A recurring challenge when illustrating armory that contains complex sable charges is how to handle the internal detailing that is often provided by fine black lines within a charge of any other color, but which disappears when the charge itself is black.
For example, consider the clip art pomegranate shown below. If we color it entirely black, as shown in image 2, the internal detailing disappears and it’s difficult to identify — is this a roundel wearing a crown? One viable approach is to use a dark gray color for the fill, as in image 3, which allows us to still see some details, but sometimes that’s not enough contrast, and there are contexts in which using shades of gray like this isn’t a viable approach.
If we simply invert the colors as in image 4, the outline can disappear into the field, and the charge doesn’t quite look the same — in the case of this pomegranate, it looks like the seeds are about to pour out of the open gap in the bottom. Sometimes what we want is a result like image 5, where there’s still a solid black outline, but the internal details appear in a contrasting color — typically white or light gray, but sometimes using some other color, such as the field tincture.
The rest of this post lays out a technique for achieving this result for digital artists using vector drawing applications such as Inkscape, Illustrator, Visio, OmniGraffle, and the like.
The basic idea is that we can invert the colors to create a black charge with a white outline, but then layer on top of that an additional black outline that preserves the original shape and separates the white detailing from the field.
Let’s assume you’re starting with a vector source that has a solid black object that covers the entire area of the charge, and then stacked on top of it are white (or off-white) objects for all of the fill areas that represent the internal area of the charge — this is how the majority of the complex charges I have on heraldicart.org are built.
The below diagram attempts to illustrate how this works using a deliberately simplified charge of a square with a couple of internal lines for detailing — in image 1 we see the original clip art, image 2 shows the fill layer floating above the background, image 3 shows us changing the fill color to black, and image 4 shows the results — a solid black shape with no internal detailing.
The next diagram shows the same process but with a dark gray fill color.
And here’s the process but using a black fill against a light-colored outline.
With that out of the way, this last diagram illustrates the technique I’m attempting to describe.
Start by making a second copy of the black background object and stacking it on top of the original design. Reverse the colors of the original objects, so that the charge has a black fill with white outlines. Lastly, set the newly copied object to transparent fill and an inner stroke of about two points — you might have to adjust this number to get the result to look right.
If things go right, the result will be a charge with the same overall size and shape as the original, with a solid black outline and a black fill, but with white details everywhere the original had black details except for around the very outer edge.
There might be charges where this approach doesn’t quite work, but hopefully it’ll be a step in the right direction and reduce the amount of manual fiddling required to produce the final result you need.