of the symbolism on the map was clear. But there were a few ideograms I couldn’t figure out. Blaeu didn’t include a key or legend, so I had to do my best translating. I took Latin way back in High School and weirdly retained a lot of it so I was able to fumble through, but I know I missed a lot. There were also quite a few symbols never explained.

Be warned, there’s a lot here, and the list below is enormous with quite a few unique elements you don’t find in other sets. That said, inside Blaeu, you’ll discover:

  • 15 Wells
  • 15 Monuments/Sepulchers/Tombs
  • 3 Individual Tents
  • 8 Tent Camps
  • 10 Ruins
    (This is my best guess for these symbols based on my previous map research. It’s possible these could mean something else entirely.)
  • 10 Elevated Ruins
    (FWIW, going forward “elevated” means: on a hill/mountain.)
  • 3 Unique Ruins
  • 20 Small Towns
  • 3 Elevated Small Towns
  • 50 Basic Cities
  • 25 Elevated Basic Cities
  • 2 Unique Basic Cities
  • 20 Starred Cities
    (It’s possible the six-pointed star represents synagogues, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.)
  • 4 Elevated Starred Cities
  • 13 Imperial Cities
  • 3 Elevated Imperial Cities
  • 8 Ecclesiastical Cities
  • 4 Elevated Ecclesiastical Cities
  • 8 Mixed Cities
    (A combination of the above)
  • 7 Elevated Mixed Cities
  • 4 Large Walled Cities
    (Big boys)
  • 4 Destroyed Cities
    (I love the detail in these)
  • 15 Forts
  • 15 Elevated Forts
  • 4 River Crossings
  • 5 Unique Religious Settlements
  • 4 Leper Colonies
    (These would be useful for Inns as well.)
  • 3 Unique Buildings
  • 15 Scrub Bush
  • 7 Grape Vines
  • 3 Vineyards
  • 8 Palm Trees
  • 1 Palm “Forest”
  • 30 “Leafy” Trees
  • 4 “Leafy” Tree Forests
  • 2 Orchards
  • 25 Hills
  • 15 Ranges of Hills
  • 6 Caves
  • 20 Mountains
  • 40 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Unique Mountain Ranges
  • 4 Tree Cartouches
    (Bigger than the flora tree.)
  • 25 People Cartouches
  • 5 Water Cartouches
  • 12 War (HUH) Cartouches
  • 1 Sheep Cartouche with a city on its head and another on its butt
    (It’s real weird.)

There is so much, and it’s all rendered in Blaeu’s charming style. Plus, the cartouches help add a touch of authenticity to a piece, and there are so many to choose from. This has quickly become one of my favorite sets, and it works really well with my other brushes. So don’t be afraid to mix and match.

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMPAffinity Photo, and I’m told Procreate now) and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support ABR brush files. You can also view the PNGs in your browser. Because of the complexity, I’ve divided this set into four transparent images: Settlements, Flora, Landforms, and Cartouches—be warned, they’ll come up black if viewed in Chrome, but they’re all there. Like this set? Click here to learn how you can support this project.



As with all of my previous brush sets, Blaeu 2.0 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 personal or commercial work and distribute adaptations. No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Blaeu! It took a lot longer to put together than previous sets, but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to see the style live on. I think it’s unique in the world of maps and would give any fantasy maps a fresh yet grounded feel. That connection to history can really make a project feel alive.

Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email! I love seeing how this stuff is used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers.


Support this Work

Brushes and tools released through the #NoBadMaps project will always be free and released under a public domain CC0 license. If you’d like to support the project and help me cover the cost of hosting, research, and tool-set development, I’ve put together three ways you can help, and all are detailed below.

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I’m not just a map enthusiast. I’m also a novelist! The easiest way to support me (and get something in return) is by purchasing one of my cosmic horror urban fantasy novels.

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A simple and quick way to support the #NoBadMaps project is through a one-time donation of any amount via ko-fi. Your support helps keep this project going and is appreciated.

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More Map Brushes

This is just one of many brush sets and map tools 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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