How to Design a Crest

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Design a Crest
Design a Crest (Image: Morguefile.com/Bert Glibbery)

In days gone by, a crest was the uppermost symbol displayed on the coat of arms chosen by royal houses, individual royals, and rogue nobles who designed their own to showcase their separation from the ruling house of the time. As such, the crest was part of a calling card that alerted onlookers to the identity of the bearer or at the least his allegiance and loyalty. Over time, the term has become synonymous with the actual coat of arms and as such it is used today by individual hobbyists who want to keep the ancient art of heraldry alive by designing their very own coats of arms. Businesses are also discovering that the rich symbolism of the practice permits for a unique visual component to their calling cards and it is not surprising to find many commercial applications of this practice today. If you are ready to learn how to design a crest—or coat of arms—simply follow these steps and be rewarded with an emblem that is as unique as you!

Things You'll Need

  • Ruled notepaper
  • Soft pencil
  • Eraser
  • Colored pencils
  • Internet access

Pick out the shape of the inner part of the coat of arms. This is called the escutcheon and contains the charge and the field. The most commonly used shape is the English basic shield, but you have a variety of choices including diamond and also oval shapes. Some sported stripes while others did not. Play around with the various shapes until you find what you are looking for. Draw the shape with the pencil onto your ruled paper. Correct with the eraser until you are happy with the result.

Identify the supporters. These are the figures to the left and the right of the shield that are actually holding it in place. Most commonly they are mythical figures but they can also be plants, people, and structures. Think which kind of symbolism you are most comfortable with. For example, for a professional baker wanting to learn how to design a crest, the use of two ears of wheat on either side would be perfect. Draw the supporter on either side of your shield on the ruled paper until you get it right.

Consider the symbolism of the compartment. This is commonly something found in nature that has a direct relationship with the holdings of the family. For the professional baker, this could be a field of wheat. Draw the compartment beneath the shield and supporters.

Choose a motto. This is the brief saying underneath the compartment. It used to be exclusively in Latin, but today English and other languages are also seen. Keep it short and to the point. Some learning how to design a crest will use a tongue in cheek description of themselves while others may opt for a religious motto. Still others have found that a pun is a great way to incorporate their family name on their coat of arms. Look through some websites that feature Latin sayings for inspiration. Draw a banner underneath the compartment and include your motto.

Move back to the top of the shield portion and pick out the helmet you want to display. Traditionally, this would have been a knight’s helmet, but modern businesses have chosen to substitute this with the headgear worn in their lines of work or with another item associated with the trade. Draw the item above the middle of the shield.

Select the mantling. This is the design to the right and left of the helmet and is usually held in place by the supporters. You may choose leaves, tassels, or something similar. Draw the desired mantling in place.

Opt for the crest—the actual crest is the crowning item placed above the helmet and over the mantling. It may be a crown or--for religious individuals--an insignia of faith. Add it to the coat of arms you have drawn on the paper.

Color in the finished coat of arms as the final step. Give careful consideration to the color scheme you want to use! Many have chosen two or three primary colors and then two or three colors derived from them. Commonly, crest colors are rich and vibrant, but they are not glaring and bright. Of course, since you are learning how to design a crest that suits your personality, do not let yourself be restrained by traditional color choices.

Tips & Warnings

  • Go easy on the design components. Do not overload your crest design or it will be convoluted and not really allow the individual features to stand out.
  • Do your research about the symbolism before putting pencil to paper to ensure that the coat of arms you end up with is something you are happy with.

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