Zuodong: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

When I launched Ishikawa last November, I wrote about how I wanted to diversify my brush sets and expand into techniques that weren’t exclusively European. Following that goal, I am happy to announce the release of Zuodong, a cartography brush set extracted from four woodblock print maps coming from 廣東輿圖 (Map of Guangdong), an atlas and gazetteer depicting the various settlements and locations of the Chinese province of Guangdong during the Qing dynasty. It’s a fantastic collection with mountain-profile signs and symbols rendered in a Chinese-calligraphy aesthetic, but the rough woodblock printing technique gives the whole set a lived-in feel that helps it stand out.

All my Map Tools will always be free. Want to help support this work?
Click here to learn how.

A sample of the settlement brushes you’ll find in Zuodong

The gazetteer this set comes from was first published in 1685 and was compiled by at least four cartographers, two primary Jiang Yi ( 蔣伊), Han Zuodong (韓作棟), with supplemented maps drawn by Lu Shi (盧士) and Liu Ren (劉任). I couldn’t find much information about any of the creators and often found others with the same name that were clearly not these folks. Since all have fairly common names, I chose “Zuodong” on a whim. Though I should stress that he was most likely not responsible for everything included in this set.

More of Zuodong’s brush offerings

With so many creators working on this work, and no unified scale, don’t be surprised to find some of the sizes of the brushes here will vary wildly. The four maps I used were all phenomenal, but they are essentially illustrations of the various locations within the province. As a result, I found Zuodong a little trickier to use than other sets. Especially when trying to create a unified look between the landmasses and rivers and the mountains, floral, and settlements within the brush set. Be willing to take your time here and adjust as necessary.

As with Ishikawa, I removed any of the Hànzì from the signs and symbols; almost everything in the original atlas is named or detailed, so pulling that text out should make it all more versatile. Inside Zuodong, you’ll find over 300 brushes, including…

  • 24 Buildings of various sizes
  • 3 Bridges
  • 7 Pagodas
  • 4 “Forts”
  • 25 Regular Cities
  • 8 Large Cities
  • 2 Huge Cities
  • 3 Unique Cities
  • 10 Unique Settlements
  • 45 Hills
  • 50 Mountains
  • 2 Unique Landforms
  • 24 “Fields”
  • 40 “Wilds”
  • 20 Regular Forests
  • 10 Forests with Villages
  • 4 Unique Forests
  • 62 Waves
  • 4 Cartouches (I’m being generous here.)

But that’s not all!

I’m also making another set available to download separately, something fun to add a little extra historical authenticity to your maps. The Zoudong Bonus Seals and Markers includes some Chinese Seals (often called chop marks or chops) I used in my sample map below. These were extracted from three sources: Night-Shining White by Han Gan, Old Trees, Level Distance by Guo Xi, and Orchids and bamboo by Zheng Xie. While seals spread beyond China, all included in this set came from Chinese sources. Thanks to some help from user nomfood on Reddit, most have been translated. But there are a thousand more examples on the internet, so plenty can be found if you’re wanting something specific.

Some of the various seals you’ll find in the bonus set

Zoudong Bonus Seals and Markers include…

  • 1 Non-Historic Dragon Seal
  • 25 Historic seals of various sizes
  • 10 Hollow Square Markers
  • 10 Solid Square Markers

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) as well as a large transparent PNG, Settlements & Landforms (3.3 Mb), Flora & Cartouches (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. Like this set? Click here to learn how you can support this project.

Download Zuodong Bonus Seals & Markers

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

Zuodong in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? You can see the results below. As with Ishikawa, it is a blend of styles, but I am pleased with the end results. There are three versions, a colored, 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! Feel free to use these for whatever you want. Your next book? A TTRPG campaign? Lots of possibilities.

4000×3000 (12 MB)
4000×3000 (8.2 MB)
1080×1360 (1.6 MB)

Sample Details: Location names were taken from various places and points of interest from China’s Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. The font I used is Brughler Regular, which was licensed from Envato Elements. The paper texture is from True Grit Texture Supply’s Infinite Pulp, and they’re also where I got Atomica, which gives me ink-like effects for the text, the roads, the borders, basically everything—big fan of their tools.

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.

Buy My Books→

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.

Buy Me a Coffee→

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.

Join my Patreon→

If you want to continually support the #NoBadMaps project through a reoccurring monthly contribution, consider joining my Patreon and get sneak peeks into what’s coming.

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!

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 ensure it’s not spammy and contains interesting and relevant information. Sign Up Today →