Tag Archives: cartography

The Treasure Island Map Doesn’t Skimp on the Details

Treasure Island’s Map Doesn’t Skimp on the Details

A big reason I put together my brush sets was to help my fellow authors create authentic maps to enhance a reader’s experience. (I wrote a whole post about it.) The design of a book, from chapter headers to the breaks between scenes, can all be utilized in ways to add details to a world. The map is no different.

Understanding details matter and when they’re ignored, they can often have the opposite effect. Usually, it’s helpful to see this in practice and I want to do that today. Take Robert Louis Stevenson’s map for his classic Treasure Island; it’s a masterclass in getting the details right. Check it out below, click to view it larger.

Stevenson's map of Treasure Island
Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island

If you’re writing a book on piracy, creating a nautical chart that fits its era is clearly the correct visual direction. But Stevenson goes much further pushing past style and into a faux-authenticity that enlivens the imagination. It does this by paying close attention to its details. Note the sounding markers scattered around the coast or the anchorage label in the North Inlet. Those are important for sailors, yes, but for the story? Not so much. He even goes as far as marking rocks along the shores (the little cross symbols along the coasts) and labeling the direction of the current (the arrow floating off the eastern side.) Style can get you halfway there—but details are what brings this sort of ephemera alive.

Details of Robert Louis Stevenson’s map of Treasure Island

The map does more than just clarify information; it becomes an extension of the world. It creates its place within the context of the story. The details establish its purpose within the fiction. This chart could be real which is why it’s so brilliant. One can look at this map and forget that Treasure Island isn’t an actual island. You can easily imagine that this map came from Captain Flint himself with his small details pointing out strong tides, strange landmarks, springs, swamps, and other bits and pieces. You can picture it folded away in its chest, waiting for Jim Hawkins to come along. You can visualize it in use.

This should be what we strive for with our fantasy cartography. It’s what I aim to empower. We shouldn’t settle with just the informative, we should strive for the authentic—one that enhances the overall experience and delights our readers. The details matter and they’re a treasure that’s worth it.

Robert Newton is still the best Long John Silver


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 →

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

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

Topographical elements are often focal points in many historical and fantasy maps. Mountains and rivers, shorelines and steppes, swamps and rolling hills, it’s easy to see why topographers found and still find these elements important. They shape the world around us. They influence lore, legend, and ultimately culture. They challenge humanity.

Yet, in many parts of the world, these features are often nonexistent. Take Eugene Henry Fricx’s Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France—an incredibly detailed 18th Century atlas of northern France and Belgium that was first published in 1712, then improved upon over a period of twenty-one years before being republished in 1727. If you’ve been to that part of the world, you’ll understand immediately why those features aren’t present. Much of Northern France and Belgium is incredibly flat. I spent some time there earlier this year and while the countryside and farmlands (and beer) are beautiful, I can see how a cartographer would instead choose to focus on other details.

It’s with that introduction that I’m excited to share my latest brush set: Harrewyn. Named after the Dutch engraver Jacobus Harrewijn who may or may not have been dead when this atlas was finished in 1727. While a few landforms and flora symbols persist—hills, forests, and the occasional swamp—they’re not the focus. Instead, Harrewyn chose to emphasize towns and villages, cities and manor houses, farms and windmills, gallows and chapels. It’s a map focused on the developed over the natural.

Harrewyn Sampler

Most of these signs were extracted from a pair of corresponding plates take around the Lille and Menin regions (10-11). The result is a unique brush set with a style that I hadn’t seen before. The traditional influence is apparent, but Harrewyn has added his own flair and it makes these brushes unique. Perfect for a wide variety of projects.

I took some liberties in the organizing—the concepts of Chateaus, Castles, Villages, and Bastides are rough ones and historical documents aren’t clear. Legends weren’t common and usage can be difficult to decipher. (If you have any insight I might have missed, please let me know!) That said, like all of my sets my organization is merely a rough guide. In fantasy maps, anything goes—these signs and symbols represent whatever you want. It’s your project.

Harrewyn is an enormous set, inside you’ll find over 500 brushes, including:

  • 50 Farms
  • 25 Mansions
  • 25 Basic Hamlets
  • 3 Mixed Hamlets
  • 10 Chateaus
  • 60 Villages
  • 5 Mixed Villages
  • 5 Elevated Villages
  • 30 Castles
  • 3 Unique Castles
  • 22 Cities
  • 3 Mixed Cities
  • 15 Inns
  • 20 Chapels
  • 2 Unique Chapels
  • 4 Missions
  • 5 Abbeys
  • 3 Walled Abbeys
  • 5 Forts
  • 5 Redoubts
  • 30 Individual Trees
  • 50 Forests
  • 20 Swamps
  • 20 Hills
  • 4 Battlefield Markers
  • 10 Crosses
  • 20 Gallows
  • 3 Elevated Gallows
  • 25 Individual Windmills
  • 5 Groups of Windmills
  • 10 Elevated Windmills
  • 10 Watermills
  • 6 Unique Points of Interest
  • 3 Cartouches

(I told you it was a lot.) 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 & Landforms, and Points of Interest & Cartouches. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD HARREWYN


As with all of my previous brush sets, Harrewyn 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!

Enjoy Harrewyn. 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!


🌏 Harrewyn In Use

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

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


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Harrewyn 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. 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 bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle


🗺 More Map Brushes

Harrewyn 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.

Popple: 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 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 maps cities, towns, castles, churches, towers, forts, even fountains then this is the right set for you.

Blaeu: 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 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 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 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 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 →

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.


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