Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantasy Heraldry - one man's approach

When playing a fantasy campaign I like to make little heraldic icons for each nation/player. Sometimes I just go with something stock other times I try to create something new. The beauty of fantasy heraldry is that you aren't bound by convention. What follows is a walk through (or ramble) of my process and some resources I have found along the way.

I will also say that when I say heraldry I am conflating it with banners for wargaming purposes. So you want to make a banner/ heraldic symbol? What better way than to reference actual symbols. My first stop is usually Wikimedia Commons, search term Heraldry. is another good resource. For banners I like Warflag, Fanaticus, Grimsby Wargamers Society,and of course Dansk Figursspilsforening. I could go on but here are the basics.

So I now have culled through a bunch of stuff and have plenty of ideas of real or speculative designs. Next I need to think about the back ground of my Lord or nation and start throwing around the various bits that make up a heraldic device. One thing I found in researching this article is something I don't recall encountering before. There are a few sites that describe the individual meaning of the various parts of a coat of arms. The aptly named Heraldry Symbols and The Meaning Behind the Symbols - Fleur-de-lis Designs. So now I can also think about what I want to say about the individual that this CoA represents.

My method usually involves a rough sketch with colored pencils. (Please forgive my drawing, I'm a terrible artist.)

These were for my Linlandia map project.
So the since this was originally based off of a Mighty Empires campaign I was heavily influenced by Warhammer. So the Empire proxy uses the black eagle on a yellow field. The Bretonia proxy uses a yellow fleur-de-lis on a blue field. Orcs have lots of skulls, Chaos some kind of Chaos symbol. For the dwarves you need some kind of blacksmith reference and a rune, for the elves something suitably elven.

My method was to take some heraldic gifs I found out on the interwebs and use inkskape to trace them and convert them to vector images. I think I mostly made pngs because my svg file associations were weird. So by way of example, I came up with this for one of the Chaos coastal cities. I assembled the parts in GIMP, although I could have continued with Inkscape.

I kept it clear for the project

So as you can see it is chaosy with a ship to show it's status as a port. Maybe they are pirates? I don't know.

The final product made to look hand painted.
So as you can see I basically re-created the elements from my sketches using clip art. I think in this case I already had the clip art and just finagled it around.

Does this differ much from your workflow? Anyhow in the next installment I will show how I am working out  using these methods for the Talomir Tales campaign.


  1. Wow that is some excellent work. I will find this very handy as I have been wanting to create some heraldry for my fantasy world. Thanks Sean!

  2. Nice tutorial, thanks for sharing.


  3. Great work, Sean, and very inspirational. Will have to learn to use inkscape and GIMP, I think!




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