House Three Sheets

upstarts of the East Kingdom

DIY Heraldry Primer

DIY Heraldry Primer – Printable Google Doc

Print out this packet.
Take this first page and keep it by you as you go through the packet; you’ll use it to take notes. If you are artsy, sketch out a couple of designs on your own, then present your notes to your local herald, or someone familiar with heraldry. They can use it to help you design a passing device. Each section of info contains a “TASK”, instructing you on that section.

Colors/Tinctures – include the colloquial name, as well as the heraldic name

Divisions & Ordinaries –  sketch the designs you like, and include the name of each
Complex Lines – sketch the designs you like, and include the name of each
Charges – include a sketch of charge, the name, and if applicable, the position of it

-{End Page One}-


If you’ve ever been to an SCA event, odds are good that you’ve seen heraldry all over. They are a way of visually displaying the awards someone has won, their interests, or the various groups they are a part of. From banners on tents to household badges worn on belts, heraldic devices are a fundamental part of the SCA.

This packet is designed to set you on the right path towards creating a device of your own, using appropriate rules and guidelines. Odds are good that you’ll need to consult a herald about your design before submitting it for approval, but with the help of this packet, you should at least have a great head start.

While other heraldry primers exist, none, to my knowledge, are set up to actually help guide an individual through the basic process of creating a device. This info packet is by no means exhaustive, so you should also do your own further research into what designs are possible, so that you understand what is available to you.

Good luck, and most of all, have fun!

The heraldic palette consist of seven basic tinctures, or colors, and a couple of “fur” patterns. A couple of basic rules govern the use of these colors: One cannot place metal on metal, or color on color.

TASK: Pick a couple of colors or patterns you like, and at least one metal.

Breaking up the Field

Once you have settled on tinctures that you like, it’s time to decide how you would like the overall device to look. You can accomplish this by means of divisions and ordinaries.

Divisions are a way of dividing, or partitioning the field. It’s described as parted per X, as illustrated below.

Ordinaries technically fall under the category of charges (see below), but since they can also bear other charges, they sort of fall in between divisions and charges. You will see some similarities between some of the terms in this category, and those in the divisions, above. Ordinaries can be colors, metals, or patterns, but follow the regular rules of position.

TASK: Pick several divisions and ordinaries that appeal to you.



Complex Lines  

TASK: Pick at least two complex lines that you like.

Fimbriated & Cotised

In addition to the above complex lines, you can also use the addition of thin bands of color along the division or ordinary. A couple great examples of this are at the end of the packet.

Fimbriated – one band of color or metal on the edge
Cotised –
two bands of color or metal on the edge


Charges, or objects, are often an important part of a device. They can indicate a person’s interests, hobbies, and more. A brewer, for example, might choose a barrel, while a cavalryman might choose a horse.

Charges come in a couple of categories, listed below with examples. An important point to note is that if a charge appears as it would in real life (an oak tree with green leaves and a brown trunk), then it is referred to as “proper” in terms of tincture.

TASK: Pick at least three charges that you like, and if applicable, the positioning of them. 

Note: Roundels have their own colors, alluding to fruits, cannonballs, etc.

These can be nearly any animal, although very specific species are discouraged.
These can be nearly any object that reflects your hobbies, interests, activities, etc.

There are many specific terms for describing charges. These are some of the terms for animals, birds, and fish.

Putting it all Together

There’s a specific order in which you should list the blazon.

Generally, it ought to read top to bottom, left to right.

Start with the shield:
list the base color/metal/pattern
i.e. ermine
list the division and colors
i.e. per saltire vert and or
list the ordinary and color/metal
i.e. a bend purpure
list the number, then what it is, then the color/metal
i.e. five anchors azure

Some Sample Devices and Blazons:

Here are a few sample devices and their respective blazons. I chose these for their striking use of color, pattern, charges, and layout.

Hopefully they will give you some ideas!

Some Helpful Hints:

  1. Try to design something that’s bold and distinctive. It should be a visual way for others to identify you.
  2. Don’t use pastels or strange versions of colors. Stick with the basics.
  3. Try to make a balanced design.
  4. Although you can use charges and colors that mean something to you, don’t try to design a picture or tell a story on your device.
  5. Keep it simple, but unique.
  6. Have fun!

Additional Resources:

The SCA primer:

Traceable Heraldry Elements:


2 comments on “DIY Heraldry Primer

  1. This is fabulous, thank you for the invaluable resource!

  2. Chandra
    March 4, 2017

    This will be immensely helpful as a new Shire herald, thank you!

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