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Oct 02

Creating a coat of arms in Illustrator

2007 at 10.06 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Here is another step-by-step tutorial (per reader’s request) where I show you how to draw the basic shape of a coat of arms and a banner by using the Pen tool and Reflect tool in Adobe Illustrator. For those who are struggling with the Pen tool or readers that are just starting to use Illustrator, this is a prefect exercise. I’ll explain every move and step on how you draw the path.

Draw a coat of arms basic shape

Here's what we'll do: We draw the left part first. Then we'll copy and reflect this path to the right and join both ends.

Draw a coat of arms basic shape

Make sure rulers are active (command/control + r). Drag a vertical guide from the rulers towards the center of your document. Select the Pen tool, click on the guide, hold down the mouse, now hold down the shift key and drag to the left to create a curved point as shown in the example above. Release the mouse. Now draw the second point of the path somewhere in the location as shown in the 2nd example above. For this point we just click, this way we create a corner. Now hold down shift again and click to set the next point as shown in the 3rd example. Click again on the point you've just created, hold down the shift key and drag your mouse vertically so you get a bezier handler. For the next point choose a location on the vertical guide a bit down as shown here. Click, hold down shift and hold down the mouse and drag to the right, but just a little bit.

Draw a coat of arms basic shape

Select the Selection tool (black arrow) and select the path you've just drawn. With the path selected, choose the Reflect tool in the toolbox which is located at the same location of the Rotate tool. Hold down the option/alt key and click somewhere on the vertical guide. Make sure your cursor is marked really exact on the guide. Choose vertical as Axis and hit the Copy button. Now select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and drag a selection around the 2 top points as shown in the 2nd image above. Go to the Object menu and choose Path > Join (or just hit command/control + j) and choose "Smooth". Click OK. Do the same for the 2 bottom points so the path is completely closed.

Banner

Same way like we did for the coat of arms, we will draw one half of the banner, copy and reflect this part and join the points on both ends so the path is completely closed.

Drawing the banner

Drawing the banner

First create a new layer for the banner. Just like before, make sure you have a vertical guide in place. Select the Pen tool and click on the guide, hold down the mouse, hold down the shift key and drag a handle to the right. For the 2nd point do the same but drag vertically downwards, again by holding down the shift key. For the position of this point, see the 1st image. Select the curved line you just drew, using the Selection tool or black arrow. Click on the path, hold down the mouse, now hold down the shift and alt/option key as well to duplicate drag the line vertically downwards (see 2nd image). Release the mouse.

Drawing the banner

Choose the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and drag a selection around the 2 points on the right. Hit command/control + j to join both points. Select the pen tool and click on top of the top right corner of the shape. Hold down mouse and shift key while dragging a handle upwards as shown in image 2 above. Release the mouse.

Drawing the banner

Now drag a 2nd curved point a bit to the left. No need to hold down shift. Drag the bezier handle to the bottom left almost 45 degrees (with shift key it'll be exac t 45° but it's not really necessary). Draw a 3rd point on the left holding down shift again, dragging the handle upwards (as shown in image 2 above).

Drawing the banner

Select the path you've just drawn, using the Slection tool (black arrow) and click drag, holding down shift and option/alt again to duplicate the path vertically as shown in image 1 here above. Select the white arrow and select the 2 left points (click on 1 point, hold down shift, now click on the other point) to close on end. Hit command/control + j to join them.

Drawing the banner

Do the same for the right points. The shape is now completely closed. Make sure the shape is selected and go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back, to move this shape under the other shape. Select the Pen tool again and click on the top left corner of the new shape. Hold down the shift key and the mouse and drag a vertical handler moving the mouse upwards.

Drawing the banner

Draw a 2nd curved point dragging the handle down right (don't hold shift this time). Select the path again using the Selection key and duplicate drag the line vertically like you did before. Leave about the same space in between both lines as you did before.

Drawing the banner

Select the Pen tool again and click in the top right point. Now create a 2nd point somewhere down in between both lines and a bit to the left. Hold down the mouse so you drag a handle again. Drag the handle down to the left in the direction of the line you just drew, but only a small bit (see 1st image). Release the mouse. To create a corner, hold down the option/alt key and click in this point, now hold down the mouse and drag a handle in the direction of the right point of the other path below. Now click in the right point of the other path to close. Select the Direct Selection tool and and select the top left and bottom left point of this shape. Hit command/control + j again to close the path. Make sure the shape is selected and choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back to move this shape to the bottom of our drawing.

Drawing the banner

Give the shapes a color. I've used a light grey gradient going from 10% black to 40% black. I've used the Gradient tool to apply the gradient, dragging a horizontal line on top of the selected shape. Select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and drag a selection around all the points on the left of all shapes, so only the 2 points located on the guide are not selected (see 1st image). Select the Rotate tool from the Toolbox and click on the place as shown in image 2. Now drag the selection a little bit upwards as shown in image 2. This way our banner will be nicely curved.

Drawing the banner

Select all shapes using the Selection tool (black arrow). Select each shape one by one using the shift key or drag a selection around the 3 shapes. Select the Reflect tool and click on the vertical guide while holding down the option/alt key. Make sure again the position is exact. Choose vertical as Axis and click copy. Now close the path again by joining the points as you've learned here before. Now you can move the banner on top of the coat of arms if you like.

Adding text in the banner

Adding text in the banner

Select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) and drag a selection around the point at bottom of the center part of the banner (see image 1). Hit command/control + c to copy this point and command/control + f, to paste it in front. Now press the up arrow key 2 times to move this line a little bit up. Now select the Type on a Path tool (see image 2), click on the path somewhere in the center and type the text.

Adding text in the banner

Chances are the text is not centered, upside down and some of the text is cut off and not visible anymore. Select the Selection tool (black arrow) and select the text path. Select the center point of the text path (see cursor in the image) and drag it upwards to the center of the text path so the text gets rotated 180° (see image 2).

Adding text in the banner

You need to stretch out the text area on the path if some part of the text isn't visible. Select the end point of the text path on the right and drag it all the way to the right so the hidden text gets revealed (se image 1). Select the Type tool from the toolbox and triple click on the text to select all text. Select 'Align center' from the Paragraph palette. Select the Selection tool again and drag the center point of the text path to the center of the path to position the text nicely in the center (see image 2). Select the text again with the Type tool and change font and size.

My coat of arms

Redrawing an old image of a coat of arms

Redrawing an old image of a coat of arms using the Pen tool. The jpeg is placed in a separate layer. The layer is changed into a template layer which makes the image lighter as if you are using tracing paper on top. To do this select the layer and choose Template from the dropdown menu of the Layers palette. I always use a 0.1 pt black line with no fill when I redraw an image. Then when the drawing is complete, I start to color it in.

Using the Reflect tool - The final result

Coat of arms consist of a lot of symmetry that's why we use the Reflect tool to save a lot of time.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


32served

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permalink this comment Antoine Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 11.02 am

Wow, very nice one Veerle, thanks !!

Just bookmarked it to check that at home tonight after work…


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permalink this comment Andreas Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 11.07 am

Hey diddeli ho there neighbor. That sure is one nice tutorial you put together. It’s not often I need to make a coat of arms, but some of the techniques might come in handy :)


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permalink this comment harvey Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 11.10 am

Swell ! Can you make me one with Greyhounds instead of the lions ;)
I am seriously considering learning Photoshop these days.

Thanks Veerle.


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permalink this comment Jacquelynn Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 11.47 am

Thank you *so* much for this. I’ve been meaning to make a digital version of our sorority’s crest for a long time now, but have not had the tools to enable me to do so. This will be more than helpful!


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permalink this comment Kordump Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 12.21 pm

Your tut’s are priceless. Cheers for them. How about a coloring one some day?


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permalink this comment Kevin Mears Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 12.49 pm

Thanks for all the effort that you obviously put into your tutorials.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in Illustrator, it’s a moments thought about how to do something before one starts working really pays off.

The use of reflect and join here shows that really well.


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permalink this comment Ara Pehlivanian Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 01.59 pm

Genius. Really. Very nicely done. I’m envious of the talent illustrators have. I can only do graphic design, and not very well. :-)


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permalink this comment Megan Kobus Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 02.25 pm

Hi, I am new to using Illustrator and I am running into a problem. When I go to reflect the left side and hit copy the image is reflected, but the left side disappears. Do you know what I am doing wrong?
Thanks


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permalink this comment Ben Spencer Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 02.34 pm

Being relatively new to Illustrator (I have only really used Photoshop in the past), I find your tutorials to be of fantastic help Veerle. I can’t thank you enough.

The steps in the tutorials can be applied to so many other uses.

As soon as I get my website up and running, I’ll be creating a specific post related to these tutorials!

All the best.


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permalink this comment Mike Busch Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 04.32 pm

Wow.. perfect timing. I am just starting a project for a fraternity at Ohio State University, and am currently retouching their coat of arms.

Great post as always.


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permalink this comment Veerle Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 05.25 pm

Thank you all for the appreciation :)

Megan Kobus said:

Hi, I am new to using Illustrator and I am running into a problem. When I go to reflect the left side and hit copy the image is reflected, but the left side disappears. Do you know what I am doing wrong?

Are you absolutely sure you didn’t just hit the OK button instead of the Copy one?


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permalink this comment Megan Kobus Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 07.06 pm

I went back and tried it again and the same thing still happened, I made sure that I hit copy instead of OK. Might it be a problem with the version I am using? I have CS3.


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permalink this comment Nic Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 09.18 pm

Megan Kobus said:

Hi, I am new to using Illustrator and I am running into a problem. When I go to reflect the left side and hit copy the image is reflected, but the left side disappears. Do you know what I am doing wrong?

Actually, after you hit the copy button it de-selects the previous half and has the new half selected. Simply take the select tool and drag a square over the area of the two sides. They’re both there.


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permalink this comment Nic Tue Oct 2, 2007 at 09.29 pm

Also, Veerle.
You may mention that when you select the points to join them, people may have frustrations with the guide being selected along with the points.

They can lock the guide and avoid frustrating messages that they may not understand.


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 08.57 am

Megan Kobus said:

I went back and tried it again and the same thing still happened, I made sure that I hit copy instead of OK. Might it be a problem with the version I am using? I have CS3.

The only thing that comes to mind is that you didn’t use a fill or stroke color, or if you did, you used white, so it becomes invisible because it’s not selected anymore just like Nic mentions. It has nothing to do with the version you are using. I’m using CS3 too. Try dragging a selection as shown in the 2nd image in images 2. Or you can also just go to Outline mode by pressing command/control+y. To go back to Preview mode press command/control+y again. I hope the left part is still there… otherwise this is a mystery for me as well :-/

Nic said:

Also, Veerle.
You may mention that when you select the points to join them, people may have frustrations with the guide being selected along with the points.

I didn’t think of that because by default they are locked. Chances that they are unlocked if you are a beginner are rather small, but yes you got a point there. As soon as there are more then just 2 points in the selection you’ll get a warning message which can be very frustrating.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 01.50 pm

Hi Veerle,

I usually find your tutorials really easy to follow but I seem to have hit a snag with the very first part. I have my guide set for the centre of the document. I select the pen tool and click on the guide and whilst holding shift and dragging left it doesn’t create a curve but a straightline going left and right.

What am I doing wrong?


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permalink this comment Megan Kobus Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 02.27 pm

Nick Toye said:

I select the pen tool and click on the guide and whilst holding shift and dragging left it doesn’t create a curve but a straightline going left and right.

I had a little trouble with this too, but what I did was click once on the guide, then hold shift, click where the end of the curve will be, and then drag to the left.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 02.44 pm

Megan Kobus said:

I had a little trouble with this too, but what I did was click once on the guide, then hold shift, click where the end of the curve will be, and then drag to the left.

Yeah I tried that and all it did was start the straightline going left and right from the point where I want to start the curve.

By the way, how do you quote a previous comment?

[edit by Veerle: you use <blockquote>what’s been said</blockquote> followed by a new paragraph]


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permalink this comment Nic Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 03.20 pm

Regarding the troubles working with the first set of points… it really comes down to understanding how the pen tool works with points and curves.

Though somewhat dated, this series of practice templates is very helpful for understanding how the pen tool works. Spend 30 minutes on the Illustrator templates and the world of the pen tool will expand before your eyes. :)


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permalink this comment Megan Kobus Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 03.48 pm

Nick Toye said:

Yeah I tried that and all it did was start the straight line going left and right from the point where I want to start the curve.

I had to drag it up and down, sorry didn’t mention that before.


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 3, 2007 at 04.15 pm

Nick Toye said:

I select the pen tool and click on the guide and whilst holding shift and dragging left it doesn’t create a curve but a straightline going left and right.

I think the line you see appear to the left and the right is the handle of this point. You see, if you click, hold down the mouse and move/drag the mouse, you create a bezier handle and if you hold down the shift key while doing that, the handles will be either horizontal, vertical or 45° diagonal. I think you confuse these handles with an actual line. So I believe you’re doing things correctly here. Hope this makes sense to you. I think the series of exercises that Nic is referring too would be a good start if this is really your very first step in using the Pen tool.


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permalink this comment Heather Thu Oct 4, 2007 at 12.00 am

This is a fantastic tutorial. I’ve been using Illustrator for years and I learned some new techniques. Really well done. Thanks.


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permalink this comment bootcat Thu Oct 4, 2007 at 05.50 am

Hi Veerle, first of all, thats really an awesome illustration that u have done over there .

And my question is this . how do you color the objects so perfectly .

how do u choose the Color schemes ( any tools ?? ) and how many gradients do you use for each of the single object of that illustration .

No matter , How much i try , the color that i put , doesnt come up into a realistic illustration at all . It kinda stays plastic .

Help me with the coloring Veerle .

Thanks in advance .


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permalink this comment Zeb Thu Oct 4, 2007 at 08.46 pm

Wow.. great tutorial! Can you please post a similar tutorial for creating an award or ribbon?

Cheers


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permalink this comment Alistair Thu Oct 4, 2007 at 11.48 pm

I just did a coat of arms for my town…. the last one they had was an old gif and very beat up.

coat of arms

Love the site!


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permalink this comment Alex Fri Oct 5, 2007 at 04.04 pm

It’s a good tutorial, the final effect is very cool!


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permalink this comment Robbert Sun Oct 7, 2007 at 07.14 pm

Thanks for the inspiration, it has kept me busy this afternoon. The reflect tool is such a timesaver, I’ll have to use that more often.

And Alistair nice work!


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permalink this comment david downing Thu Oct 11, 2007 at 04.09 pm

Hi Veerle. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog not so much to learn new tools and methods (in illustrator primarily), but to see how some people use different methods to come to the same end.

Plus you give good inspiration to just screw around in illustrator for non-work purposes. The coat of arms was a fun project.

Here is my coat of arms (just for fun), keep up the good work:

image


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permalink this comment Stefan T. Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 08.57 pm

Actually, I think Nick Toye has a point. Maybe you should edit this part:

Select the Pen tool, click on the guide, hold down the mouse, now hold down the shift key and drag to the left to create a curved point as shown in the example above.

If you do as described (click on the guide and drag to the left holding the Shift key) you will get the bezier handles, and not the curved point as you stated.

Hope this clears it up. Excellent article, by the way.


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permalink this comment Veerle Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 08.29 am

Stefan T. said:

If you do as described (click on the guide and drag to the left holding the Shift key) you will get the bezier handles, and not the curved point as you stated.

Which is exactly what you should get and what I explained to Nick already here as well. To create a curved line (or any other line for that matter) you need 2 points, not just one. So the part I’m describing here is for the first point of a curved line, not the line itself. I say “curved point”’ not “curved line”. You need to read further to create the second point, and THEN you have a curved line. In the very first image you can see there are 2 points and my mouse is on the 2nd point.

I didn’t aim this article to people who doesn’t know how to work with the Pen tool at all. At least a bit of knowledge of the basics of how to use the Pen tool is needed, such as the difference between drawing straight lines and curved ones and how to created these. People who know how to do this but aren’t really good at it yet and need some practice.


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permalink this comment Stefan T. Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 11.32 am

Oh! Now it’s much clearer, I totally misinterpreted the “curved point” part.

Thanks.


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permalink this comment Lynne Sun Oct 28, 2007 at 04.40 pm

This couldn’t come at a better time. I am developing a logo using a shield with the company’s name for a client of mine selling fire fighting equipment.

Thank you!

Lynne



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