Tag Archives: maps

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.


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 →

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

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

History is rife with “impregnable” walls and it’s a long list full of failure. The ancient Wall of Amurru didn’t last long, invaders got around the Great Wall of China (many times), and the Walls of Constantinople couldn’t stop the Ottoman forces. And that’s only three examples. The record goes on and on (Berlin, Hadrian’s Wall, Walls of Ston, the Red Snake, etc.) and we see the colossal scars they leave behind all across the earth.

With that in mind, I’m happy to present a new set based on Mingrelie autrefois Colchis by Dutch cartographer and publisher, Pieter Van der Aa. A beautifully rendered map of the Mingrelia region of northwest Georgia complete with, you guessed it, a wall. (The Kelasuri Wall to be precise.)

That’s right, you too can let your arrogant fantastical kingdoms erect a border wall! Watch as they bankrupt the royal treasury and overextend their defensive forces! Finally, shake your head as the barbarians invade anyway and the whole ordeal proves once again to be a monumental waste of effort and resources. Hey, it’s drama, and at least someone gets a tourist attraction out of it. Think about it, future generations of hotel owners will thank the ancient paranoid rulers for their ignorance.

Van der Aa isn’t my most extensive set, nor is it my most complex. But what it does, it does rather well. Because of the map’s size, the brushes tend to run a little larger than other sets (the biggest is over 1000px wide), and the settlements and landforms have a very unique style. Lots of little details in the settlements and craggy mountains. I think you’ll like it.

Inside Van der Aa you’ll find over 180 brushes, including:

  • 11 Hamlets
  • 1 Elevated Hamlet
  • 30 Villages
  • 7 Elevated Villages
  • 2 Unique Villages
  • 30 Towns
  • 12 Elevated Towns
  • 8 Large Towns
  • 3 Unique Towns
  • 3 Towers
  • 25 Mountains
  • 25 Mountain Ranges
  • 3 Unique Mountain Ranges
  • 25 Forests
  • 4 Walls
  • 1 Well
  • 2 Cartouches

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 & Cartouches, and Landforms. They’re black, and they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD VAN DER AA


As with all of my previous brush sets, Van der Aa 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 Van der Aa. 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!


🌏 Van der Aa In Use

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

Van der Aa Sample Map - Black and White     Van der Aa Sample Map - Color     Van der Aa Sample Map - Decorated

💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Van der Aa 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

Van der Aa 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.

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 maps 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 for Fant

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 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 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 →

My Ongoing Blog Series You Can Read Today

My Ongoing Blog Series You Can Read Today

There’s plenty of writers on the internet who user their blogging platform to dish out advice on writing or focus on the craft. While that is all well and good, I’ve intentionally chosen to do something a little different with my blog. For several years, among the book updates, pleas for reviews, and general news—I’ve been writing several reoccurring series about all manner of things. Fake swearing, my books, plants, riverboats, history, the list is large and full of interesting things.

In this post, I’ve collected all my ongoing series and have provided links so you can peruse the various categories—I even offer starting suggestions. So, if you’re looking for something a bit different than your standard author-blog content, consider starting with one of these…

Wild Territories

Frequency: When they’re ready
Category: Bell Forging Cycle lore
Current Number of posts:
Three
Start with: Faiths and Creeds of Lovat

It’s always fun to explore the backstory of a series. I love extending some of the lore and legend that surrounds my novels. I’m also a fan of PBS and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. That all came together for Wild Territories, a series about the extended lore of my books. Currently, there’s only a handful of posts, but with Gleam Upon the Waves coming soon, I’ll have many more on the way.


Garden of Horrors

Frequency: Monthly/Bi-monthly
Category: The natural world is gross
Current Number of posts: Nine
Start with: The Clathrus Archeri

Nature is a wild and weird place, in this series, I take a look at the more unusual bits of the earth’s flora. Generally, it’s pretty gross, sometimes it’s disturbing, but it’s always fascinating to see what sort of bizarre adaptations exist. Sometimes that feeling of disgust can come from the most unexpected places.


Raunch Reviews

Frequency: Monthly
Category: Language
Current Number of posts: Sixteen
Start with: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

The English language is a stupid language. It evolves, steals, shifts and absorbs, and it never looks the same across centuries. Slang is often the driver of this drift. Raunch Reviews is a series about slang, particularly, 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.


Riverboats! Revolution! Magic!

Frequency: Occasional
Category: History
Current Number of posts: Ten
Start with: A Riverboat’s Menu

Researching history for my big ol’ project Coal Belly has given me insight into bits and bobs of history and the details surrounding riverboats—stuff I never learned in school. In these posts, I share my findings, focusing in on the people or technology that made these vessels so unique and sharing a plethora of photos from dusty old archives.


#NoBadMaps

Frequency: Monthly (for 2019, at least)
Category: Cartography/History
Current Number of posts: Nineteen
Start with: #NoBadMaps

This started as a project to help fantasy indie authors develop their own maps for their books and has grown into something much more. Now, eleven brush sets and several tutorials later #NoBadMaps has become something greater, and it’s exciting to see people using these in their work.


Visual Inspiration

Visual Inspiration

Frequency: Occasional
Category: Art
Current Number of posts: Eleven
Start with: Yuri Shwedoff

I’ve been a graphic designer for nearly two decades now; I’m drawn to visual mediums. Often, I come across an artist’s work, be it paintings, concept art, or digital drawings that enliven me creatively. In this series, I share the work of artists who’s work I have found inspiring, perhaps they’ll inspire you as well.


Watching History

Frequency: Occasional
Category: History
Current Number of posts: One
Start with: Watching History 1

When I was a kid, my favorite TV channel was the History Channel. But in recent year, the History Channel has eschewed history in favor of scripted and reality programming. It’s a bummer. Thankfully, the internet has stepped in. There are all sorts of amazing creatives who run YouTube channels with a focus on making history come alive. In here, I share my favorites.


Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

Frequency: Yearly
Category: Cosmic Horror Gifts
Current Number of posts: Five
Start with: The 2019 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

For the last six years, I’ve been assembling a highly-curated list of cosmic horror goodies that are perfect for yourself or the cosmic horror fan in your life. Books, Games, Music, Apparel, Housewares and a whole lot more! Loads of goodies worth checking out around the holidays or… at any time of the year, really.


I’m really proud of the work I’ve been doing. It’s been nice to work on blog posts in between writing sessions. Keeps me on my toes, lets me explore different concepts, and I think it makes my books better. Hopefully, you’ll find something entertaining or eye-opening among this list.

Have a question, comment, or want to drop me a line? Leave a comment below, or visit the Contact K. M. Alexander page for a list of handy ways you can reach out.


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 →

Tutorial: How to Use My Brush Sets

A few people have asked me how one would go about using my brush sets. (Or anyone’s brush set, really.) It’s a great question! It’s easy to see how daunting it’d look for the layperson. But the sets themselves are effortless to use, and that’s their intent. I want to empower writers or gamemasters to create detailed maps that are period-authentic for their fantasy work, be it a book, RPG, or a personal map for a gaming session. This is the onus of #NoBadMaps.

This post is going to serve as a step by step guide on use. But first, some introduction to the whole brushes thing: brushes were designed to mimic different mediums digitally—so one could develop brushes for oil paints, graphite lead, charcoal, watercolor, etc. The brush would randomize and do its best to emulate the little details left by those tools in the real world. My brush sets are a hack of that system. Instead of mimicking mediums, we’re doing something slightly different.

Think of these brushes as stamps.
Think of these brushes as stamps.

Think of these brushes as stamps. Only it’s one you never have to ink, and you can see where each symbol/shape/element is placed. You’re not dragging a mouse or drawing with a stylus across your document. No artistic skill is needed. All you’re doing is placing and clicking. The pattern goes like this: 1) select the brush you want. 2) position it. 3) click, and you’re done. 4) on to the next object! It’s that simple. By utilizing this system, one can rapidly develop a detailed map that feels hand-drawn. Instead of rendering each object one by one, we’re just stamping them into place.

As with my tutorial on coastlines, I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop CC on my Macbook Pro running macOS Mojave, but I am sure similar functions exist in other image software. Nothing I am using in this tutorial will be cutting-edge. For this tutorial, you need minimal experience using Photoshop, Gimp, or whatever tool you choose—this tutorial sits firmly in Beginner Level territory.

Let’s begin!


Step 1 – Download a brush set

Step 01 - Download

Download the set by clicking on the button from my site. For this demo, I am going to use Walser, one of my more popular brush sets. You can find links to all the sets over on my Free Stuff page. There’s a variety to choose from, pick whatever you like best.


Step 2 – Install the brush set

Step 02 - Install

Your browser will download the file. Simply locate it and install the brush set by unzipping the file (double-click on it) and then double-click on the .abr file, this will automatically install the brush set into Photoshop. Click here for step by step instructions on installing brushes for GIMP.


Step 3 – Set up your document

Step 03 - Set Up
For this demo, I am using a 1400x1400px artboard with a pre-drawn landmass to save a little time. I name the layer with the outline “Border.” You can draw your landmass any way you want, scan in a drawing, or download my demo map (pictured) and use it.


[!] Tip: There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to do this. But if you want a fantastic guide on creating realistic coastlines, check out Mike Summers’ tutorial. It’s a simple solution with some reliable results.


Step 4 – Locate your brushes

Step 04 - Locate Your Brushes

Now that you have a landmass, it’s time to add the details. Select the Brush Tool (B) then open the Walser Cartography Brushes folder using the Brush Dropdown (pictured) or from the Brush Palette located under Window in the File Menu.


Step 5 – Select your first brush

Step 5 - Select Your First Brush
Select the brush you want from the subdirectories. I take a great deal of time labeling and organizing these sets so you can find what you want quickly. I tend to start with the most significant landform first and work backward, but you can place your brushes any way you want. In this instance, I selected “Mountain 1.”


Step 6 – Place your brush

Step 6 - Place a Brush
Your cursor will change to an outline of the brush you selected. Make sure to choose the color you want. I usually go with #000000 (Black) to mimic ink. (You can change this by clicking on the Foreground Color located on the bottom of your toolbar. Just click on the swatch, choose a color, and click Okay.)

While not necessary, I personally like to use a new layer for each “type” of symbol. In this instance, I created a New Layer (Shift+⌘+N) or click Layer > New > Layer…  in the File Menu. The New Layer panel will appear, name your new layer “Mountains” then click “Okay.” You’ll now have a new layer. Now, just click to place your brush where you want it.

Boom! That’s it! You made a mountain!


[!] Tip: Want more nuance in placing your objects? Give each individual object its own layer. That way you can use your arrow keys to nudge it to the exact spot you want. Be sure to name each layer in a convention that makes sense to you. There’s nothing worse than having to hunt through a mass of misnamed layers.


Step 7 – Expand your mountain range

Step 07 - Expand Your Mountain Range
Repeat the process to expand your mountain ranges wherever you want them. Be sure to mix and match symbols to give your map that classic hand-drawn feel. This is why I include so many different variances in my sets, the less repeating symbols you have, the more custom your map will look.


Step 8 – Add hills

Step 08 - Add Hills

Create another New Layer (Shift+⌘+N) and name it “Hills” then repeat the process using the hill brushes. Place ’em wherever you want! As I mentioned above, think of the brushes as stamps. You’re just stamping away placing the landmasses, flora, and settlements wherever you feel like. The pattern and layout are entirely up to you. As Zombo.com used to sagely say: “The only limit is yourself.”


[!] Tip: If you want more advice on creating realistic geography for your fantasy worlds I’d recommend checking out Brandon Sanderson’s Worldbuilding Geography lecture, it’s a great entry into geography development. Check out Part I and Part II on YouTube.

[!] Tip: Remember that rivers come from elevation, generally after this step, I’d consider where I’d extend my rivers. You can see I drew in a few wider rivers in my initial border, but they would need to be lengthened to finalize this map.


Step 9 – Add flora and more

Step 9 - Add Flora and More
Follow the same steps as above for your flora. You can be as sparse or detailed as you want. When you’re finished, you can move on to your settlements. Just add a New Layer, label it “Towns” and repeat the process above. Once complete label your towns and cities with the Type Tool (T).

From here you can style your map any way you want. Add texture. Add effects. Weather the edges. Mess with the Blending Modes. There are loads of options to customize and tweak your design. Do what fits your vision!


[!] Tip: Not finding what you’re looking in Walser? Try mixing and matching brush sets! Different engravers highlight different aspects, so you never know what you’ll find to make your map your own.


You did it!

That’s it! There’s no step 10. You created a map just by clicking and placing the brushes you wanted, where you wanted, and it’s already looking pretty amazing. That’s the beauty of these brush sets, it allows anyone with a computer to create an authentically styled map quickly and easily. Hopefully, you found this tutorial simple to follow, and you were able to achieve the look you wanted. As always, let me know if I need to clarify anything.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to continue or expand the design your map check out Mapping Resources for Authors and GMs—it’s a handy resource detailing a variety of options and communities for authors and GMs who want to expand their map-creation skills.

You can download and learn more about my brushes over on Free Stuff page. I currently have ten sets available with more on the way. All my brushes are distributed with a CC0 license. No attribution required!


💸 Supporting This Work

If you found this helpful and want to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of the novels from my Bell Forging Cycle series. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. You can find all three in stores and online, and the fourth is due soon. Visit bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Leave reviews and 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.

The Bell Forging Cycle


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 →

Gomboust: A Free 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City Maps

Gomboust: A Free 17th Century Urban Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy City Maps

Since embarking on my cartography brush project, I’ve gotten several emails from creators asking about city maps. I get the appeal. I love a good city map. While city cartography is as old as ocean charts and landmass-focuses atlases, the reality is that creating them is nowhere near as forgiving as riffing on the physiography of natural landscapes. Unlike the natural world, cities are both rigidly planned (sometimes poorly) and yet still vibrantly organic. That duality comes across in their cartography. No city is the same. Few buildings are the same. For that reason, I was hesitant to adapt some of the early city maps into a brush set—that is until today.

Meet Gomboust, my eleventh free maps set and my eighth of 2019! Unlike the previous sets, this one is entirely focused on urban cartography. Buildings! Hospitals! City blocks! Churches! Cathedrals! Gardens! Palaces! Windmills! Fields! Pillories! Houses! Barns! Wells! Towers! Guard Posts! Even bridges! There is so much in this set, and with it, you can quickly create engaging and vibrant cities—I think you’ll discover it was worth the wait.

Gomboust Sampler

The elements within were extracted from Jacques Gomboust’s 1652 map of Paris. Rendered in an off-kilter isometric perspective that often shifts into… honestly, I don’t even know what you’d call it, it just occasionally gets weird. I mean the map is 367 years old, it’s allowed to get weird. But it’s a good weird. Feels authentic. The map features significant points of interest for the discerning Parisian of the mid-17th century. It’s beautiful—if not a bit strange—with a heavy focus on the religious presence within Paris, its gardens, and palaces.

Wielding these brushes is tougher than landmass focused 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. It doesn’t hurt to study the original just so you can understand how each element was used.

Gomboust Sampler #2

I realize the odd shifts in perspective makes things harder—but if utilized properly, it can make for a compelling piece. It works in Gomboust’s original map, and I believe it’ll work in yours. For this reason, I’ve also included textures along with my more traditional “stamp” style brushes. Combined together I think you can get real close to recreating a faux 17th-century urban map and keeping Gomboust’s style alive for years to come.

Gomboust is a large set, maybe my most extensive ever. It sits in at just over 600 brushes total, including (and this list will get long):

  • 70 City Blocks (Multiple buildings)
  • 10 Unique Blocks
  • 15 Barns
  • 50 Houses
  • 10 Farms
  • 5 Mansions (Bigger Houses)
  • 5 Hospitals
  • 10 Towers
  • 10 Gatehouses
  • 5 Palaces (Bigger Mansions)
  • 40 Generic Buildings (Individual buildings, well… kinda)
  • 15 Unique Buildings
  • 10 Chapels
  • 15 Churches
  • 5 Cathedrals
  • 5 Monasteries
  • 5 Unique Religious Buildings
  • 20 Horizontal Walls
  • 10 Vertical Walls
  • 10 Unique Walls
  • 10 Fences
  • 10 Hedges
  • 20 Small Gardens
  • 20 Large Gardens
  • 5 Vertical Rows of Trees
  • 10 Horizontal Rows of Trees
  • 10 Orchards
  • 5 Groves
  • 20 Fields
  • 5 Unique Flora Brushes
  • 10 Bridges
  • 15 Windmills
  • 10 Fountains
  • 10 Wells
  • 10 Crosses
  • 5 Cemeteries
  • 10 Guard Posts
  • 10 Unique Points-of-Interests
  • 10 Ground Texture
  • 10 Untilled Land Textures
  • 10 Water Textures
  • 10 People
  • 10 Horseback Riders
  • 10 Boats
  • 5 Carriages
  • 10 Map Elements
  • 10 Unique Cartouches

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, Buildings (1), Buildings (2), Natural Elements, 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 GOMBOUST


As with all of my previous brush sets, Gomboust 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 Gomboust? 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!


🌏 Gomboust In Use

Want to see this brush set in use? I put together a sample map using Gomboust. 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.

Gomboust in use (Black & White)     Gomboust in use (Color)     Gomboust in use (Decorated)


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Gomboust brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support this work instead of a donation, consider buying one of the novels from my Bell Forging Cycle series. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. You can find all three in stores and online, and the fourth is due soon. Visit bellforgingcycle.com to learn more about the series. Leave reviews and 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.

The Bell Forging Cycle


🗺 More Map Brushes

Gomboust 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.

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 maps 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 for Fant

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 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 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 →

Making 18th Century Coastlines for Fantasy Maps

Tutorial: Creating 18th Century Coastlines for Fantasy Maps

Lately, after releasing my last few map sets, I’ve had people ask me how I achieve the coastal hatching in my sample maps. It’s been a process. Since the release of Widman in February, I’ve been trying to create a believable machine-produced reproduction of the classic hatched shoreline typically seen on 17th and 18th-century maps.

Examples of 17th & 18th Century Costal Hatching
Left to Right: Pieter van der Aa’s 1714 “La Floride,” Merian’s 1660 “Galliae Nova et Accurata descriptio Vulgo Royaume De France,” Vrients’ 1608 “Indiae Orientalis”

I don’t think I was close with Widman, and while the effect I achieved was interesting, I didn’t start to figure it out until the release of Aubers in March. Before then, I saw plenty of suggestions, but they tended to be complicated affairs. Rolling up your sleeves and doing it by hand absolutely works, but is of course, time-consuming and it takes practice. Digital brushes are often the most common idea, but they tend to be slow, and after a while, the pattern repetition is clearly discernible. For the hatching to look right, you need randomness. Thankfully, there are a few tools that when used right can produce a random hatching effect rather quickly.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using Adobe Photoshop CC on my Macbook Pro running macOS Mojave, but I am sure similar functions exist in other image software. Nothing I am using in this tutorial will be cutting-edge technology. I’d recommend you have some experience using Photoshop, Gimp, or whatever tool you choose—this approach sits somewhere between Beginner Level and Intermediate.


Step 1 – Download 18th Century Coastlines

This all begins with a simple pattern of horizontal lines. Personally, I tend to skew toward odd numbers for pattern-based work. All the patterns in 18th Century Coastlines are 1px wide by 49px high, and each individual line is generally 2-3px thick.

You can make your own, but I figured I could get you halfway there and just distribute the patterns I use. Just click the button below to download my 18th Century Coastlines pattern set. There are ten patterns in all (and I include them as brushes as well) with various weights and distributions. Unzip the file. Double click on the PAT file, and it will automatically install.

DOWNLOAD 18TH CENTURY COASTLINES

As with my brushes, this pattern and brush set 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!

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s make a coastline!


Step 2 – Define your border

There are many ways to do this. Choose what works best for you. (If you need a good guide on how to create realistic coastlines, check out Mike Summers’ tutorial.)

I tend to keep my coastline border and the landmass as separate opaque layers. That way, I can select them with a single click. Once you have your coastline selected, create a new layer for your edging. Then use Select > Modify > Expand to increase the depth of the edge.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 2
Making the selection for the coastline hatching.

In my example, I used 11px, but you can use any size you want or select it by hand. The selection you make will be where your coastline hatching will appear. Be sure not to miss selecting any lakes or rivers. Historically it was common to apply the same hatching to inland waterways. (There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, in particular regarding rivers.)


Step 3 – Fill the selection with the pattern

Now we want to fill our selection with our pattern of horizontal lines. Select a pattern from my set or use the one you created in Step 1.

Now choose the Fill Bucket from the Tool Bar. Change the mode in the dropdown from Foreground to Pattern—it’s located in the horizontal Options bar at the top of the screen. Then click on your selection to fill it with your pattern.

You’ll now have a layer filled with your pattern. It should look something like this:

18th Century Coastlines - Step 3
One a new layer, fill your selection with your choice of pattern

A Note: If you’re trying to reproduce a historical style map, be sure your hatching emerges from a lined border like I have in my sample map. That said, I could see this same effect applied to more modern designs, and it could work really well with colored solutions adding a subtle textured effect. Do what works best for you.


Step 4 – Wave time

With the pattern applied, it’s time to push it. (Ah, push it, push it real good.) First, Right-click on the coastline layer in your Layers Palette, then click on Convert to Smart Object. This will allow for non-destructive editing and if you don’t like the look of something you’ll be able to go back and tweak settings on the fly to get the look you want.

Now we’ll use the Filter > Distort > Wave tool to makes these lines to look more hand created. The key is to keep the wavelength and amplitude very low—were going to stretch those horizontal lines randomly. Using Wave in this manner will rough up those edges.

My base settings are as follows:

  • Number of Generators: 22
  • Wavelength Min: 1
  • Wavelength Max: 2
  • Amplitude Min: 2
  • Amplitude Max: 3
  • Horizontal: 100% 
  • Vertical: 1%

Once you adjust your settings to your liking click Okay.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 5
Use the Wave Filter to distort your pattern and give it a more hand-drawn look

Wa-la! We’re getting close now.

There are a few adjustments you can make to tweak the look. Below is a graphic I prepared with each of the patterns included in my base set. Each step down is an increase in the generator number. Simple rule of thumb: more generators equals more randomness.

Coastline Samples

Bonus Experiment: You can also add randomness by increasing the Amplitude Max. For example, use the settings above but change the Amplitude Max to 15. It’s an interesting effect that adds a distinct style to your coastlines.


Step 5 – Noise

Finally, we’ll add some imperfections to make these lines look inked. We do that with Filter > Noise > Add Noise… be sure to check Monochromatic checkbox at the bottom of the panel. This will keep the noise black and white, which is useful for future blending. I tend to use Gaussian for my noise Distribution, but if you like the look of Uniform, you can use that instead.

The Amount you choose is up to you. Some of this will depend on your style. I think 7-8% is a good starting point—I went with 10% in my above example. The more Noise, the more pops and scratches you’ll see in the faux-etching. The tiny imperfections go a long way toward making these machine-made hatch marks feel a little more realistic. Once you have the Noise you like, click Okay.

18th Century Coastlines - Step 6
Add noise to mimic ink catching on the tooth of the paper

BOOM – You did it!

That’s it.

Congratulations! You now have a happy and healthy 18th Century-esque coastline. If you used Smart Objects, you’ll be able to make nuanced adjustments really easily. Now that you have this down, there’s a lot of things you can do to make your coastlines distinctly yours. In the past, I’ve also applied layer masks to further grunge up my hatch marks. Do what suits your project the best.

Hopefully, you found this tutorial easy to follow, and you were able to achieve the look you wanted. Let me know if I need to clarify anything. I’ve tried a bunch of experiments to get here, and this solution came the closest, worked the quickest, and caused the least amount of pain. It’s also endlessly futzable, which is fun.

This style of coastal edging works great with any of my free fantasy cartography brush sets. I find that it helps the finished piece feel more realistic, and it give the maps an antique quality. Details like this can enhance a reader’s or player’s experience with a fantasy map, so it’s worth taking the time to get the edging right.

You can download and learn more about my brushes over on Free Stuff page. I currently have ten sets available with more on the way. As with 18th Century Coastlines, these are also distributed with a CC0 license. No attribution required!


💸 Supporting This Work

If you found this helpful 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


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 →