Tag Archives: steampunk

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

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

Ever since launching Lehmann in 2018, I’ve wanted to revisit the era of the hachure map. The middle-19th century is easily my favorite era of cartography—a transition from rough representation towards accuracy had begun. Representing physical geography with flat top-down perspectives meant that maps would require a new way to display relief and hachures filled the transient space between hill profiles and the modern topographical maps we use today.

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce the launch of Zatta, my latest free hachure-focused brush set for you to create your own fantastical map for your books, games, or whatever creative cartographical project you want to tackle.

Hachure maps didn’t really see popularity until the 19th century, so finding extensive use in a map from 1775 meant I was able to capture them in their early transitory stage. This set comes from L’Estremadura di Portogallo a 1775 map of southern Portugal created by Italian cartographer Antonio Zatta as part of his Atlante Novissimo. (Fun fact: large portions of the maps contained in this atlas still use hill-profiles.) It’s a beautiful map, and the set that emerged from it is perfect for flintlock fantasy, steampunk, or anything that sits on that edge between the 18th and 19th centuries.

I did my best to organize the hachures in a way that would make sense—in this case, I organized them in the cardinal and secondary-intercardinal directions they “pointed.” But! The best part is hachures don’t really care what direction they point, and you can easily rotate the brush to orientate your relief whatever direction you want. (Use the left and right arrow keys in Photoshop to turn them by a degree – or use shift-left and shift-right to rotate them by 15º increments.)

You still find plenty of profile-style signs intermixed with the hachures. It creates a fantastic interplay between the symbols. Symbols for forests, towns, and villages all have a familiar look where the larger fortified settlements have opted for the top-down orientation to better fit within the contours suggested by the hachures.

Those little fortified settlements are interesting, as well—sometimes they were labeled as cities, and other times they bore the label “castel” and sometimes “villa.” Like the hachures themselves, I see these working as a bridge between historical symbols and modern top-down approaches to settlement boundaries. The distinctiveness between each of these signs allows for their use variety of applications—they can easily transition into whatever role you need them to play.

Zatta is a decent sized set, with over 500 brushes I’m sure you’ll find plenty here. The full set includes the following:

  • 25 ⬆️ North Facing Hatchures
  • 25 ↗️ Northeast Facing Hatchures
  • 35 ➡️ East Facing
  • 50 ↘️ Southeast
  • 60 ⬇️ South
  • 25 ↙️ Southwest
  • 30 ⬅️ West
  • 15 ↖️ Northwest
  • 10 ⏺ Crowns
  • 20 Small Settlements
  • 10 Towers
  • 30 Small Towns
  • 30 Towns
  • 70 Fortified Settlements (Castles? Forts? Cities? I provide! You decide!)
  • 50 Trees
  • 20 Unique
  • 2 Cartouches

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and 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: Landforms and Settlements and Flora. They’re black, and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken if viewed in Chrome, but trust me, they’re all there.


DOWNLOAD ZATTA


As with all of my previous brush sets, Zatta 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 Zarra? 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!


🌏 Zatta 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!

Zatta Sample Map    Zatta Sample Map in Color     Zatta Sample Map Decorated


💸 Supporting This Work

If you like the Zatta 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

Zatta 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.

Janssonius: A Free 17th Century Cartography Brush Set

A topographical brush set with a nautical focus based on Johannes Janssonius’ 1650 nautical chart of the Bay of Bengal. Along with the standard symbols of settlements, flora, and landforms, I’ve also made sure to incorporated a whole host of maritime signs—rocks, sounding marks, shallows, and a whole bunch more.

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 →

I'm Obsessed with La Machine

I’m Obsessed with La Machine

The French production company La Machine has been producing urban operas since the early 1990s, and to put it simply: they’re stunning. Using wood, leather, copper, or glass, they create enormous mechanical marionettes with a surrealist bent and a bit of a steampunk aesthetic. (This is particularly noticeable in their Elephant marionette.) The movements are precise and that breaths life into the machines. These creations are then used in multi-day operatics with light, sound, steam, music, and even weather effects. I find myself awe inspired every time they perform. But you can just see for yourself in the videos below.

View this post on Instagram

#LongMa🐎🐉, Queen of #ottawa2017 #ottawa #LaMachine

A post shared by Compagnie La Machine (@compagnie_la_machine) on

It’s so cool. New bucket list item: see one of these productions in person. This year’s show was The Guardian of the Temple held in Toulouse, France—it was an interpretation of the myth of Ariadne, who helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur. Each production typically lasts through several acts played out through a city and performed over several days.

You can learn more about La Machine on their website. (I’ll link to the English version.) Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. They also share much more content over on YouTube and on their Instagram. La Machine has upcoming shows scheduled for Nantes and Calais in France.

I’m excited to see what they do next.


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 →

Coal Belly Draft Zero

So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow.

Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written Coal Belly. The original manuscript emerged in 2010/11—a few years after I moved to Seattle and around the time I started working at Google. In fact, this blog began right after I finished the manuscript as an attempt to document my journey. That first version was around 130k words, and in the end, nothing came of it. It languished on shelves and hard drives for years. Always nagging at me as I worked on and published other projects. I knew there a was a better story there, I just hadn’t found it yet. It wasn’t until early 2016 that I felt I was ready to give it another go.

Coal Belly, Draft Zero, along side pre-manuscript ritual islay scotch and a cigar.
Behold! Coal Belly, Draft Zero sitting alongside my post-manuscript ritual: Islay scotch (in this case Laphroaig 10 yr., often Lagavulin 16 yr.) and a Cuban cigar.

It’s the longest I’ve ever worked on a book. Some elements have remained the same, steamboats still feature prominently in a world covered with rivers, and its weird-west aesthetic persists. But the themes between books are very different. Characters have become something greater, plotlines are better defined and much more complex, and the stakes are personal. Looking back it’s obvious now, and I’m glad I put it aside. That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral. It’s a better book in every way.

“That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral.”

As always, I took some time over the weekend and commemorated the occasion. I spent most of this last week reflecting on the work, and I’m excited. Coal Belly draft zero is done. The editing lies before me. I go on vacation next week, but soon it’ll be time to delve back into the work while my steam is up.

More on Coal Belly later.


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 →

How Airships Worked

How Passenger Airships Worked

For years I didn’t understand the steampunk community’s obsession with airships. I understood that they were transportation ephemera of a sort and that they harkened back to a bygone era, but I always thought they were too small. This was due in large part to my misunderstanding of their construction.

I was further confused when I realized I didn’t understand how mooring masts worked. The giant spire atop the Empire State Building was initially designed to be a mooring mast, but I could never understand how passengers would get down from the gondola. Ropes? Ladders? Either way, it sounded like it would be dangerous.

It wasn’t until I read Larry Correia’s novel Hard Magic in January that I decided to look further into dirigibles. His book utilizes them a great deal, but I was having a difficult time picturing the spaces described, so I began to research. It turns out my assumptions were very wrong. Airships had decks! Passenger cabins! Lounges! Promenades! As I started asking my friends, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. I blame The Rocketeer.

So where were these accommodations? This surprised me as well. As the illustration below describes, they were most often inside the ridge frame of the airship itself.

A 1928 drawing by S.W. Clatworthy showing the accommodation aboard the R100
A 1928 drawing by S.W. Clatworthy showing the accommodation aboard the R100

For years, I operated under the assumption that passengers were as crammed into the tight space of a gondola (similar to military dirigibles.) But the tiny gondolas that dangled below looked uncomfortable for a long flight across the Atlantic. It turns out they were the exact opposite of cramped. When I realized they had more in common with starships, ocean liners, and riverboats, my perspective changed. They became something much more, and I immediately understood the obsession.

My research led me to The Airship Heritage Trust, which had a collection of images of the British R100, one of the premiere passenger airships of its day and similar in design to the famous Hindenburg. There you can find photos, ship plans, flight logs, and much more. If you’re looking for details, I highly recommend browsing that site.

Plans of the R100
Plans of the R100

I was fascinated by the layout, and the passion began to make sense. Below is a collection of images and some deck plans I have found relating to the interior and passenger spaces of airships. These come from the British R100 and R101 and the Nazi LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, LZ 129 Hindenburg, and LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II. I also included a photo at the end showing passengers boarding the R101 so you can see how mooring masts worked. Makes a lot more sense than what I had in my head. In some cases, I did some minor color correction and cropping to give the gallery some unity.


[!] Note: While one of the most successful dirigibles, the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin had a different layout than the others. It crammed passengers and crew into a large forward gondola that extended partly into the ship’s frame. You can see its design and deck plan here. The larger LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II moved passengers into the frame.


While airships won’t be appearing in my writing anytime soon, I now understand the attraction. They’re an ocean liner in the sky, a home to their crew, and a hotel to their passengers. They’re not at all cramped. I can see why they’d be the transportation choice for pulpy adventures. Just make sure you have your ticket.

The Weather Diaries

Friday Link Pack 11-21-2014

Friday, Friday, FRRRIIIDDDAAAY! That means it’s time to share a few links I’ve found over the last few days. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know! All right, let’s get to it.

Tanzania:

Community Starts With You
My friend Brandie Heinel is moving to Tanzania to build an orphanage, foster home, and community center. She needs your help. Instead of buying that coffee or a beer today, please take time and donate.

Writing:

Burying The Coin By Setsu Uzume
Do yourself a favor and listen to the latest short story from my friend Setsu Uzume over on PodCastle. If you’re looking for a steampunk romp with a little more punk, then you won’t be disappointed. Not only is the writing great, Amanda Fitzwater does an excellent job with the reading.

‘Am I Being Catfished?’ An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic
Strange tale of an author seeking her biggest Goodreads critic. This was making the rounds for a while, but it’s worth a read if you missed it. Thanks to J. Rushing for suggesting I add it. Oh, and I should add, never, never, never do this.

The Book That Writes Itself
In which Hugh Howey asks the question: when will machines start writing books? Don’t think it could happen? Think again. It’s an interesting exploration on the advancement of artificial intelligence and humanities future.

Grimm Brothers’ Fairytales Have Blood & Horror Restored In New Translation
You’re probably aware that the old fairy tales were much different than the ones we know today. In the mid 19th century they were cleaned up for children and deviated significantly from the original stories. Well, good news! In the latest edition, those tales have been restored to their terrifying glory, and now I know what’s going on my Christmas list.

Art:

Thierry Cohen’s Darkened Cities
In this series photographer Thierry Cohen explore landscapes we rarely see. Modern cities usually alive with artificial light, lit only by the stars.

Surreal Pencil Drawings Of Lips By Christo Dagorov
Switzerland-based illustrator creates fascinating imagery and landscapes within the texture of human lips.

The Weather Diaries
A book and short film made to celebrate Norwegian Fashion Week that goes above and beyond. Surreal and haunting imagery that is stunningly beautiful. Thanks to my own favorite painter, Kari-Lise (who else), for sharing this.

Random:

Norway’s Sleek New Passports Contain A Surprise Design Feature
As I said on twitter, I think Norway is going to win “Best Looking Passport.” Is that a thing? We should make it a thing.

Cory Doctorow: Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free
I debated putting this in writing, and opted here, because information is much broader than just the written word. Anyway, Doctorow makes a case that digital locks are worthless and access is better in the long run (and people will pay for it.)

Ancient Egyptian Handbook Of Spells Deciphered
Here’s your fascinating archaeology news of the week, a 1300 year old manuscript deciphered. They claim it contains spells to cure possession by spirits and various ailments, or to bring success in love and business but let’s hope no one conjures up a First, eh?

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Book
“As I hurried home through those narrow, winding, mist-choked waterfront streets I had a frightful impression of being stealthily followed by softly padding feet.”

Gif of the Week:

Happy Thanksgiving!