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→

Ende: A 17th/18th Century Littoral Edger for Your Fantasy Maps

Ever since I put together my tutorial on replicating hatched 18th-century coastlines, I knew it was merely a stopgap. After all, the whole point of #NoBadMaps is to empower anyone to create high-quality historically-infused maps quickly and efficiently. While following along through complex Photoshop procedures can get you there, it still takes a bit more effort than I wanted.

Today, I’m proud to release the next iteration of the hatched coastline—Ende—a totally-free brush set where you can just paint-in your hatches. No longer do you have to go through multiple panels and several steps to get what you want. If you can draw a line, you can hatch in your littoral edges. Simple as that. Here’s a quick video showing how it works.

Ende is named after the first Spanish female manuscript illuminator and one of the first female cartographers. She lived around 1000 A.D.—her work is early enough that it doesn’t lend itself to a very robust brush set. Something I talked about in detail recently. But I liked the idea of naming a mapping tool after her.

Using Ende is simple. Install the brush set. Select the brush size you want from the Brush palette and paint it in. It is designed for Photoshop but should work in GIMP or Affinity. (No promises. I don’t use either tool.) It’ll work the best living on its own layer behind a solid landmass layer. You can also try using the “Wet” setting if you want the brush to have a more inky feel. You can toggle that on and off in the Brush Settings Panel (F5) in Photoshop.

The set itself includes ten brushes—1-pixel through 5-pixels with standard and wide variants of each. The wide variants double the white space between lines. You can see an example of each brush below. I recommend using a brush that closely matches the average thickness of lines and strokes on your project so it will look the most natural.

Left to Right: 1px to 5px, Wide variant on bottom row

That’s it! An easy-to-use littoral edger for your fantasy map projects. Just click the button below to download Ende and quickly edge in your coastlines.



As with all of my previous brush sets, Ende 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 Ende? 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!


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like Ende (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 in the series—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. Learn more about the series by visiting the Bell Forging Cycle page.

The Bell Forging Cycle

Not interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.


More Map Brushes

Ende just one of twenty 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→

Homann: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Homann: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

I’ve been heads down working on the edits for Gleam Upon the Waves, so it’s been a while since I’ve shared any new resources for fantasy map enthusiasts, writers, cartographers, game masters, table-top role-playing game creators—whoever you are. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few things up my sleeve. Today, I’m excited to announce the release of my latest free historically-based fantasy-map brush set, which I’ve named Homann.

Are you a fan of fields? Are defensive fortifications your jam? Then Homann is the perfect set for you. Based on L’Isle de Cadix du Detroit de Gibraltar, a 1788 map of the Strait of Gibraltar, by Johann Baptist Homann, a prolific German geographer, cartographer, and wig haver. (Yeah, click on his name. You’ll see what I mean.) It’s a unique map. One that seems to be at war with itself. It’s reminiscent of a battlefield map at first, but you can see how it’s mixed with the traditional cartography of its time. At the same time, it flirts with being a nautical chart, not something you often find on maps like this. But that jumbled confusion makes sense considering the messy military history surrounding the strait.

A unique map like this means the brush set extracted from it will be just as unique. The settlements are an unusual mix of pictorial illustrations and the traditional profile-style signs more common to cartographic maps of this era. Landforms are present but serve as a secondary backdrop to the strategic fortifications. Interestingly, a lot of effort went into detailing agriculture, and it’s not hard to see the amount of time the engraver spent on fields.

Since completing my Thirteen in Twelve project last year, I’ve been seeking out resources that separate themselves from the thousands of repetitive-looking maps from the 17th and 18th century. With all those quirks I thought Homann would stand apart while still working alongside any of my older sets, and I appreciate its attention to detail. It’s perfect for a wide variety of fantasy projects.

Homann is a medium-sized set of often VERY LARGE signs—some of the cartouches are over a thousand pixels wide—so, yeah… the detail here is fairly intense. With over 400 brushes, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of use in your work. The full set includes the following:

  • 13 Tents
  • 90 Houses
  • 7 Towns
  • 6 Elevated Towns
  • 2 Places of Worship
  • 20 Forts
  • 7 Unique Buildings
  • 45 Fields
  • 5 “Shoreline” Fields (These are less detailed than their cousins and were mostly found along waterways.)
  • 45 Trees
  • 100 Mountains
  • 14 Mountain Pairs (Basically, two mountains close together.)
  • 6 Mountain Ranges
  • 15 Anchorages
  • 2 Battle Markers
  • 5 Map Elements
  • 3 Ships (They’re big.)
  • 16 Sounding Marks
  • 30 Unit Positions/Markers

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 set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. I’ve separated them by type: Settlements and Flora, Landforms, and Cartouches. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.



As with all of my previous brush sets, Homann 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 Homann? 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!


🌍 Homann 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 Homann in use (black and white)
3000x3000px
An example of Homann in use (color)
3000x3000px
An example of Homann in use (decorated)
1080x1080px

💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Homann 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

Homann 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.

Zatta: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

This extensive hachure-focused set (those are the fuzzy caterpillar mountains) was taken from Antonio Zatta’s 1775 map of southern Portugal. Striding the line between the late-18th and early-19th century this set is perfect for flintlock fantasy, steampunk, or anything similar.

Janssonius: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

A topographical brush set with a nautical focus based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal. Along with the standard symbols of settlements, flora, and landforms, I’ve also made sure to incorporated a whole host of maritime signs—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more.

Vischer: A 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on the amazing Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697, this is the largest set I’ve released. Loads of detail and a unique approach to rendering forests and landforms aids this set in standing apart. A perfect set for the right 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.


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→

Jansson: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

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

If you’re like me most-likely you’re sheltering in place and doing your part to flatten the curve and keeping your loved ones, neighbors, and community healthy and safe. That comes with some downtime and that downtime is the perfect moment to dabble in cartography project! So, with that in mind, over the weekend I put together another free brush set for you to use in your projects.

This is Janssonius, a topographical brush set with a nautical flair based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal, and I could see it being excellent for a wide variety of projects.

Often historical cartographers would use symbols familiar to their viewers no matter where a map was set, hills and mountains were rendered similar in appearance to those at home. Here, however, Janssonius incorporated local floral and landforms giving his chart a more tropical flair. It sets the symbols on these charts apart from his contemporaries like Joan Blaeu, and it adds a nice touch to the overall map.

I can’t wait to see what you create before now I haven’t based a set on nautical charts. So this round, I made sure to incorporate a whole host of maritime symbols—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more. This will be handy if you’re telling a tale set on the high seas or just want to add a flash of authenticity to the coasts of your maps. The full set has 275 brushes and includes the following:

  • 5 Individual Tents
  • 7 Grouped Tents
  • 25 Towns
  • 10 Cities
  • 6 Forts [Note: These could be symbols for mills, but taking into consideration the nature of the map, I believe they’re most likely fortifications.]
  • 25 Trees
  • 25 Palm Trees
  • 10 Palm Tree Groups
  • 8 Forests
  • 6 Fields
  • 20 Hills
  • 30 Mountains
  • 10 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Anchorages
  • 2 Shipwrecks
  • 20 Rocks
  • 4 Shallows with Rocks
  • 10 Small Shallows
  • 5 Shallow Textures
  • 30 Sounding Marks
  • 5 People Cartouches
  • 3 Map Cartouches
  • 6 Ship Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work in GIMP and with Affinity Photo) as well as a set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. I’ve separated them by type: Settlements, Flora, & Landforms, and Nautical Symbols & Cartouches. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD JANSSONIUS


As with all of my previous brush sets, Janssonius 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 Janssonius? 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!


🌏 Janssonius 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!

         


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Janssonius 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. Digital copies of the first book—The Stars Were Right—are only 99¢ right now. With 100% of the profits being donated to the World Coastal Kitchen. I think you’ll dig it, You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit bellforgingcycle.com 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

Janssonius 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.

Vischer: A 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on the amazing Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697, this is the largest set I’ve released. Loads of detail and a unique approach to rendering forests and landforms aids this set in standing apart. A perfect set for the right 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 →

Thirteen in Twelve

By now, it’s probably no secret that I have a love affair with maps. Particularly the historical maps of antiquity and all their quirky idiosyncrasy. Because of this love, I took it upon myself to embark on an expansive project for 2019. One that I am excited to say I have finished.

As many of you noticed, every month for the last twelve months, I’ve been releasing royalty-free brush sets for authors, game masters, worldbuilders, and general map enthusiasts. Anyone interested in making a fictional map, really. It’s a part of my #NoBadMaps initiative. While there’s no substitute for a professional illustrator, I saw these brush sets as a quick way to enable storytellers to create authentic-feeling cartography for their worlds. Digital brushes can work like “rubber stamps,” allowing anyone to click and place map elements wherever they want—no artistic talent needed. It’s a simple but effective solution.

With December’s release of Vischer, I’m excited to say I exceeded my goal. The target was twelve brush sets in twelve months. But! I was over-eager in February and released two that month, so I ended the year with thirteen.

celebrate!

I intentionally didn’t make a big announcement when I started this project, this was more of a quiet personal ambition. Making these was a small way I could give back to a community I cherish. Hopefully, these sets allow creators to feel empowered to tackle daunting projects, and perhaps, the connection to historic cartographers and engravers has helped make the history of cartography come alive.

There’s a line in Robert Baden-Powell’s final letter that I recall people repeating when I was a kid, and it’s resonated with me as an adult. It’s a mantra I try to embrace in everything I do, and I think it encapsulates the spirit of this project: “…leave this world a little better than you found it…”


…leave this world a little better than you found it…”


I believed I achieved that. Giving back is one of the greatest things we can do as creators, I find it personally fulfilling, and I’ve been humbled by the results. Sure, it serves a small niche within our sprawling fantasy community, but it’s a niche that has welcomed these open-sourced sets. Since their launch, I’ve received many emails and twitter messages from creators making amazing things. That’s why I released these sets, and I couldn’t be happier.

✨🗺️


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 →

Crafting Cuttac, Part One

Crafting Cuttac, Part 1

My free map brushes for fantasy maps are designed to replicate specific eras of cartographic development—usually aping styles from the 16th or 17th centuries. As a result, they tend to be focused on line art, which works quite well with early printmaking. While I love those old styles of maps dearly, I’ve wanted to try something a little different. Stretch my creative muscle as it were. I’ve recently hit a few knots in my revisions of Gleam Upon the Waves, and I find that I brainstorm better when I can channel some of my energy into something creative, and it’s not uncommon for me to make random maps.

I’ve been kicking around some ideas for a new writing project. So I decided to work on a map for that setting. For now, I’ve given it the working title, Cuttac—mainly because it sounded cool in my head. I thought it’d be fun to do all this worldbuilding publically, so welcome to Crafting Cuttac, a new series where I reveal the process of how I develop a fictional world.


✏️ Stage One – Continents & Islands

Using my tablet, I sketched out the continents and islands of the world of Cuttac. I focused on vast oceans and fewer chunky continents in favor of something a little more dynamic and fluid. I kept the brush small (2px, Soft Round) to highlight the details within the world. (You can click on any of these images to view them larger.)

Crafting Cuttac, Stage One - The World Outlined
The basic outline of the landmasses on Cuttac.


🏗 Stage Two – Structural Work

I decided on foresty green as the base color for the ocean—mainly to be different, but I have some ideas that it’s referencing as well. (More on that in the future.) After that, I filled the outlined continents and islands with a base of white. As of now, I have three layers: the outline, the white landmasses, and the green ocean background. This is all structure, as I can down hide objects and patterns behind the white shapes and use each as a base for image masks. It’ll make trying different effects really easy and non-destructive—helpful in experimentation.

Crafting Cuttac, Stage Two - Structural Work
The islands and continents pop a lot more when placed against a darker background. After seeing the continents rendered like this, I’m really like these landforms. Feels very natural.


🌊 Stage Three – Ocean Depth

With the structure work done, it was time to move onto the topography. Mountains influence rivers, rivers influence settlements, and settlements create civilization and so on—so it’s fairly essential! Since it’s big and bold, I figured I’d start by doing some testing on the ocean floor. Primarily working in transparent layers to simulate depth. For this, I started using the cloud brushes from Kyle’s Concept Brushes (now apparently included with Adobe Creative Cloud) and just swirled ’em around using my cheap tablet.

Crafting Cuttac, Stage Three - Ocean Depth, Test One
This was my first test with the ocean depth, and I was pleased with the result but felt it lacked definition.

Each color was on a separate layer then blended together using Blend Modes and Opacity adjustments until I achieved the effect I wanted. There was no system to this, I just did it by feel. I felt it was working, and I got some positive feedback, but I didn’t feel my first approach was detailed enough. So I started smaller and worked with more layers and a broader color ramp to simulate depth. The smaller brushes helped a lot and let me get more elaborate with undersea ridges while still achieving the painterly effect, I liked.

When finished, I was worried its boldness would overpower the landforms. So, when complete, I dropped the ocean down to an opacity of 65% —it softened everything significantly. You can see a comparison below.

Crafting Cuttac, Stage Three - Ocean Depth, Final Result
Original bold coloring on the left with the softened final version on the right.


🗺 More to Come in Part Two

That’s where I am for the end of Part One! I think the softer ocean colors will help the terrain pop when I get started on that. I’m going to try to use a similar style for the elevations but stick with even smaller brush sizes and utilize a standard topography color ramp. I think nine “stages” will work well.

Crafting Cuttac - Elevation Color Ramp
A simple color ramp showing shifts in elevation, left is sea level, right is the highest peaks in the continents

Hopefully, you enjoyed this series! There will be much more to come in Part Two. I’m going to be delving into the above-water topography and figure out the placement of the rivers. It should be fun!

Any questions, ideas, or advice? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me. Want to make your own maps but don’t know where to start? I can help! Be sure to check out Free Stuff to download any of my free brush sets or to check out one of my Tutorials with practical step-by-step guides at getting started.


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like my brush set, tutorials, or map experiments like this one, 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 bellforgingcycle.com 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.


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 →