Nov 062014

For this custom Coat of Arms my task was to design the whole thing from the ground up. Instead of revamping an original design this project was all about creating a unique and personal coat of arms to represent my customers life and family. With my customer sending me an awesome 17 page brief meticulously planning out each feature of his design there really was nothing else to do apart from get on with his personalized Coat of Arms.

So this is how we at Dark Design Graphics go about making your own coat of arms.

When designing a custom coat of arms our main priority is to create an awesome looking design. As you can probably tell these Coat of Arms designs are completely unofficial so while we do loosely follow the guidelines what we really aim to do is create something that captures what our customers want represented. When designing a Coat of Arms from scratch though it really gives us the opportunity to create a unique design.

A Golden Eagle Tattoo

One of my favourite features for the design is the Golden Eagle as the crest of the Coat of Arms. People often confuse a crest with a full coat of arms but the crest is the feature of the coat of arms that stands on top of the helmet. In this case my customer wanted a Golden eagle with wings spread, landing on the helmet. My first idea was to have the eagle landing at an angle that would offset the 3/4 profile of the helmet.

With my customer’s feedback and a few more sketches we eventually decided to go with the eagle flying straight out with its wings spread out evenly on each side. This allowed for much more detail and while the wings are almost symmetrical, the feathers on each wing are unique allowing for much more realism.

My customer also pointed out to me that Golden Eagles are huge! My sketches of them were way too small especially in comparison to the size of the helmet. With the Golden eagles body designed to fit on the outer facing part of the shoulder, the large wings would then wrap around the shoulder joint coming back on either side towards the neck.

Eagle Tattoo Concept - Your own coat of arms
Eagle & Helm Coat of Arms Concept

Coat of Arms Helm

My customer originally found me through the popular McGinnis Family Coat of Arms tattoo design and really liked the style of helmet I had used in that one. So for the first concept I decided to create a 3/4 view of an aggressive looking ‘Great Helm’, I do love these style of helmets just for the powerful look they give but after my customer went to visit The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds (I really need to go there!) he managed to capture a picture of a Close Helmet that he liked the style of.

Your own Coat of Arms tattoo design Concept

Absolutely loving the mantle, and I think you have captured the helmet really well.

Heraldic Coat of Arms Tattoo Design

Heraldry Symbols

What I loved so much about this design compared to a lot of the Coat of Arms tattoo designs I have completed is how persoanlised it is for my customer. Each feature and heraldic symbol in this design was well thought out and explained in my customers brief.

A Bear is a common charge in heraldry and, although not the specific reason my customer explained in his brief, they generally represent strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one’s kindred (Wikipedia* – where I learn pretty much everything). This just fitted in perfectly with the whole background and thought process of my customers design, especially the family and friends initials that were to be incorporated throughout the custom Coat of Arms (more on that below).

Bear Heraldry - Your Own Coat of Arms

As with the Guthrie Coat of Arms my customer wanted a marked difference between the realistic looking Golden Eagle crest and the heraldic stylized Bear charge on the shield. After a few different tests we settled on a concept that worked, the idea being that the heraldry symbols on the shield would actually look like they are painted on, I completed this by adding battle scars and a ridge down the centre showing the divide in the shield and giving it a worn appearance.

The other symbols you may also recognise represent things that have influenced and are important to my customer’s life. This is truly how you go about designing your own Coat of Arms and creating something that has personal significance to you.

Bear Heraldry - Creating Your Own Coat of Arms

Tattoo Lettering & Initials

Finally onto, without a doubt, my favourite part of the design. To begin with my customer wanted the initials and names of family members and friends closest to him to be hidden and placed throughout the mantling in not too obvious a way. I previously mentioned how I create the mantling in my last Coat of Arms write up, in this case the aim was to provide lots of areas where the initials could be hidden throughout the ornate patterns.

Mantling Concept - Desiging Your Own Coat of Arms

After creating the mantling with lots of spaces for the lettering we realised this was taking up too much room and would either mean we would have far too small text or a design far too wide. My customer came back to me with an idea to have the initials in the rim of the shield. It was only when I noticed the writing engraved into the edge of a one pound coin that I new exactly what he meant and how this was a perfect way to show these intials.

I decided to really take my time with this and give the text the impression that it is engraved into the rim of the shield in between the rivets and partially covered by some of the mantling.

Tattoo Lettering Test - Creating Your Own Tattoo

I love the engraving! That’s exactly how I pictured it.

Engraved Lettering Tattoo - Creating Your Own Coat of Arms
Creating Your Own Coat of Arms Tattoo Design

Creating Your Own Coat of Arms

You may have noticed that this is probably one of the longest write ups I have done of a design so far. But in all honesty I could have gone on with pages more to write. At the end of the day the features and ideas, meanings behind the heraldry and thought processes behind each symbol are personal to my customer. This is a custom Coat of Arms that only my customer has the right to fully explain as it is designed with the sole purpose of representing him. This is how we at Dark Design Graphics go about creating your own Coat of Arms design.

Designing Your Own Coat of Arms from Dark Design Graphics
Creating your own Coat of Arms from Dark Design Graphics

In a nutshell, I cannot recommend Dark Design Graphics enough. I guess I was expecting the process of working with an artist on a design to be a little more challenging, but Alasdair is friendly and talented.. I don’t think you can ask for much more.
One very happy customer.

Custom Coat of Arms Tattoo Design from Dark Design Graphics

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