Tag Archives: brushes

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

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

Many engraved maps from the 17th century, especially Italian maps, were heavily inspired by Italian cartographer Cantelli da Vignola and his influence extended throughout lifetimes. In doing map research, I thought it’d be great to look into his impact and from that, I decided it was necessary to build out an enormous set of new free brushes for your fantasy maps. (It’s a sickness, okay.)

Today I’m releasing Widman, a brush set of Italian design named after the engraver. The symbols in this set are pulled from the 1680 Alta Lombardia map of Northern Italy, engraved by Georgio Widman for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s atlas published in 1692. It’s a solid set with a heeeavy focus on mountains (over one-hundred!) as well as a wide variety of forts, villages, cities, and towns.

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

I find when creating your own map, it’s helpful to have a variety of brushes with subtle differences for each symbol. It adds a hand-made quality to the work. No engraver is perfect, ink bleeds, and the tooth of the paper can affect printing. The quickest way to making a fantasy map look machine-made is the repetition of the same symbol over and over and over. With that in mind, the Widman set is enormous allowing for the subtle differences to help make your map feel more alive and vibrant—it gives the work a human quality.

Inside Widman you’ll find, over 500 brushes, including:

  • 25 Villages
  • 40 Towns
  • 45 Cities
  • 25 Forts
  • 14 Fortified Cities
  • 16 River Crossings
  • 50 Individual Trees
  • 50 Forests
  • 100 Mountains (Hope you like mountains.)
  • 50 Mountain Ranges (As I said.)
  • 42 Hills topped by Settlements
  • 7 Unique Settlements
  • 36 Administration Symbols
  • Plus More

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. You can see the transparent PNG here (it’ll come up black if viewed in Chrome, but it’s all there.)


DOWNLOAD WIDMAN


As with all of my brush sets, Widman is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. All I did was convert it to brushes, Georgio Widman did all the heavy lifting—so giving him credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

If you like the Widman brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my weird speculative fiction novels. (The first books is only $2.99 on eBook.) You can find them in stores and online, learn more about the series at bellforgingcycle.com.

I hope you enjoy using Widman, it was a labor of love and I think it’s robust enough to handle all manner of projects and help give your fantasy maps a refreshing and unique edge. Plus that extra connection to history can make a project feel alive. Feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email! I love seeing how this stuff is used and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers.


Want to see the other cartography brush sets I’ve created?

  • Walser

    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 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

    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.


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 →

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

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

I was doing some research on Switzerland and looking at old maps when I came across a 1763 map of Canton Lucern created by Gabriel Walser. I found myself inspired by all his details, especially those focusing on the cities, towns, and parishes. It’s still stunning 250 years later and it’s an amazing time capsule. You can see the influence into more modern designs and the connections to older styles. As I was looking, I realized it’d make an excellent set of brushes for fantastical maps, especially for those artists (like me) who like to ground their work with a historical approach.

So, I spent a Saturday converting all sorts of objects in the map into brushes and today I am releasing it as Walser, an 18th Century Cartography Brush Set for Photoshop taken from Gabriel Walser’s original work. The set is enormous—over 250 brushes, to help make your projects unique. Having different images for the same object helps make your map feel more hand-drawn. No artist can hand-render the same object identically—even printing presses aren’t perfect no matter how hard they try. Adding subtle variants can help trick a reader’s eye and it makes a map feel more authentic.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Walser
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Walser

I like working with a lot of brushes and Walser is big (see the full set here), all of the settlement’s names I took from the original German key (thanks to my friend Redd for helping translate)—Walser had a particular way of labeling ruins that I enjoy. Inside the set you’ll find:

  • 5 Large Cities
  • 10 Castles
  • 10 Towns
  • 10 Catholic Parishes (They look like towns but with little crosses on top. Consider swapping those for a religious icon from your setting.)
  • 10 Monasteries
  • 10 Chapels
  • 20 Scattered Farms
  • 10 Ruins
  • 30 Individual Trees
  • 30 Blocks of Trees
  • 40 Hills
  • 30 Mountains
  • 15 Mountain Ranges (aka jagged hills)
  • 22 Unique/Combination Landforms

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files.


DOWNLOAD WALSER


Wasler is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. All I did was convert it to brushes, Wasler did all the heavy lifting—so giving him credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

If you like the Walser brush set and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. (The first books is only $2.99 on eBook.) You can find them in stores and online, learn more about the series at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Walser! It’s a great little set to make maps and connect with history. There’s a lot of incredible cartographers and geographers throughout history that should be remembered and it’s important we enthusiasts take moments to reflect on their impact. Gabriel Walser has a few other maps as well and his style varied, which has me thinking about a Wasler supplement for the future. Finally, feel free to show me what you created by sending me an email! I love seeing how this stuff is used and sharing your work with my readers.


Want to see the other cartography brush sets I’ve created?

  • Lumbia

    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.

  • Lehmann

    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 captures the hand-drawn style unique 19th Century hachure style mountains.


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 →

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

If you spend any time on cartography forums or cartography-related subreddits, you’ll eventually run across folks using Star Raven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes. You can see why, the whole set is incredible, cohesive, and you can make beautiful maps in no time.

I have always admired Star Raven’s work, but I began to see it everywhere. One thing I love about maps is how unique each felt, and I wanted to do what I could to help maintain that feeling of discovery. Star Raven was a big inspiration for me to create Lumbia, my own sketchy cartography brush set which I’m giving away today for free.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0

The set consists of over two hundred brushes designed for high-resolution use. Each mountain, tree, and hill are separate by design—I find this allows more custom placing than the block method, it lets you decide the look of the forest and ranges.

Lumbia 1.0 Includes:

  • 1 Mother of Mountains (an absolute unit)
  • 15 Large Mountains
  • 42 Medium mountains
  • 25 Small Mountains
  • 71 Hill
  • 17 Scrub bushes
  • 9 Cattails
  • 13 Cacti (prickly bois)
  • 9 Bone Trees (spoOoOoky!)
  • 9 Cyprus Trees
  • 10 Acacia Trees
  • 21 Maple Trees
  • 19 Pine Trees
  • 12 Generic Jungley Trees
  • 12 Tumbleweeds

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support the brush file. A vector set isn’t included in this initial release, but will most likely come in later a later version. I’m sure I’ll announce it here when its ready.


DOWNLOAD LUMBIA 1.0


Lumbia is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. So have some fun.

If you like Lumbia and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. They’re available in stores and online, and you can find out much more about them at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Lumbia, everyone! Have a suggestion or request for future Lumbia versions or want to show me what you created, feel free to send me an email! Have a friend who might be interested in using Lumbia? Share this post with them.


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 →

Top Five Posts of 2017

My Top Five Posts of 2017

As many of you know, I’ve been doubling down on my blog versus sharing and spending time on social media. This blog and my newsletter, Dead Drop, are the best locations to discover what I am working on and find major announcements. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Since the year is wrapping up, I thought it’d be great to revisit the most popular posts I’ve shared in 2017. I’m actually really excited about this list. A lot of work went into the posts in this top five, work I was proud to share. It’s nice to see people found them enjoyable. (I’m considering my experiment a success.) So let’s take a look at the best of the best! We’ll start at number five and work our way to number one.


Making Magnificent Mountains5. Making Magnificent Mountains

It’s no secret that I love making maps, and I am a minor participant within several communities across the internet dedicated to the mapmaking process. So I’m not surprised that when I offered a set of 19th-century hachure-style topographical brush for download that people were interested. I plan on more offerings like this one in the future.


Riverboats at War4. Riverboats at War

This year I started sharing research for my manuscript, Coal Belly, in particular, research surrounding American steamboats. In these posts, I offer bits of knowledge and include a whole mess of photos gleaned from the historical record. (Usually the Library of Congress) War, and the history of war, always captures people’s attention, and this post about the brown water navy used in the American Civil War sparked excitement.


How Passenger Airships Work3. How Passenger Airships Work

Airships have always been something of an interest for me. But I never quite understood how they worked as passenger transport. I thought everyone crammed into the small gondola that hung below. So for my own education, I looked into it. What I discovered was something that many others found fascinating making this one of my most visited posts for the year.


Hunting the Yellow Sign2. Hunting the Yellow Sign

Robert Chambers’ collection of short stories, The King in Yellow, features some of my favorite cosmic horror tales. For years, I’ve seen a wide variety of artist renditions of the titular king’s yellow sign, but none of them quite hit the mark. I too wanted to know more. What was this mysterious symbol? How it was described in the work? Why was it rendered in various ways? I wanted to see if I could get to the bottom of this mystery. And a great many of you were just as engaged. Did we solve the secret of the yellow sign? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out.


And the number one post of the year is…


The 2017 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide1. The 2017 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

My Lovecraftian Holiday gift guide is always incredibly popular, so it is no surprise that this post ended up being my number one post for the year. (Despite being the youngest on this list.) It’s full of fantastic gift ideas for yourself or the cosmic-horror fans in your life. I make sure to try and find items for every budget. If you have an idea for next years list, why not shoot me an email and let me know.


So those are the top five posts of the year! I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to those who read, subscribe, and share the stuff I post here on I Make Stories. You make it all worthwhile. Thanks for making 2017 one of the best years for this blog, and stick around, there’s a lot more to come in 2018.

❄️ 💀 ❄️


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 →

Building Better Mountains

Making Magnificent Mountains

Coal Belly, my current project, is a sprawling steampunk-ish adventure novel that spans the mountains, cliffs, and ridges in a world of interlocking rivers. To keep track of characters and locations, I began maintaining a map. The story takes places in a technological era similar to the post-reconstruction United States, around the 1890s. Because of that, I wanted my map to capture the styles of maps from that period. The sort of thing a cowboy would have in their saddlebag. Which meant I spent some time on Old Maps Online.

While researching, I noticed there was a shift in the late 1800s in how cartographers drew mountains. Earlier in the century, most mountains were rendered as illustrations. Cartographers would draw little adorable ranges as a representative of the mountains. It’s a common enough style, and one I’m sure you’ll recognize. You can see this style in this map from 1832.

Map of the Western State (Detail), Daniel Adams, 1832
Western States (Detail), Daniel Adams, 1832

This is a standard approach and one appropriated by most fantasy cartographers today. It’s a style I’ve used in past maps. It works well and definitely lends a touch of antiquity to a piece. But, Coal Belly is more modern than that. When I started looking at mountains in maps made later in the century, I noticed there was a shift. Cartographers moved away from the illustrated ranges and towards an early topographical style. You can see the shift in the maps below.

United States (Detail), David Burr, 1875
United States (Detail), David Burr, 1875
Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia (Detail), A. J. Johnson, 1886
Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia (Detail), A. J. Johnson, 1886
Kentucky, Tennessee (Detail), Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1886
Kentucky, Tennessee (Detail), Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1886

It’s a fascinating change and one I really liked. Since most of my own fantastical cartography work is done in Adobe Illustrator, I began experimenting with creating brushes. Each of the maps above was drawn by hand so recreating a similar feel took a lot of experimentation. Different brush styles and widths. Eventually, I settled on pattern brushes based off a series of random strokes. I feel like I got really close. You can see my handiwork below. I call the set Lehmann after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann who developed the Lehmann hatching system in the late 1700s, and I’m releasing it today for free.

Lehmann a hachure brush set designed for Adobe Illustrator by K. M. AlexanderI made twenty brushes, with a variety of line styles and densities. They tend to work best as separate strokes and then tightly grouped together. And because they’re vector based they can be adjusted for any size project. There’s a lot of ways to adjust the overlaps for corners and such. They’re quite versatile and can be blended and combined in numerous ways.

Quick sample using the brushes — with more time I'd focus on typography and color to give the map an antique look
Another quick sample made in Illustrator and Photoshop using the brushes

I ended up scrapping these mountains for the Coal Belly map, as they interfered with the map’s legibility, especially on eReaders. But, I think they would be the perfect fit for the right project. Which is why I’m giving them away for free. Just click the download button below and you can use Lehmann in your own project.

Download LEHMANN

No Illustrator? Download the Photoshop Brush Set1

These brushes are designed for Adobe Illustrator and are licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 International License. So they’re FREE to use for personal or commercial work, and I’m not looking for any attribution. That said, I would love to see how others end up using these brushes. So please reach out and let me know! I’m not looking for any payment, but if you want to support me consider buying one of my books.


[Update 11/27/2017] Thanks to some friendly help from cartographer and designer Martin von Wyss over at the Cartographer’s Guild I was informed this process is called hachuring. Hachure maps are still in use today, in fact. While my brushes don’t follow the rules necessary for informative real-world hachure maps, they still imitate hachuring enough to work for fantasy cartography.

[Update 01/02/2018] I’ve renamed this set “Lehmann” after Austrian topographer Johann Georg Lehmann who developed the Lehmann hatching system in the late 1700s. This will bring it further in line with the naming of my other free brush sets, Lumbia and Walser.


1 It needs to be mentioned that the Photoshop brushes are significantly limited compared to the Illustrator version. These brushes were designed to work along paths so the mountains will look hand-drawn. While you can use the brushes in Photoshop there will be limitations. They’ll look more stamped and less custom.


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 →