Coats of arms have their origins in the medieval period of European history. In an illiterate population, the coat of arms of a knight or family would be instantly recognizable to the majority of the population. When families married, the coat of arms would often be combined, making patterns highly complex. Although you do not need to be a member of the nobility to have a coat of arms, you should follow a few rules when designing your own if it is to be meaningful.
Log on to the website "Heraldry for Kids" (see "Resources"). Scroll down and click on the shield type you wish to form the basis of your coat of arms. Right click on the large version that loads and select "Copy". Load up Microsoft Paint and select "Edit" and "Paste" from the top menu. Save the file by selecting "File" and "Save As". Choose a name you will be able to remember at a later date and click "OK".
Choose a background color for your shield. The traditional colors used were red, blue, green, purple, black, gold or silver. Choose whichever color you like from these and select it from the color palette at the bottom of the page. Click the "Fill" icon on the left and click in the center of the shield. The whole shield will now be filled this color.
Divide your shield to make it more complex. Traditional divisions were with a cross with horizontal and vertical lines, or diagonal lines. Alternatively, you can divide the shield into two, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, or with a triangle shape at the top, although the latter were rare. Click on the black paint in the palette at the bottom, and the line drawing tool on the left. Draw the lines you wish across the shield. Change the colors of the sections using the method and colors above.
Add "devices" to your shield. A device is a picture of an animal or mythical beast which were used on shields. These often represent military success. Choose a device which reflects something about your family. If your family are farmers, select a farming-related device. Look up the origin of your family name, and choose a device which is liked with this. For example, someone whose name is "Fletcher" should use a device related to arrows. Using the "Heraldry for Kids" website (see "Resources"), select a large or small device and right-click on it and select "Copy". In Paint, select "Edit" and "Paste" to bring the device onto the page, and drag it into the shield. You may need to refill the section using the method above to remove white areas.
Choose the colors of your device. In medieval times, the rule of thumb was that 'metallic' colors of gold and silver should border non-metallic colors and non-metallic colors should never border one another. Therefore, if your device is on a blue background, it should be gold, silver or white. Similarly, if your device is on a silver background, it cannot be gold.
Print your coat of arms by selecting "File" and then "Print". You can print as many copies as you like to add to family albums, or for whatever purpose you wish.
Emile Heskey has been a professional writer since 2008, when he began writing for "The Journal" student newspaper. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in modern history and politics from Oxford University, as well as a Master of Science in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies from Edinburgh University.