Tag Archives: fantasy

Raunch Review: Dragon Age

Raunch Review: Dragon Age

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


Raunch Review: Dragon Age
Raunch Review: Dragon Age
The Author: David Gaider & BioWare
Work in Question: The Dragon Age Series
The Profanity: “Andreste’s Flaming Knickers”

Oaths have a long and sordid history. Often they emerge as a response to blasphemy laws/rules handed down by church leaders or, in many cases, the state. They’re a bit of rebellion by the laity, and they come in many forms. During the middle ages (especially 14th and 15th centuries), swearing by a deity’s body parts, excrement, or secretions were in fashion. And, as often happens with profanity, we see the minced variants show up later.

So, while it might sound silly, there’s a bit of “historical” accuracy at play here. Much of the faux-profanity in Dragon Age fits within a 15th-century theme. Andreste, in this case, is a prophet who has risen to deity status. Some consider her the bride of The Maker—the lone deity of Thedas—and according to the lore, she was burned alive by the Imperial Archon.

It’s from that “historical” event which the world pulls the oath, “Andreste’s Flaming Knickers.” It’s occasionally said by the mage Anders as the player moves around. It’s a bit morbid, but it works rather well in an in-game historical context, and it fits within a period-specific styling for faux-profanity. (It could be argued that “knickers” isn’t period-accurate since that term didn’t come into vogue until the 18th century, but this is fantasy, and I won’t ride them too hard.) “Flaming Knickers” is a bit of a mouthful. It doesn’t exactly roll smoothly off the tongue. In a thousand years, I’d assume there would be some linguistic drift or at least a simplified version. As it stands, the oath comes across as more of a silly colloquialism than anything a normal Thedaian would use in everyday speech. Plausible, but not common.

Score: Half Swear (3.5)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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


Raunch Review: True Blood

Raunch Review: True Blood

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


Raunch Review: True Blood
Raunch Review: True Blood
The Author: Charlaine Harris (Books), Alan Ball (HBO Show)
Work in Question: True Blood
The Profanity: “Fangbanger”

True Blood is the HBO series born from the pages of Charlene Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries. The series follows the adventures and romances of Sookie Stackhouse. The story takes place in a Louisiana where, thanks to the invention of synthetic blood, everyone has recently discovered that vampires (among other things) are real, and they move freely among humans. As a result, awkward and sometimes violent situations arise from these two formerly adversarial communities now interacting.

In the novels, the term “fangbanger” comes across as a self-prescribed moniker, not unlike headbanger or hippie. Cult-like followers of people who allow vampires to drink from them. In the HBO series—which we’re focused on today—the term often used as a sort of derogatory expression calling out one’s proclivities regarding vampires. If you have sex with a vampire, you get called a “fangbanger” by those with an anti-vampire prejudice.

And look, I understand the intent here, but the term is just so downright ridiculous I can’t get behind it—especially in the intended use of the television series. I could see it being much stronger if “fang” was used as a slur, but it’s not. As a result, the phrase comes across as goofy and unintentionally injects odd comedic moments into dialog. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it ain’t great.

Score: Half Swear (2.0)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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


Jansson: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

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

If you’re like me most-likely you’re sheltering in place and doing your part to flatten the curve and keeping your loved ones, neighbors, and community healthy and safe. That comes with some downtime and that downtime is the perfect moment to dabble in cartography project! So, with that in mind, over the weekend I put together another free brush set for you to use in your projects.

This is Janssonius, a topographical brush set with a nautical flair based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal, and I could see it being excellent for a wide variety of projects.

Often historical cartographers would use symbols familiar to their viewers no matter where a map was set, hills and mountains were rendered similar in appearance to those at home. Here, however, Janssonius incorporated local floral and landforms giving his chart a more tropical flair. It sets the symbols on these charts apart from his contemporaries like Joan Blaeu, and it adds a nice touch to the overall map.

I can’t wait to see what you create before now I haven’t based a set on nautical charts. So this round, I made sure to incorporate a whole host of maritime symbols—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more. This will be handy if you’re telling a tale set on the high seas or just want to add a flash of authenticity to the coasts of your maps. The full set has 275 brushes and includes the following:

  • 5 Individual Tents
  • 7 Grouped Tents
  • 25 Towns
  • 10 Cities
  • 6 Forts [Note: These could be symbols for mills, but taking into consideration the nature of the map, I believe they’re most likely fortifications.]
  • 25 Trees
  • 25 Palm Trees
  • 10 Palm Tree Groups
  • 8 Forests
  • 6 Fields
  • 20 Hills
  • 30 Mountains
  • 10 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Anchorages
  • 2 Shipwrecks
  • 20 Rocks
  • 4 Shallows with Rocks
  • 10 Small Shallows
  • 5 Shallow Textures
  • 30 Sounding Marks
  • 5 People Cartouches
  • 3 Map Cartouches
  • 6 Ship Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work in GIMP and with Affinity Photo) 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 Nautical Symbols & Cartouches. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD JANSSONIUS


As with all of my previous brush sets, Janssonius is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Janssonius? 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!


🌏 Janssonius In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you as you get started on your own projects!

         


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Janssonius 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. Digital copies of the first book—The Stars Were Right—are only 99¢ right now. With 100% of the profits being donated to the World Coastal Kitchen. 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 CycleNot interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Janssonius 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.

Vischer: A 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on the amazing Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697, this is the largest set I’ve released. Loads of detail and a unique approach to rendering forests and landforms aids this set in standing apart. A perfect set for the right project.

Braun: A Free 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City MapsBraun: A 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

The brushes within this urban-focused set are based on the incredible work of Georg Braun taken from his Civitates orbis terrarum—easily one of the most significant volumes of cartographic antiquity. The detail and density represented in these symbols give an extra layer of texture and is perfect for the right fantastical city map.

Ogilby - DecoratedOgilby: A Free 17th Century Road Atlas Brush Set

Taken from John Ogilby’s 1675 book Britannia, Volume the First, this set allows the creator to recreate road atlas from the 17th century in stunning detail, placing the traveler’s experience front and center. With over 800 brushes, this is my most extensive set to date and useful for a variety of projects. Several bonus downloads are also available, as well.

Van der Aa Sample Map - DecoratedVan der Aa: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

This regional map set is based on a map by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. It’s a beautifully rendered version of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia. While not as extensive as other sets, the size of the map allowed for larger brushes that helps highlight the uniqueness of each symbol. It also features a failed wall!

Gomboust: A 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

My first brush set to focus on creating realistic maps for fantastical urban environments! Gomboust is a huge set, and its symbols are extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s beautiful 1652 map of Paris, France. His style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, packed with intricacies, and it brings a lot of personality to a project.

Harrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetHarrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on Eugene Henry Fricx’s “Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France,” this set leans into its 1727 gothic styling and its focus on the developed rather than the natural. It’s hauntingly familiar yet strikingly different. If you’re looking for more natural elements, Harrewyn works well alongside other sets as well.

Popple: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush SetPopple: 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 SetDonia: 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 SetBlaeu: 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 SetAubers: 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 SetL’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 for mapping out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.

Widman: A 17th Century Cartography Brush SetWidman: 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 SetWalser: 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 robust set of mountains 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 SetLumbia: 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 SetLehmann: 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. This set works perfectly in conjunction with my other sets from the late 18th century.


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 →

Raunch Review: Harry Potter

Raunch Review: Harry Potter


Quick Note: I wrote this post ages ago, before COVID-19, shelter-in-place, and social distancing was a thing. I debated posting it, but eventually decided it should go live. I want to help foster a sense of normalcy during these difficult times. So, with that as a goal, let’s side-eye some of the faux-profanity from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, eh?


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


Raunch Review: Harry Potter
Raunch Review: Harry Potter
The Author: J. K. Rowling
Work in Question: The Harry Potter Series
The Profanity: “Merlin’s Beard”

Within the Harry Potter series, there is one example of faux-profanity that is a bit of a conundrum for me. Partly because it’s played for laughs, but mostly because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. “Merlin’s Beard” desperately wants to be profanity. It reads like a pejorative. It follows typical stylings of oaths evoking a name and pairing it with a physical feature. We don’t see these often today, but many oaths of this kind were popular in the Middle Ages, and later due to semantic drift, they became the mild-minced oaths popular in the 20th century.

But even in the magic-filled world of the Potter series, Merlin remains little more than a historical figure. He’s not worshiped or viewed as a deity, he was merely a respected wizard of antiquity, so evoking his name carries little weight. It’s not blasphemous, and this makes it odd to see his name employed in this manner, with no reason for its usage given. Oaths are rooted in a rebellion toward authority, and there’s no rebelling here. It’d be like an American swearing by Martin Luther King, Jr. or Abraham Lincoln. It wouldn’t carry any punch. So, while Harry Potter has done well in the past, it stumbles here, leaving us with a pseudo-oath more befuddled than anything else.

Score: Half Swear (2.0)

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews


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


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

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

For December, I am releasing my thirteenth free fantasy map brush set of the year and it’s the most extensive collection I’ve ever assembled. I think you’ll dig this one.

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

Today’s topographic set is based on the Archiducatus Austriae inferioris, an incredibly detailed map of lower Austria created by Georg Matthäus Vischer in 1697. The style is unique and features a few stylistic touches that really help set it apart. Hills do double duty serving as forests, and the skylines of the cities, towns, and villages are rendered intricately, giving each their own individual look.

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

There’s also the matter of the Schlösser—the catchall German term for a château, manor houses, or palace. Vischer drew and labeled each of these. Often these buildings were moated, and while German has a word for “castle” (burg), it wasn’t uncommon for castles to also be dubbed “schloss.” (I recommend reading the linked page, there’s fascinating history surrounding those buildings, and it goes into much more detail.) For the sake of organizational sanity, I divided the schlösser into those that looked more manor-like and those that appeared more castle-esque.

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

Vischer included a key, in both German and Latin, and I did my best to follow it when labeling the signs and symbols. However, he didn’t always do the best job sticking to his own legend. Towards the latter plates, the symbol marking the schlösser changes, and it begins to often include an arrow (typically used to indicate a fortified location). I’m also half-sure that the mark for “town” might be more of an indicator that there is a market in that particular village or city. Likewise, he lists bathhouses on the legend, but they never showed up in the map itself! Those sorts of aberrations aren’t uncommon on old maps, and it’s part of what makes cartographic antiquities such fun.

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

This is a beautiful set, with a style that sets it apart from other maps of the era. I’m excited to be bringing it to everyone. I can’t wait to see what you do with it. With over nine hundred and fifty brushes, Vischer is my largest set of the year. There is a TON here allowing the map designer to make a really unique looking topographical map quickly and effectively. It includes the following:

  • 20 Small Settlements
  • 165 Villages
  • 20 Elevated Villages
  • 40 Towns
  • 25 Cities
  • 50 Manor-style Schlösser
  • 20 Elevated Manor-style Schlösser
  • 40 Castle-style Schlösser
  • 20 Elevated Castle-style Schlösser
  • 10 Monasteries
  • 15 Monasteries w/ Other Settlements
  • 30 Combined Settlements
  • 20 Houses
  • 10 Churches
  • 25 Unique Settlements
  • 20 Open Fields
  • 20 Furrowed Fields
  • 20 Hedgerow Fields
  • 20 Hedgerows
  • 20 Vineyards
  • 30 Wetlands
  • 20 Scrub
  • 20 Individual Trees
  • 15 Forests
  • 150 Regular Hills
  • 20 Steep Hills
  • 30 Cultivated Hills
  • 10 Mountains
  • 3 Windmills
  • 5 Glass Kiln Markers
  • 15 Postal Markers
  • 5 Transport Cartouches
  • 10 Ruins & Monuments
  • 5 Crosses
  • 5 Unique Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work in GIMP). I normally include a set of transparent PNGs in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files, but I’ve separated them out this time to save on file-size. You can download them via the link below. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD VISCHER

Download all the PNGs


As with all of my previous brush sets, Vischer is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Vischer? 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!


🌏 Vischer In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Vischer. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you in your projects!

          


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Vischer 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 CycleNot interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Vischer 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.

Braun: A Free 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City MapsBraun: A 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

The brushes within this urban-focused set are based on the incredible work of Georg Braun taken from his Civitates orbis terrarum—easily one of the most significant volumes of cartographic antiquity. The detail and density represented in these symbols give an extra layer of texture and is perfect for the right fantastical city map.

Ogilby - DecoratedOgilby: A Free 17th Century Road Atlas Brush Set

Taken from John Ogilby’s 1675 book Britannia, Volume the First, this set allows the creator to recreate road atlas from the 17th century in stunning detail, placing the traveler’s experience front and center. With over 800 brushes, this is my most extensive set to date and useful for a variety of projects. Several bonus downloads are also available, as well.

Van der Aa Sample Map - DecoratedVan der Aa: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

This regional map set is based on a map by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. It’s a beautifully rendered version of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia. While not as extensive as other sets, the size of the map allowed for larger brushes that helps highlight the uniqueness of each symbol. It also features a failed wall!

Gomboust: A 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

My first brush set to focus on creating realistic maps for fantastical urban environments! Gomboust is a huge set, and its symbols are extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s beautiful 1652 map of Paris, France. His style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, packed with intricacies, and it brings a lot of personality to a project.

Harrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetHarrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on Eugene Henry Fricx’s “Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France,” this set leans into its 1727 gothic styling and its focus on the developed rather than the natural. It’s hauntingly familiar yet strikingly different. If you’re looking for more natural elements, Harrewyn works well alongside other sets as well.

Popple: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush SetPopple: 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 SetDonia: 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 SetBlaeu: 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 SetAubers: 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 SetL’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 for mapping out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.

Widman: A 17th Century Cartography Brush SetWidman: 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 SetWalser: 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 robust set of mountains 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 SetLumbia: 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 SetLehmann: 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. This set works perfectly in conjunction with my other sets from the late 18th century.


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 →

Braun: A Free 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City Maps

Braun: A Free 16th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City Maps

Many fantasy cartographers were excited when I launched Gomboust, my first brush set focused on the urban environment. I immediately starting making plans to release a second set. After all, what’s a fantasy setting without a wondrous city to explore?

Today I’m proud to release Braun, a 16th-century urban cartography brush set based on the incredible work of Georg Braun take from Civitates orbis terrarum—easily one of the most significant volumes of cartographic antiquity featuring bird’s eye maps of over five hundred and forty Renaissance cities. As you can imagine, this was a massive project, and it involved many more artists and cartographers. (A more extensive list is on Braun’s wiki page.) Georg Braun was the principle on the project, so the naming honor goes to him. Most of the signs extracted for this set came from the prints of Lyon, GhentUtrecht, and a bit from Paris. Every map was a little different, and I focused on making sure the size, print quality, and line work all worked seamlessly together. With so much more out there, I could see a Braun supplement coming in the future as well.

A sample of Braun's brushes

I really like the density represented in these symbols. Every little building is rendered no matter how mundane, and the added detail gives an extra layer of texture to a map. It feels vibrant and alive and has a “lived-in” quality that’s perfect for the right fantastical city map.

As I mentioned when I launched Gomboust, wielding these brushes is more advanced than topographical sets. To capture your vision, you’ll want to plan or at least have a decent knowledge of your tools. Spend some time with the brushes, learn what’s available. Be willing to edit and adjust them, it’ll allow you to make critical decisions and help fully realize your vision.

A second sample of the Braun set

Braun isn’t enormous, but it’s effective. Its simple style and strong linework make repetition harder to spot, especially if symbols are merged and edited together. It includes the following:

  • 20 Single Homes
  • 20 Groups of Homes
  • 40 Small Blocks
  • 30 Large Blocks
  • 35 Unique Blocks
  • 20 Churches
  • 10 Small Bridges
  • 5 Large Bridges
  • 20 Dead Trees
  • 30 Leafy Trees
  • 20 Unique Points of Interest
  • 20 Windmills
  • 10 Crosses
  • 10 Walls
  • 10 Wells
  • 10 Fountains
  • 10 Shadoofs
  • 10 Boats

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work in GIMP) 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: City Blocks and Points of Interest & Flora. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD BRAUN


As with all of my previous brush sets, Braun is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy Braun? 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!


🌏 Braun In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Braun. There are three versions, a black and white version, one colored, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you in your projects!

Braun - Example    Braun - Colored    Braun - Decorated


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Braun 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 CycleNot interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.


🗺 More Map Brushes

Braun 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.

Ogilby - DecoratedOgilby: A Free 17th Century Road Atlas Brush Set

Taken from John Ogilby’s 1675 book Britannia, Volume the First, this set allows the creator to recreate road atlas from the 17th century in stunning detail, placing the traveler’s experience front and center. With over 800 brushes, this is my most extensive set to date and useful for a variety of projects. Several bonus downloads are also available, as well.

Van der Aa Sample Map - DecoratedVan der Aa: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

This regional map set is based on a map by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. It’s a beautifully rendered version of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia. While not as extensive as other sets, the size of the map allowed for larger brushes that helps highlight the uniqueness of each symbol. It also features a failed wall!

Gomboust: A 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set

My first brush set to focus on creating realistic maps for fantastical urban environments! Gomboust is a huge set, and its symbols are extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s beautiful 1652 map of Paris, France. His style is detailed yet quirky, isometric yet off-kilter, packed with intricacies, and it brings a lot of personality to a project.

Harrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush SetHarrewyn: An 18th Century Cartography Brush Set

Based on Eugene Henry Fricx’s “Cartes des Paysbas et des Frontieres de France,” this set leans into its 1727 gothic styling and its focus on the developed rather than the natural. It’s hauntingly familiar yet strikingly different. If you’re looking for more natural elements, Harrewyn works well alongside other sets as well.

Popple: A Free 18th Century Cartography Brush SetPopple: 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 SetDonia: 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 SetBlaeu: 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 SetAubers: 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 SetL’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 for mapping out the combat scenarios in your fantasy stories.

Widman: A 17th Century Cartography Brush SetWidman: 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 SetWalser: 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 robust set of mountains 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 SetLumbia: 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 SetLehmann: 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. This set works perfectly in conjunction with my other sets from the late 18th century.


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