Displaying a coat of arms is a time-honored tradition dating back to medieval times when knights and nobles emblazoned their heraldic symbols on shields, banners, and armor. While in the past only the upper echelons of society could boast their own coat of arms, today anyone can create their own unique and meaningful design. For those interested in making their own coat of arms, using a template makes the process much easier.
High-quality coat of arms templates simplify the design process with pre-made shapes, divisions, illustrations, and more. With the right template, you can focus on choosing symbols and colors that represent your history and values. In this article, we will explore several excellent free printable coat of arms templates and how to use them effectively to craft a personalized statement of identity. Whether you want to highlight your heritage or let your creativity run wild, these templates will put you on the right path.
Table of Contents
What is a Coat of Arms?
A coat of arms is a heraldic design that is displayed on a shield, banner, or other item to identify a person, family, or institution. The coat of arms consists of symbols, colors, and patterns that have special meaning for the bearer. Elements in a coat of arms can include a crest, shield, supporters, motto, and more. The design is meant to be unique to the bearer and enable them to be recognized in battle or in tournaments. Coats of arms first appeared in the Middle Ages among knights and noble families as a way to distinguish themselves, and they continue to be used today as symbols of identification.
Coat of Arms Templates
A coat of arms is a heraldic symbol that represents a person, family, or institution. This coat of arms template allows you to create your own personal or familial symbol.
The template features a shield outline ready for coloring and decorating as desired. Helmet, mantling, supporters, motto, and other elements can be added to fully customize your coat of arms. With guides for positioning each element, you can build a unique emblem with meaningful symbolism.
Make your coat of arms reflect your personality, interests, values, or ancestry. The opportunities for personalization are endless! You can print and display your coat of arms or use it for letterheads, websites, or other branding needs. Whether your coat of arms is bold and bright or more subtly stylized, this template provides the perfect starting point. Add colors, divider lines, illustrations, and other artistic touches to design an emblem you’ll cherish for years.
What Should You Include On Your Coat Of Arms Template?
Creating a coat of arms is a deep dive into symbolism, history, and personal or familial identity. A coat of arms traditionally represents an individual, family, city, or organization. When designing a template for a coat of arms, you should keep in mind the various elements that can be included. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what to incorporate:
1. Shield (Escutcheon):
This is the central element of any coat of arms. The shield can be divided into various sections, each depicting a different symbol or emblem. The colors, patterns, and images chosen should hold specific meaning to the individual or family.
2. Helm (Helmet):
Situated above the shield, the helmet indicates the rank of the bearer. Different styles of helmets can denote different statuses: for example, a closed helmet is often used for nobility, while an open-faced helmet might represent a gentleman.
3. Mantling (or Lambrequin):
Flowing from the helmet, mantling is a decorative drapery that represents the protective cloth worn by knights. In coat of arms design, it’s usually stylized and dramatic, often depicted as tattered from the heat of battle. The colors of the mantling typically match the primary colors of the shield.
Placed atop the helmet, the crest is a three-dimensional representation of a symbol or emblem of personal or familial significance. Historically, this would have been placed on a knight’s helmet, serving both as decoration and a means of identification.
These are figures (often animals) that stand on either side of the shield, appearing to “support” it. Supporters are typically granted to individuals of high status and can represent specific qualities or characteristics valued by the bearer.
Located either above the crest or below the shield, the motto is usually a phrase or slogan that encapsulates the ethos of the individual, family, or organization. It’s a declaration of intent or a guiding principle.
This is the base upon which the supporters stand. It can be a simple patch of ground, or more intricate with plants, landscapes, or other symbols.
8. Coronet or Crown:
This symbolizes the rank of the bearer. It’s different from the helm and is specifically used to represent noble or royal status.
Some coats of arms include a badge, which is a separate emblem that can be used on its own, independent of the full coat of arms. Badges can be worn as pins or used as seals.
10. Order (or Insignia):
If the bearer is a member of a chivalric order or has been awarded a specific honor, the insignia might be displayed around or on the shield.
Family Crest vs. Coat of Arms
The terms “coat of arms” and “family crest” are often used interchangeably in popular culture, but in heraldry – the study of armorial bearings or armory – they refer to distinct elements. Here’s a detailed differentiation between the two:
1. Coat of Arms:
- Definition: A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on an escutcheon (i.e., shield) or surcoat. The coat of arms contains various heraldic elements, including a shield, helmet, and other symbols.
- Components: A full coat of arms can comprise several parts:
- Shield (or Escutcheon): The central element bearing various heraldic symbols that indicate information about the lineage or person.
- Helm (or Helmet): Positioned above the shield, it denotes the rank of the person bearing the arms.
- Mantling: Drapery around the helmet, it’s often depicted as leaf-shaped decorations.
- Supporters: Figures (often animals) that stand on either side of the shield.
- Compartment: The base where the supporters stand.
- Motto: A phrase that encapsulates the ethos or guiding principle of the bearer.
- Purpose and Use: A coat of arms was historically used for identifying families, individuals, or entities during battles, tournaments, or other events. They were displayed on flags, shields, tapestries, and other items. Today, they symbolize heritage, achievements, and family lineage.
- Uniqueness: Each coat of arms is distinctive to an individual or family and follows strict heraldic rules.
2. Family Crest:
- Definition: The family crest is a component of a coat of arms. Specifically, it is the emblem or device placed atop the helmet, above the shield, on a coat of arms.
- Components: The crest itself is often depicted as a three-dimensional object, such as an animal, a plume of feathers, or some other symbol. Historically, the crest would have been used in a more practical setting, placed upon a knight’s helmet, serving as a further means of identification in battle and in tournaments.
- Purpose and Use: While the full coat of arms was often painted or emblazoned on stationary objects or large banners, the crest, being a part of it, was often used for more personal items, such as seals and personal belongings. It became synonymous with family identity.
- Uniqueness: Like the coat of arms, crests are also unique to each family or individual, but it’s worth noting that two families might have similar or even identical symbols for their crests (like a lion or an eagle), differentiated by colors or positions.
In essence, while every family with a coat of arms has a crest, not every family with a crest necessarily has a full coat of arms. The family crest is just one part of the overall coat of arms. Over time, and especially in popular discourse, the distinction has been blurred, but in heraldic terms, the differentiation is clear and significant.
How To Make A Coat Of Arms: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Research and Inspiration
Begin your journey by researching heraldry and its significance. Historically, every symbol, color, and design on a coat of arms had a specific meaning. Investigate the symbols and colors that resonate most with your family’s history, values, or character traits. During this phase, it’s beneficial to look into existing coats of arms, both for inspiration and to ensure uniqueness in your design.
Example: The Smith family might find that their ancestors were blacksmiths, leading them to consider symbols like anvils or hammers for their coat of arms.
Step 2: Decide on the Main Shield Design
The shield, or escutcheon, is the centerpiece of your coat of arms. Decide how you want to divide your shield (into halves, quarters, or not at all) and select primary colors or patterns. In heraldry, these colors and patterns are referred to as “tinctures” and each has a specific meaning.
Example: The Smith family opts for a divided shield with one side featuring an anvil and the other a family symbol, perhaps a tree representing growth and deep roots.
Step 3: Choose Symbols or Charges
Charges are the symbols placed on the shield. They should be significant to your family or its history. They could be animals, objects, or mythical creatures. The choice and positioning of these symbols often provide insight into the values or history of the person or family represented.
Example: Besides the anvil, the Smiths decide to incorporate a lion, symbolizing courage and strength, attributes they deeply value.
Step 4: Add the Helmet and Crest
Above the shield, place a helmet which denotes the rank or status of the bearer. Atop the helmet, decide on a crest, a three-dimensional representation that often ties into the shield’s symbolism or stands alone as a unique identifier.
Example: The Smiths might choose a commoner’s open-faced helmet, indicating their humble beginnings. For the crest, a blacksmith’s arm holding a hammer might be apt.
Step 5: Include Supporters and a Compartment
Supporters are figures that appear to hold up the shield. They’re usually placed on either side and can be animals, humans, or mythical creatures. Beneath them is the compartment, which can be a simple design or intricate scene where the supporters stand.
Example: The Smith family might opt for two horses as supporters, symbolizing steadfastness and hard work. They could stand on a grassy compartment, showing their connection to the land.
Step 6: Add a Motto
Choose a motto that embodies your family’s ethos, values, or aspirations. This phrase is usually displayed on a ribbon or scroll, either below the shield or above the crest. The motto can be in any language, though Latin was historically favored.
Example: Given their history, the Smiths might choose the motto “Forged with Honor” to encapsulate their legacy and values.
Step 7: Finalize and Seek Feedback
Once your design is complete, it’s valuable to seek feedback. Share your coat of arms with family members or experts in heraldry. Their insights can help refine the design or validate the choices you’ve made.
Example: Upon sharing, the Smiths discover that the anvil’s design they chose was historically accurate, further cementing its value in their coat of arms.
Step 8: Record and Share
After finalizing your coat of arms, consider recording its design and meaning in a family history book or another permanent medium. Share it with family members, especially younger generations, ensuring the story and values it encapsulates are passed on.
Example: The Smiths might get a large print of their coat of arms framed for their home, and smaller versions as gifts for extended family members, ensuring the legacy continues.
- Creating a coat of arms is not just about artistry, but it’s also about discovering and showcasing values, legacy, and stories that bind a family or organization together.
Practical Applications for Your Coat of Arms
A Coat of Arms, traditionally, is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover the shield and reveal the identity of the individual bearing the shield. Originating in the medieval era, these symbols were once crucial on the battlefield, but today, they carry personal and familial meaning, and can be adapted for various modern applications. Let’s delve into some of the most popular uses:
- Tattoos and Personal Adornment:
- Meaning and Identity: Tattoos are deeply personal and often symbolize an individual’s beliefs, values, and affiliations. A Coat of Arms, representing familial heritage and pride, makes a profound choice for a tattoo, weaving ancestral history into one’s very skin.
- Artistic Interpretation: Modern tattoo artists can meld the traditional elements of a Coat of Arms with contemporary designs, bringing an age-old symbol into the 21st century.
- Stationery and Seals:
- Personal Letterheads: Custom stationery with your Coat of Arms adds a touch of elegance and personalization to your correspondence.
- Seals and Wax: Historically, wax seals bearing a family’s Coat of Arms were used to authenticate documents. Today, they can be used for special occasion letters, wedding invitations, or any correspondence you want to make more distinguished.
- Business Cards: If you run a family business, incorporating your Coat of Arms into your business card design can signify legacy and tradition.
- Flags, Banners, and Wall Hangings:
- Home Decor: A flag or banner with your Coat of Arms can be a centerpiece in your home, fostering family pride and serving as a talking point with guests.
- Events and Reunions: At large family gatherings or reunions, flags and banners bearing the family’s Coat of Arms can bring a sense of unity and heritage.
- Publications: If you’ve written a family history or memoir, the cover could prominently feature your Coat of Arms.
- Digital Badges and Online Presence:
- Profile Pictures and Banners: In this digital age, your online identity is as crucial as your real-world one. Use your Coat of Arms as a profile picture or banner on social media platforms or personal blogs to maintain a connection with your heritage.
- Digital Watermarks: If you produce digital content, such as photos or documents, you can use a simplified version of your Coat of Arms as a watermark. This can be particularly meaningful for photographers or writers who want to incorporate their familial identity into their work.
- Email Signatures: A small Coat of Arms icon next to your name in your email signature can be both eye-catching and meaningful.
With the wide selection of free printable coat of arms templates provided, you now have all the tools needed to start designing your own unique family crest. Whether you want a traditional look with standard heraldic shapes and symbols or a more modern, customized design, these templates make the process straightforward.
All that’s left is for you to fill in the colors, images, and details that bring personal meaning to your coat of arms. Display it with pride on documents, banners, jewelry, or wherever you wish. Your coat of arms is a representation of you, so take your time and let your creativity shine. We hope this array of quality templates has inspired you to embrace your inner heraldry skills. Anytime you need to spruce up your emblem, come back and browse our collection for a refreshed look. Happy designing!
How do I know if my family has a Coat of Arms?
To determine if your family has a genuine Coat of Arms, you’d typically conduct genealogical research or consult heraldic registries in the country of your ancestry. Some online databases also provide information, but it’s essential to ensure their authenticity.
What symbols can I include in my Coat of Arms?
Traditional heraldry includes a wide variety of symbols, each with its own meaning. Common elements are animals (like lions or eagles), plants, geometric shapes, crowns, and tools. The choice of symbols typically reflects values, traits, or a profession. For a personal Coat of Arms, you’re free to choose symbols meaningful to you.
Can I use a Coat of Arms legally?
While there’s no legal restriction against creating and displaying your own Coat of Arms, using an existing Coat of Arms without a legitimate claim can be considered misleading. In some jurisdictions, the use of specific heraldic symbols is protected by law, and impersonating another family’s Coat of Arms might lead to legal repercussions.
How can I register my Coat of Arms?
Some countries have heraldic authorities or societies where you can officially register your Coat of Arms. Registration provides a record of the design and can prevent others from using the same or a similar design.
Can I use a Coat of Arms template for commercial purposes?
If the template is copyrighted, you’d need permission or a license to use it for commercial purposes. If you’re using a free template, ensure that it’s labeled for commercial use.