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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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 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.
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?
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.