Tag Archives: cartography

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.


DOWNLOAD POPPLE


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 bellforgingcycle.com 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.


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 →

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

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

“Uniqueness” is the primary quality I look for when searching for source material for brush sets. As a rule, cartographers tend to gravitate toward standardization—and for a good reason, familiar signs and symbols allow for easier comprehension. While the uniformity we see today took centuries to homogenize, along the way we got some incredible deviations.

Today’s set highlights one of those departures, and it makes for a fine brush set that would serve any fantasy map well. Taken from 1686’s Isola di Malta etched by Francesco Donia who detailed the cities, towns, churches, and fortifications of the nation of Malta. I particularly like how Donia rendered the uniqueness inherent to each of the individual settlements. They’re all different! But these aren’t the slight Blaeu-like approach with subtle variations. Donia rendered individual buildings which allowed each city to feel unique and purposeful.

A sample of the Donia set

If you’re looking for flora, you’ll want to go elsewhere. This is a set focused on human constructions—cities, towns, castles, churches, towers, fort, even a fountain! It’s not as extensive as some sets, just a little over a hundred brushes. But, it will play well with any other flora-focused brush set so don’t be afraid to mix and match it’s your fantasy world! Do what feels right.

Within Donia, you’ll discover:

  • 33 Cities
  • 20 Churches
  • 2 Fancy Villas
  • 7 Forts
  • 10 Towers
  • 9 Unique Settlement Brushes
  • 20 Mountains
  • 10 Mountain Ranges
  • 12 Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll work in GIMP as well) and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. Click here to view the PNG in your browser. Heads up: it’ll come up black and look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD DONIA v1.1


Version 1.1 Update: Minor change in the description to be more accurate—from “Cartography” to “Settlement” want to make sure people realize this set is primarily focused on cities, towns, towers, churches, castles, etc. If you have v1.0 be aware there is no change to the content. (I do concede, the included mountains are pretty cool.)


As with all of my brush sets, Donia 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. While attribution is a part of the license, I personally don’t care. All I did was convert these into modern brushes, Francesco Donia did all the real work—so if you need to give someone credit, give it to him. (That said, it’s absolutely not necessary.)

Enjoy Donia!

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.


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Donia 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 book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook.

You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

And what’s a pulpy urban fantasy novel without a map? When my 2nd book in the series launched I shared a map detailing the expanded world, you can check it out here.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Donia 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.

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.


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 →

J. R. R. Tolkien

Started with a Map

“I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit.”

J. R. R. Tolkien


And what a map it was…

See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-earth

The map above is one of Tolkien’s original sketches and is a part of the Bodleian Libraries collection at the University of Oxford. Tolkien was a prolific sketcher, and many more of his drawings can be seen in Ethan Gilsdorf’s 2015 Wired article aptly named: See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-earth. It’s worth checking out.

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

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

When the British crown was restored in 1660, King Charles II received an enormous atlas as a gift from Professor Joannes Klencke. Enormous is not an understatement here. The Klencke Atlas is one of the largest books in the world, standing nearly six feet tall and over six feet wide when opened and weighing in at over four-hundred pounds. It’s impressive. But it’s not the atlas itself that we’re looking at today, it’s one of the copperplate maps tucked away inside. It’s the last map in the atlas that served as the source for my latest free brush set: Joan Blaeu’s beautiful Terræ Sanctæ.

As best I can tell, Terræ Sanctæ (“Holy Land” in Latin) is essentially a tourist map of what is now Israel and Palestine. With a unique style, Blaeu details events, sites, and cities made famous in the Bible and he does so with flair. Each city feels distinctive, and the mountains and hills are meticulously rendered. Each object fits within its family but each feels unique. Despite the difficulty of conversion I vowed to make this a useable brush set. After hours of labor, I’m happy to announce Blaeu: an enormous brush set (over 500 brushes in total) with a wide variety of options and variants.

Blaeu Sampler

Most of the symbolism on the map was clear. But there were a few ideograms I couldn’t figure out. Blaeu didn’t include a key or legend, so I had to do my best translating. I took Latin way back in High School and weirdly retained a lot of it so I was able to fumble through, but I know I missed a lot. There were also quite a few symbols never explained.

Be warned, there’s a lot here, and the list below is enormous with quite a few unique elements you don’t find in other sets. That said, inside Blaeu, you’ll discover:

  • 15 Wells
  • 15 Monuments/Sepulchers/Tombs
  • 3 Individual Tents
  • 8 Tent Camps
  • 10 Ruins
    (This is my best guess for these symbols based on my previous map research. It’s possible these could mean something else entirely.)
  • 10 Elevated Ruins
    (FWIW, going forward “elevated” means: on a hill/mountain.)
  • 3 Unique Ruins
  • 20 Small Towns
  • 3 Elevated Small Towns
  • 50 Basic Cities
  • 25 Elevated Basic Cities
  • 2 Unique Basic Cities
  • 20 Starred Cities
    (It’s possible the six-pointed star represents synagogues, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.)
  • 4 Elevated Starred Cities
  • 13 Imperial Cities
  • 3 Elevated Imperial Cities
  • 8 Ecclesiastical Cities
  • 4 Elevated Ecclesiastical Cities
  • 8 Mixed Cities
    (A combination of the above)
  • 7 Elevated Mixed Cities
  • 4 Large Walled Cities
    (Big boys)
  • 4 Destroyed Cities
    (I love the detail in these)
  • 15 Forts
  • 15 Elevated Forts
  • 4 River Crossings
  • 5 Unique Religious Settlements
  • 4 Leper Colonies
    (These would be useful for Inns as well.)
  • 3 Unique Buildings
  • 15 Scrub Bush
  • 7 Grape Vines
  • 3 Vineyards
  • 8 Palm Trees
  • 1 Palm “Forest”
  • 30 “Leafy” Trees
  • 4 “Leafy” Tree Forests
  • 2 Orchards
  • 25 Hills
  • 15 Ranges of Hills
  • 6 Caves
  • 20 Mountains
  • 40 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Unique Mountain Ranges
  • 4 Tree Cartouches
    (Bigger than the flora tree.)
  • 25 People Cartouches
  • 5 Water Cartouches
  • 12 War (HUH) Cartouches
  • 1 Sheep Cartouche with a city on its head and another on its butt
    (It’s real weird.)

There is so much and it’s all rendered in Blaeu’s charming style. Plus the cartouches help add a touch of authenticity to a piece, and there are so many to choose from. This has quickly become one of my most favorite sets and it works really well with my other brushes. So don’t be afraid to mix and match.

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set  (works in GIMP as well) and a group of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. You can also view the PNGs in your browser. Because of the complexity, I’ve divided this set into four transparent images: Settlements, Flora, Landforms, and Cartouches—be warned, they’ll come up black if viewed in Chrome, but they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD BLAEU


As with all of my brush sets, Blaeu 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, Joan Blaeu did all the real work—so giving him credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

Enjoy Blaeu! It took a lot longer to put together than previous sets, but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to see the style live on. I think it’s unique in the world of maps, and it would give any fantasy maps a fresh yet grounded feel. As I say with all my brush sets, a connection to history can really 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.


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Blaeu 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 book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook.

You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

And what’s a pulpy urban fantasy novel without a map? When my 2nd book in the series launched I shared a map detailing the expanded world, you can check it out here.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Blaeu 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.

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 Free Hachure Brush Set for Fantasy 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.


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 →

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

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

I’ve always been fascinated by the early maps of North America; the history of the continent is clear in the signs and symbols. You can see the colonizers march slowly across a wild continent and read their fear of both the indigenous population and the unknown landscape. The colonized and the colonizer and the ramifications therein is a common story throughout history, and it’s a story that’s been told many times in fantasy literature. It’d make sense there would be a desire for maps that can help tell those stories.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce my newest free brush set: Aubers. The set comes from Carte d’une partie de l’Amerique Septentrionale which shows 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 in 1767. The map was engraved by J.B.L. Aubers under the direction of Robert Bernard in 1782. It’s particularly interesting because it details the settlements of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and the American Southwest. You can also see the reach of Catholic missionaries during the late 18th-century. It’s a momentary glimpse of Nueva España frozen in time.

A small example of the brushes included in Aubers
A small example of the brushes included in Aubers

Stylistically it’s unique. Aubers has an interesting way of rendering flora and his landforms have a style that sets his work apart from other engravers. Within this set, you can also observe a transition happening in cartography. Aubers blends the detailed pictographic style common in early 18th-century work with newer and cleaner icons that would dominate the 1800s. Instead of rendering small pictograms we see a transition to cleaner and simpler signs used for larger settlements (circle with the dot) and forts (simple squares.) It’s an interesting blend and a harbinger of something that would eventually standardize over the next century.

Inside Aubers you’ll find over four hundred brushes, including:

  • 15 Major Cities
  • 15 Large Towns
  • 10 Small Towns
  • 50 Habitations (These normally used to mark farms or tiny villages)
  • 4 Archdioceses
  • 2 Dioceses
  • 20 Forts
  • 10 Missions
  • 25 Native Villages
  • 3 Native Villages with Missionaries
  • 4 Port Indicators
  • 100 Scrub Trees
  • 75 Scrub Land
  • 50 Mountains
  • 40 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Volcanos!
  • 2 Map Cartouches
  • 10 Numbers (0-9)
  • 2 Odd Brushes that I couldn’t really categorize

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


DOWNLOAD AUBERS


As with all of my brush sets, Aubers 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, Aubers, Bernard and François Pagès did all the heavy lifting—so giving them credit would be fantastic, but it’s absolutely not necessary.


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Aubers 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 urban fantasy novels for yourself or a friend. (The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook.)

You can find them in stores and online, learn more about the series at bellforgingcycle.com.

And what’s a pulpy urban fantasy novel without a map? When my 2nd book in the series launched I made a map detailing the world, you can check it out here.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Aubers 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.

  • L’Isle

    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 17th Century brush set pulled from the 1680 Alta Lombardia map of Northern Italy, engraved by Georgio Widman for Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s atlas published in 1692. If you like mountains and mountain ranges this is the set for you.

  • Walser

    A 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. You can see how far Vignola’s style persisted as well.

  • 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 →

#NoBadMaps

#NoBadMaps

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.

#NoBadMaps

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.

#NoBadMaps

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.


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