Category Archives: Incidentals

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

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

Throughout history, we can find examples of cartography used as aspirational propaganda. After all, land can be easily claimed on the map where it might be more challenging to hold in person. Countries can seem more significant with slight projection adjustments, and colonies can appear more populated and robust. 1746’s A Map of the British Empire in America by Henry Popple is the perfect example of this—laying out the intent of the British Empire and her colonies in the New World, rather than the realities of the time.

I love this map. It’s a deviation from standard styles of the 18th century that I haven’t seen before. It manages to capture the wildness of a new frontier (to European eyes at least) in ways that cartography of the old continent hadn’t done before. The map itself was huge—nearly eight feet square when assembled, and the level of detail wasn’t something I could just ignore. It’d be perfect for fantasy maps.

With that in mind, I am releasing Popple an enormous brush set with all of these beautiful details ready to be used in your fictional cartography. I think you’ll dig it.

Variety is what sold me. Each mountain and forest is one-of-a-kind, giving each area its own unique look. Plus it has wetlands! Swamps! Interestingly enough swamplands seem to be a rarity among historical maps—despite their near-ubiquitous presence in fantasy maps. (Guess we “blame” Tolkien for that?) One thing of note, it was challenging to determine what constitutes a town, or a city, or a farm. Since there was no key or legend, I made my best guesses based on my research. That said, you can use any of these signs however you like, my system is more to keep the brushes organized so you can find what you’re looking for when browsing.

Within Popple, you’ll discover over 400 brushes, including:

  • 20 Individual Habitations
  • 10 Double Habitations
  • 30 Grouped Habitations
  • 20 Small Towns
  • 3 Large Towns
  • 10 Small Cities
  • 30 Medium Cities
  • 15 Large Cities
  • 10 Huge Cities
  • 20 Missions
  • 20 Forts
  • 5 Border Forts (the sort you’d find along rivers)
  • 10 Tents
  • 6 Random Habitations
  • 30 Scrub Lands
  • 30 “Round” Forests
  • 30 “Tall” Forests
  • 30 Swamps
  • 40 Hills
  • 40 Mountains
  • 30 Mountain Ranges

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll work in GIMP as well) 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, Small Landforms, and Large Landforms. 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, Popple is free for any use. I distribute it with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. While attribution is technically a part of the license, I personally don’t give a damn. All I did was convert these into a modern brush format, Henry Popple and his crew did all the real work—so if you need to give someone credit, give it to them.

Enjoy Popple! 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.

🌏 Popple In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Popple. Just click on any of the images below to view them larger.

Popple in use (Black and White)     Popple in use (Color)     Popple in use (Decorated)

💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Popple brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my weird speculative fiction novels. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

And what’s a pulpy urban fantasy novel without a map? When Old Broken Road, the second book in the series, launched I shared a map detailing the expanded world of the Territories, you can check it out here.

🗺 More Map Brushes

Popple isn’t the only brush set I’ve released. Below are links to other free brush sets with a wide variety of styles all free and all open for personal or commercial use, you should be able to find something that works for your project.

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

Blaeu: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush

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

Aubers: 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: A Free 18th Century Battlefield Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

L’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 to map out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.

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

Widman: 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 Set

An 18th Century brush set based on the work of Gabriel Walser with a focus on small farms and ruins and a solid set of mountain 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 Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Lumbia: 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 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.

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Meet Digit

Meet Digit

Digit is a humanoid-ish robot designed by Oregon’s Agility Robotics. You might recall seeing it in a video from Ford a few weeks ago where they introduced their plan to disrupt home deliveries. In the video below, you can see the little fella doing no disrupting of anything at all, in fact, it’s just taking a stroll in its hometown. Not creepy at all. No.

(If you’re actually creeped out, fret not. We’re still a ways away from Digit coming to visit you under its own volition. You can see the guy controlling it in the video—he’s the fella in gray.)

As impressive as this technology is, I cannot help but wonder what people will do to a lone Digit in the wild, especially here in the good ol’ United States. We don’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to treating friendly robotos with respect.


Raunch Reviews: Farscape

Raunch Review: Farscape

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.

Raunch Reviews: Farscape
Raunch Reviews: Farscape
The Author: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Work in Question: Farscape
The Profanity: “Dren”

If there is one series that gets requested for Raunch Reviews all the time, it’s Farscape. For the uninitiated, it’s a cult Australian-American sci-fi show filled with great story, fully realized characters, incredible muppets, and not-so-incredible faux profanities. Which leads us to today’s word of choice: “dren.”

Ha! I bet you thought I was going to focus on “frell!” But no! I pulled a fast one on you and switched it up. Why? Well, because “frell” is bad—it’s used in confusing ways and is born from the same onus as “frak” nothing more than a slip around censors. Those don’t rank highly on Raunch Reviews. In comparison, the word “dren” is much more elegant, if not stinkier.

First, its use is not original (we have to be honest it’s another censor-slip/replacer-word), and, similar to its real-world comparisons, it’s idiomatic. “Dren” is used as a vulgarity, meaning essentially an “unwanted substance or act.” It’s easy to pick up on its English counterpart when it’s used in phrases like “piece of dren.” But, unlike “frak” and “frell” it doesn’t follow similar patterns in pronunciation and it spelled nothing like its real-world counterpart. I think that’s important. For these sorts of faux-vulgarities, you want them to be punchy—longer words drift and shrink, becoming manageable enough to work as modifiers. “Dren” does that—and it does it pretty well.

If you’re going to make poop jokes, at least get creative with it and the writers of Farscape did exactly that in this case. Creativity goes a long way and while this is still a censor-slip, it’s a more creative censor-slip. The uniqueness and originality set it apart from others, so “dren” gains some points for that.

Score: Half Swear (3.0)

Previous Raunch Reviews

Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.

Octavia Butler

Forget Talent

“Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”

Octavia E. Butler

Back around the beginning of the year, I shared a quote from Butler that’s quite similar to this one, but instead of talent, that previous quote focused on inspiration. The reason they sound so similar is that they’re both are taken from the same essay on writing advice: Furor Scribendi.

The essay was initially published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume IX but luckily you can find a reprinting of in her collection Bloodchild: And Other Stories which I’d recommend for the titular story alone.

The Vision of Graces - A three-person show at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle Washington, opening June 13th, 2019

The Visions of Graces

If you’re in Seattle next week, and you’re looking for something to do, might I suggest swinging by Roq La Rue Gallery on Thursday, June 13th from 6:00–9:00 PM for the opening of The Visions of Graces, a three-person show featuring my brilliant partner, Kari-Lise Alexander, the always incredible Laurie Lee Brom, and the inimitable Syd Bee. (Be sure to check out Syd’s show from April, Dear Illusions, as well—it’s a stunner.)

Each artist is bringing three to four pieces, and I’m excited to see them up on the walls. I’ve gotten a few glimpses at what’s to come, and I cannot wait for everyone to see the work these talented women have been creating. It’s going to be great. I’ve included a few small previews of what’s to come below, but you’ll soon be able to see more.

Kari-Lise Alexander

Laurie Lee Brom

Syd Bee

A Vision of Graces opens Thursday, June 13th and will run for a month. Both Kari-Lise and I will be at the opening, so if you drop by, be sure to say hello. You can contact the gallery with inquiries about any particular piece. I highly recommend signing up for the Roq La Rue newsletter as soon as possible so you can receive the show preview. You can sign up by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there!


Graphing the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle or end of words

Graphing the Distribution of English Letters

I came across this old post on from 2014 from data scientist and developer David Taylor and found it fascinating. I figured my readers would as well.

Below you’ll see a graphic visualization on the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle, or end of words. The data set comes from the Brown Corpus in the Natural Language Toolkit instead of a dictionary, this great because the results are weighted for usage based on the frequency of use.

Graphing the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle or end of words

If you’re a data nerd like me, there are a lot more details in the original post that explain these findings. If you want to learn more about the methodology, then be sure to check out the extended version of the post on prooffreaderplus. I appreciated Taylors final thought:

The most common word in the English language is “the”, which makes up about 6% of most corpuses (sorry, corpora). But according to these graphs, the most representative word is “toe”.

I’m glad the word that ended up representing English the most is somehow “toe”—for whatever reason I find it oddly fitting for our mongrel language.