Painting Weather Resistant Heraldic Banners

Posted with permission from

Original post appeared March 2, 2016.

I’ve recently received some requests on how to paint heraldic banners for use outside.  I really enjoy painting heraldry on canvas, as I feel it looks more period. (I love silk banners – really, I do, however, silk in period was a luxury, and reserved more for clothes than for something would have whipped around in the wind or thrown on the ground or any number things that just shouldn’t happen to good silk.  I might be Byzantine, but I digress.)

Heraldic banners – often a determinant of friend or foe across the field of battle, were also a form of decoration, whether by hanging from the rafters of a great hall or by adding pizzazz to a processional. Additionally, painting canvas in a trompe l’oeil effect was used to great degree during the Field of Cloth of Gold, where the elaborate accommodations (in this case, canvas pavilions), were decorated in and out with lush painting, though these were less heraldically inspired in nature, though it is noted within a folio of designs for the Field of Cloth of Gold, that some pavilions are painted with gold fleur-de-lis on a blue background, an excellent use of heraldry for France.1

The process in period consisted of a ground or gesso layer, followed by the painted layer (usually oils in later SCA-period), similar to other painting preparation processes for wood panels within the Italian and Northern Renaissance.2 Painted fabric, usually linen, was abundantly mentioned, famously in Shakespeare3, – items from clothing to wall-hangings to religious paraments, and as noted withing the diary of Prior More (p84), the cost of painting and sewing cloth for banners.

Lynnyn cloth for ye lyttle hawle at Batnall s d
Item for lynyn cloth for bordurs to ye lyttul parlour
withyn the lyttul hall and ye parlour at Batnall ………………….. 12 0
Item for the peyntyng of ye same to Thomas Peynter …………. 3 4
Item for sowyng of ye honggyng sayes in qe seyd parlours &
for thryd ………………………………………………………… 4
Peyntyng of bordurs. Item payd to Thomas Peynter for
Peynting Ye bordurs in ye lyttal parlour withyn ye lyttul hawle .. 5 4
Item for lynnen for bordurs to peynt for the hall at Grymley …… 2 5
Item for the peyntyng of the same to Thomas Peynter ……….. 2 8
Item for xviii (18) ells of canvas for peynted bordurs to Crowle……. 6 9
Item payd to Thomas Kings for peynting of the bordurs of my
Chamber & ye deyesse (Dais?) at Crowle conteyning xlvi (46)
Yeardes price of every yearde 2d Summa 7/8
Lynnen clotthe. Item payd for xxxvi (36) ells of sultwych for
To make borders to peynt with price the elle 4 ½ d Summa …. 13 6
Item to John Taylor for sowyng the hangyngs with says in
The Lords Chamber at Crowle & the Dessyse in the hall
There with other work ………………………………………… 7 6

Many of the banners and tapestries of this period are of scenes of Biblical subject matter, however, given the use of heraldry in the nobility, it is possible that banners in this style could have been used by nobles on the lower end of the economic scale.

Most banners I make, while painted with completely modern materials for durability and non-to-low-toxicity, still are in the style of medieval banners and painted canvas of the period. The process (for which I would like to thank Mistress Fionnuala inghean Fhearghuis for teaching it to me!) is as follows.

Materials needed:

My canvas blank. This will eventually become a Norseman’s weathervane-type banner.

My canvas blank. This will eventually become a Norseman’s weathervane-type banner.

Canvas duck or some other medium-to-heavyweight canvas
Eggshell, satin, or matte exterior latex paint, no colour added (I used eggshell)
Sharpie or other permanent marker
Craft acrylic paints (seriously, buy the cheapest paints out there – don’t waste your good acrylic paints for this project.  I’ve used Apple Barrel, Folkart, and CraftSmart brands all with good results.  For colours: I recommend buying strong heraldic colours for heraldic banners, like bright reds, schoolbus yellow, bright greens, ultramarine blue, medium violet, bright whites, and licorice blacks. It is at this point that you can choose to make details, like shading. A note on blacks and whites – mix a dark charcoal colour, so that shading can still occur on your black charges. Use a light grey a shade or two darker than your white. All other shades can be created by using white or black with your other colours.)
Paint brushes, both foam and traditional (Do not use your good brushes. Canvas is very hard on brushes, and you will need to get into the nooks and crannies of the canvas.)
Clear acrylic sealant spray
Thread and needle or grommets

Optional: projector or someone who help you draw.

bannerinkCut fabric (preferably canvas) in desired size and shape. The fabric can be sewn at one of two points. The first point is here, prior to painting, where it may be easier to ensure the fabric is the right size and shape.The next step is to sketch out your design in pencil, and then when the sketch is complete, go over the lines with a permanent marker.  Don’t try to erase your lines – you’ll get eraser gunk all over the canvas, which will cause issues when it comes time to put the base coat down.

bannerpencilThe next step is to take eggshell or matte exterior white latex paint (interior/exterior latex also works, but I usually use paint marked for exterior paint), and paint it over the surface you wish to paint with foam brushes, really making sure to work it into the canvas. This acts as a ground for the subsequent layers, and will make the colours you place over it brighter. This will also make the paint layers more durable. You will be able to see faint marker lines.

At this point, your canvas is a giant colouring book. Starting with your lightest colours and moving to your darkest, paint your heraldic design with regular craft acrylic paint (I used 95¢ craft paint).5 If you’re shading at this point, add those in at this point to better blend your colours.  Mr Pig didn’t get a whole lot of shading, but on later projects, there’s a lot of shading and a lot of blending and a whole lot of diluting paint to make it blend better.  It is acrylic paint, after all.  Another word to the wise – painting two sides at once will make you crazy.  Make sure all paint is dry before even thinking about painting the other side of a two-sided banner.  Trust me.  TRUST ME.

Once your paint has dried and you are completely done with painting, go over your charges with a permanent marker. This does one of two things: it makes the charge pop, and makes it easier to determine the charge from across a hall or a field.

At this point, you can also sew your banner into its finished shape, though it will be closer to sewing a light leather than the canvas by itself, which is why I prefer doing all of my sewing prior to painting.

bannerdetailLastly, you will need to spray your banner with clear spray paint. This further protects the design from the elements, and gives the fabric a nice sheen.  It also gives the banner a more finished look.

If you paint your banner, let me know how it turns out!  I’d love to see what you’ve accomplished!



1Tent design for the Field of Cloth of Gold, British Library, accessed 05/13/15.
2Wescher, H. “Embroiderers and painters of flags.” Ciba Review 77 (1949): 2825-30.
3An important, mid-17th century, painted and stained, linen, hanging cloth – Art & Antiques Online – CINOA, accessed 05/12/15

Tutorial: Diamond Point Engraving

Reposted with permission from

Original post appeared October 19, 2014

About a week ago, I posted photos of my Rose in Any Medium goblet entry that I did with diamond point engraving.  I also promised those in the Artisans of the Society for Creative Anachronism Facebook group that I would publish a tutorial on how to decorate glass with this technique.

Here’s what you will need:

100_4986A glass object
(most engraved pieces in period were either goblets or plates.  I’ve had better luck with goblets, but your mileage may vary.  I purchase most of my glass for these projects at thrift stores, but I’ve also had luck finding cheap Libbey-ware at the dollar store.)

Permanent markers (I am fond of using multiple widths – I’ve got brush tips, fine tips, ultra-fine tips . . . they all work for this.  Do not use china markers for this project.  Repeat.  Do not use china markers for this project.  They will mess up your diamond tip.  Don’t ask me how I know.)

Rubbing alcohol (you’ll see why later!)

100_4987A diamond-point engraver
(these can be purchased from Ted Pella as a “diamond scribe,” and it may be more inexpensive to go with an angled tip and with a pair of pliers, gently shape into a straight scribe.  Originally made for the science industry, these are great for creating random bits of SCA pretty!)

Paper or low-lint fabric towels (again, you’ll see why later)

Safety glasses (you will be making glass chips.  Need I say more?)

Optional items

A plastic storage container, lined with soft material (mostly because I have found that this can be very taxing on hands, and well, glass is fragile)

A pencil grip (you are putting a lot of pressure on hands and fingers on a metal scribe, which fatigues the hands.  Using a pencil grip to help cushion may help you out)

Sketched art of common motifs as found in period and tape (if you have difficulties drawing, but can trace, this can help you out a lot)


Ready to get started?  Excellent!

100_4992Step one:
Use the rubbing alcohol and paper towels to clean your glass of any oils, gack, or china marking pencils (like my local thrift stores are fond of using).  You may also run your piece through the dishwasher, and then use the rubbing alcohol, but the key is to have a super-clean surface.  The reasoning for having a super-clean surface is so the engraver can stay in contact with the glass as you sketch your drawing onto it.  Also, take this time to inspect your piece.  It should have no bubbles, cracks, etc.  If it does, this can cause the piece to break while you’re working on it.

Step two: Take your permanent markers, and start sketching your design on the surface.  If you cannot
100_4995draw, tape art of your motif on the inside of the glass, and trace with the marker on the outside.  The downside of this method is that the design can become warped. When you do your layouts, remember that what you draw out will look frosted over, and while you can do hatching, it will look darker or different.
100_4997Do not worry if you make a mistake at this point.  Use your rubbing alcohol to clean up any mistakes and keep going – at this point, you’re doing your layout, and details may change from this point forward.  Also, do not worry if the ink comes off before you want – keep your permanent marker nearby and draw the detail back in.

Step three: Put on your safety glasses, uncap your engraver, and start scratching away on your lines.  Every engraver has a “side,” meaning that there
100_5000 is a sharper side that will be easier to scratch with. Additionally, you will need to use some pressure, and this is truly the nerve-wracking part, as calibrating the proper amount of pressure takes practice.  You’ll also want to be able to wipe away glass chips as you go, as these can accumulate on the glass itself.  At this point, you’ll be scratching on the lines you’ve drawn on the outside.  Work until you’re happy with it.


For straight lines going around the glass, you can place your engraver on a pile of books or magazines, press down on the engraver, and rotate the glass.  However, depending on the thickness of your glass, this may or may not remove a well-formed ring of glass (which looks cool, yes, but shortens the glass and can create further issues, as the rim is now sharp).

Have spare glasses at the ready.  Breakage doesn’t happen often, but it is a risk.