Page 2 of 2

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.


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 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.


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 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 →

Making 18th Century Coastlines for Fantasy Maps

Tutorial: Creating 18th Century Coastlines for Fantasy Maps

Lately, after releasing my last few map sets, I’ve had people ask me how I achieve the coastal hatching in my sample maps. It’s been a process. Since the release of Widman in February, I’ve been trying to create a believable machine-produced reproduction of the classic hatched shoreline typically seen on 17th and 18th-century maps.

Examples of 17th & 18th Century Costal Hatching
Left to Right: Pieter van der Aa’s 1714 “La Floride,” Merian’s 1660 “Galliae Nova et Accurata descriptio Vulgo Royaume De France,” Vrients’ 1608 “Indiae Orientalis”

I don’t think I was close with Widman, and while the effect I achieved was interesting, I didn’t start to figure it out until the release of Aubers in March. Before then, I saw plenty of suggestions, but they tended to be complicated affairs. Rolling up your sleeves and doing it by hand absolutely works, but is of course, time-consuming and it takes practice. Digital brushes are often the most common idea, but they tend to be slow, and after a while, the pattern repetition is clearly discernible. For the hatching to look right, you need randomness. Thankfully, there are a few tools that when used right can produce a random hatching effect rather quickly.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop CC on my Macbook Pro running macOS Mojave, but I am sure similar functions exist in other image software. Nothing I am using in this tutorial will be cutting-edge technology. I’d recommend you have some experience using Photoshop, Gimp, or whatever tool you choose—this approach sits somewhere between Beginner Level and Intermediate.

Step 1 – Download 18th Century Coastlines

This all begins with a simple pattern of horizontal lines. Personally, I tend to skew toward odd numbers for pattern-based work. All the patterns in 18th Century Coastlines are 1px wide by 49px high, and each individual line is generally 2-3px thick.

You can make your own, but I figured I could get you halfway there and just distribute the patterns I use. Just click the button below to download my 18th Century Coastlines pattern set. There are ten patterns in all (and I include them as brushes as well) with various weights and distributions. Unzip the file. Double click on the PAT file, and it will automatically install.


As with my brushes, this pattern and brush set is free for any use. As of July 2019, I now 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!

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s make a coastline!

Step 2 – Define your border

There are many ways to do this. Choose what works best for you. (If you need a good guide on how to create realistic coastlines, check out Mike Summers’ tutorial.)

I tend to keep my coastline border and the landmass as separate opaque layers. That way, I can select them with a single click. Once you have your coastline selected, create a new layer for your edging. Then use Select > Modify > Expand to increase the depth of the edge.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 2
Making the selection for the coastline hatching.

In my example, I used 11px, but you can use any size you want or select it by hand. The selection you make will be where your coastline hatching will appear. Be sure not to miss selecting any lakes or rivers. Historically it was common to apply the same hatching to inland waterways. (There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, in particular regarding rivers.)

Step 3 – Fill the selection with the pattern

Now we want to fill our selection with our pattern of horizontal lines. Select a pattern from my set or use the one you created in Step 1.

Now choose the Fill Bucket from the Tool Bar. Change the mode in the dropdown from Foreground to Pattern—it’s located in the horizontal Options bar at the top of the screen. Then click on your selection to fill it with your pattern.

You’ll now have a layer filled with your pattern. It should look something like this:

18th Century Coastlines - Step 3
One a new layer, fill your selection with your choice of pattern

A Note: If you’re trying to reproduce a historical style map, be sure your hatching emerges from a lined border like I have in my sample map. That said, I could see this same effect applied to more modern designs, and it could work really well with colored solutions adding a subtle textured effect. Do what works best for you.

Step 4 – Wave time

With the pattern applied, it’s time to push it. (Ah, push it, push it real good.) First, Right-click on the coastline layer in your Layers Palette, then click on Convert to Smart Object. This will allow for non-destructive editing and if you don’t like the look of something you’ll be able to go back and tweak settings on the fly to get the look you want.

Now we’ll use the Filter > Distort > Wave tool to makes these lines to look more hand created. The key is to keep the wavelength and amplitude very low—were going to stretch those horizontal lines randomly. Using Wave in this manner will rough up those edges.

My base settings are as follows:

  • Number of Generators: 22
  • Wavelength Min: 1
  • Wavelength Max: 2
  • Amplitude Min: 2
  • Amplitude Max: 3
  • Horizontal: 100% 
  • Vertical: 1%

Once you adjust your settings to your liking click Okay.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 5
Use the Wave Filter to distort your pattern and give it a more hand-drawn look

Wa-la! We’re getting close now.

There are a few adjustments you can make to tweak the look. Below is a graphic I prepared with each of the patterns included in my base set. Each step down is an increase in the generator number. Simple rule of thumb: more generators equals more randomness.

Coastline Samples

Bonus Experiment: You can also add randomness by increasing the Amplitude Max. For example, use the settings above but change the Amplitude Max to 15. It’s an interesting effect that adds a distinct style to your coastlines.

Step 5 – Noise

Finally, we’ll add some imperfections to make these lines look inked. We do that with Filter > Noise > Add Noise… be sure to check Monochromatic checkbox at the bottom of the panel. This will keep the noise black and white, which is useful for future blending. I tend to use Gaussian for my noise Distribution, but if you like the look of Uniform, you can use that instead.

The Amount you choose is up to you. Some of this will depend on your style. I think 7-8% is a good starting point—I went with 10% in my above example. The more Noise, the more pops and scratches you’ll see in the faux-etching. The tiny imperfections go a long way toward making these machine-made hatch marks feel a little more realistic. Once you have the Noise you like, click Okay.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 6
Add noise to mimic ink catching on the tooth of the paper

BOOM – You did it!

That’s it.

Congratulations! You now have a happy and healthy 18th Century-esque coastline. If you used Smart Objects, you’ll be able to make nuanced adjustments really easily. Now that you have this down, there’s a lot of things you can do to make your coastlines distinctly yours. In the past, I’ve also applied layer masks to further grunge up my hatch marks. Do what suits your project the best.

Hopefully, you found this tutorial easy to follow, and you were able to achieve the look you wanted. Let me know if I need to clarify anything. I’ve tried a bunch of experiments to get here, and this solution came the closest, worked the quickest, and caused the least amount of pain. It’s also endlessly futzable, which is fun.

This style of coastal edging works great with any of my free fantasy cartography brush sets. I find that it helps the finished piece feel more realistic, and it give the maps an antique quality. Details like this can enhance a reader’s or player’s experience with a fantasy map, so it’s worth taking the time to get the edging right.

You can download and learn more about my brushes over on Free Stuff page. I currently have ten sets available with more on the way. As with 18th Century Coastlines, these are also distributed with a CC0 license. No attribution required!

💸 Supporting This Work

If you found this helpful 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 to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle

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 →



I am a firm believer that creators should help other creators. I don’t look kindly on folks who refuse to share process, advice, and experience. The world is already a savage, selfish, and cutthroat cesspool, and dragging that attitude into the creative sphere is counterproductive. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing strategy, musical tips, painting advice, or one’s approach to performance; we should—as a rule—lift each other up. Make the world a better place.

Enter: #NoBadMaps. My next venture into doing just that.

For much of my life, I’ve been a designer. I’ve worked for companies large and small and I love it. It’s offered unique challenges, it’s changed the way I’ve viewed the world, and it’s made me reevaluate how I see others. (Plus, it made it a lot easier to release my own books.) But not everyone is a designer. That’s okay. We have strengths and weaknesses and we should use our strengths to help others.


Recently, many of you have noted my release of Photoshop brush sets designed for the creation of fantasy maps. There is a reason for this and it harkens back to focus on helping others. Within the realm of genre fiction many readers, myself included, are keen on maps. They can help us see a world more fully and they go a long way to enliven the text with a sense of place. Are they necessary? Not always, but much of my own reading has been enhanced with the inclusion of a map. I want to pass that experience onto others as well.

We’re nearly two decades into the 21st Century and we’ve seen the rise of indie publishing and along side that enormous growth in genre fiction. It’s no surprise that many authors—traditional and indie—want to make their own maps. But, it can be a struggle. Fantasy cartography is a skill set that takes time to hone, most writers want to write and don’t want to put in the effort to learn map-making. This is why I started #NoBadMaps—my goal is to make it easy for authors to create high-quality maps for their novels and do it in a way that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg. While there is no substitute for professional illustration, I want to do my damnedest to help writers get as close to professional as they can.


Using my brushes is easy: you load them in Photoshop, create a document, and place what you want where you want it with a few mouse clicks. Point-and-click. There’s very little drawing, no scanning, nothing complicated. In fact using any of my brush sets you can make super cool maps in minutes. That’s intentional. The end result is to empower authors to create better maps that fit the style of their books.

Of course, I have rules.

  1. The brush sets will always be free. This is key, after all the goal is to help others. If I charge for this stuff it feels predatory. All of the work I am using is in the public domain, all I am doing is making the style more accessible. No sense charging for what is already free, ya dig?
  2. The brush sets will always be royalty-free. I want to see people use my brushes for both personal and commercial projects. The maps are already public domain, no reason why the brush sets shouldn’t be as well.
  3. The brush sets will always be varied. One of the things I want is to help recreate that feeling of hand-drawn maps. That means I will do my best to capture and share the imperfections found in ink-on-paper maps. If you want machine-made creations, look elsewhere. We’re going for authenticity with #NoBadMaps.
  4. The brush sets will connect to history. I think this is vital. It’s why I name the sets after the engravers when possible and like to include a brief history on the map and the maker. I think it’s important to recognize the creators and in a way, this helps their creations live on.

With Monday’s release of L’Isle, I’ve now shared five sets in total and I have several more on the way. I’ve gotten enough questions that I felt this post was necessary to address concerns from my readers. Let me make this clear: my focus is still on writing, it will always be on writing, but I want to share my experience and empower others to create great maps. My brushes are a way of helping other authors create something beautiful.

A few people have asked how they can support this work. My first rule is very clear: these brush sets will always be free. I’m not planning on starting a GoFundMe, nor do I want to manage a Kickstarter, and—if I’m being honest—I cringe a little at Patreon. (A subject for another post, providing Patreon lasts that long.) If you want to support me and my work: buy what I create. In my case, it’s my books. Buy ‘em. Read ‘em. Tell people about ‘em. Leave honest reviews. Give them to friends. They’re good. They get positive reviews. They’re wonderfully weird.

That’s it. That’s how you can support me. It’s simple.

Going forward I plan on doing a few things:

  • Keep writing. I recently put up some big numbers in Gleam Upon the Waves and I have updated the tracker in the side bar. No ETA on launch, but I’m moving along.
  • Release more brush sets. I have at least three that I’m finalizing. So expect more to come. I’m really focused on finding variety. There are thousands of old maps, and making sure each set remains unique is key.
  • Write some more.
  • Tutorials! I want to share tips, tricks, and ways to best optimize the brush sets for your projects. This might include expanding beyond the typical map elements of landforms, flora, and settlements.
  • Write. Write. Write.

#NoBadMaps will continue for the foreseeable future. If you have questions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. There’s a lot more stuff to come, and I am excited to share it with everyone.

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 →