The Submission Escutcheon

A recent question on a society heraldry Facebook group about the dimensions of the escutcheon on the submission forms reminded me that I never posted the comparison outline I put together last year showing how it diverges from the geometric construction typically used to create this “heater shield” shape.

The most common technique for drawing a heraldic escutcheon, shown in red below, is to lay out a rectangle which is three times as wide as it is tall, then add a pair of quarter circles below it, enclosing the area where they overlap.

The escutcheon on the society’s submission forms, shown in black below, is slightly different; the curve starts lower and then pinches in more steeply.

I don’t know if there’s a concrete reason these curves are different; it may have been an accident, or an aesthetic judgement by the illustrator, or perhaps there’s some other explanation that’s been lost in the mists of time.

The difference is relatively small, but it’s enough to bite you if you use a computer to create field divisions or peripheral ordinaries or the like. Submissions which do not use the precise escutcheon shape from the form are likely to be rejected.

I haven’t found a geometric construction that precisely matches the submission form, but I’ve very carefully traced the outline from the form so that I can create heraldic clip art that matches it.

For the curious, the whitespace inside the escutcheon is a couple of hundredths of an inch over 5″ wide, and a couple of hundredths of an inch less than 6″ tall. After adding a two-point outline (2/72″) around the edge, the solid black outline is 5.06″ x 6.06″.

The diagram above is available as a PDF; you’re welcome to print it out and hold it up behind a copy of the submission form to confirm that the outlines match up precisely.

Folks who are creating digital submissions might be able to save some time by reusing the outline I’ve traced, either with the alignment tick marks (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG) or without them (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG).

A Digital Armory Toolbox

My freehand illustration skills are rudimentary at best, so I do all of my armorial design using a computer, and I figured I’d post a few notes about the software I use in hopes that it might be of use to others.

(I should note that I’m a Mac user, and wouldn’t even know where to start on recommendations for Windows.)

I use OmniGraffle as my illustration tool, which may seem an odd choice as it seems to be primarily used as a technical diagramming application, but I’ve been using it for two decades and it works well for me. The fact that it imports and exports PDF files means that I can combine armory designs with the SCA’s submission forms, and allows me to give people nice high-quality vector files rather than pixelated images which can’t effectively be scaled up to banner size.

To convert bitmap images, such as those from the invaluable PicDic, I use Potrace. The standard distribution only reads PBM and BMP files, but there’s a Mac wrapper that provides a GUI and adds support for a wide range of file formats, called DragPotrace. DragPotrace only seems to be available from that one Japanese web site, the installation process is confusing (you need to install the regular command-line Potrace first) and the UI is clunky, but once you learn the necessary options, it works great: for most of the images I use, I can just click the “Opaque” checkbox and export the results as PDF.

To convert SVG images, such as the Viking Answer Lady’s SVG Images for Heralds or the Wikimedia SVG Coat of Arms Elements, I use Gapplin to export them as PDFs. The next version of OmniGraffle will add SVG import, which will obviate this step, but in the meantime it’s very useful.

I’ve been working on a collection of standard charges and divisions in OmniGraffle format, as well as templates for armorial design and submission, and hope to share those at a later date.