I've been trying to come to a clearer/more precise understanding of the rules of heraldry and the resources I've been looking to for information have been vague on a few specifics of the rule of tincture (i.e. avoiding metal on metal / colour on colour). From what I've found, said rule:

  • Does not apply between divisions of the field (ex. Quarterly Azure and Gules is fine)
  • Does not apply to furs
  • Does not apply to charges that lie partially atop more than one division of a divided field
  • Does not apply to charges depicted proper

However, I haven't been able to find something definitive stating for certain whether the rule of tincture applies to variations of the field (wherein said variations consist of tinctures rather than something depicted proper). For example, would 'Barry of eight Sable and Gules' be in violation of the rule of tincture, or is this another situation that is excepted from it? Some sources I've looked at have considered some patterns to be both variations of and divisions of the field, such as gyrony, further confusing the issue.

Additionally and regardless of how the tinctures comprising a variation of the field are considered under said rule, is the rule of tincture considered to apply to charges overlaying a variation of the field, or not?

I'm aware that there are certainly existing examples of arms that don't follow the rule of tincture (and am unsure as to what extent the prevalence of said rule extends across different European heraldic traditions), but would still like to have a more precise knowledge of its extent in certain cases such as this.

2 Answers 2


I couldn't remember whether I knew of any barry or paley fields with color beside color or metal beside metal.

The first place I looked was Wikipedia.

The most basic rule of heraldic design is the rule of tincture: metal should not be put on metal, nor colour on colour (Humphrey Llwyd, 1568). This means that Or and argent (gold and silver, which are represented by yellow and white) may not be placed on each other; nor may any of the colours (i.e. azure, gules, sable, vert and purpure, along with some other rarer examples) be placed on another colour. Heraldic furs (i.e. ermine, vair and their variants) as well as "proper" (a charge coloured as it normally is in nature) are exceptions to the rule of tincture.


Simple divisions of the field are considered to be beside each other, not one on top of the other; so the rule of tincture does not apply. In practice, however, fields divided into multiple partitions, such as barry or checky, use (with extremely rare exceptions) an alternating pattern of metal and colour for adjacent units.


So according to this, your example of barry of eight sable and gules would violate the tincture rule. I know that barry of nine gules and sable, which equals gules, four bars sable, and any other variation with an odd number of parts, would violate the rule of tincture.

I have often seen illustrations of coats of arms that seem to have sable and another color, but don't because the argent parts were painted with silver paint that tarnished over time and turned black. For example, Hungary ancient might appear to be barry of eight, gules and sable, because the agent in the depiction was silver paint that turned black.

The article doesn't give the source for variations of the field being subject to the tincture rule, but does list several sources for the tincture rule in general.

Balfour Paul, James (1893). An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. William Green and Sons.

Boutell, Charles and A. C. Fox-Davies (2003). English Heraldry. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4917-X.

Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles and Graham Johnston (1978). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. New York: Bonanza Books. ISBN 0-517-26643-1.

Heim, Bruno Bernard (1994). Or and Argent. Gerrards Cross, UK: Van Duren. ISBN 0-905715-24-1.

Llwyd of Denbigh, Humphrey (c1568). Dosbarth Arfau.

Neubecker, Ottfried (1997). Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning. London: Tiger Books International. ISBN 1-85501-908-6.

Spener, Philip Jacob (1690). Insignium Theoria. Frankfurt. Library of Congress record.

Woodcock, Thomas and John Martin Robinson (1988). The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211658-4.


Barry-wavy is but one example the tinctures NEXT TO EACH OTHER, not on. You can have colors next to colors and metals next to metals.

  • You CAN NOT have a field "barry of nine gules and sable". Barry, pally, bendy, and other like ordinaries describe the field as a whole and therefore must be equally divided between tinctures. So, for a field filled with an ordinary (O), the formula would be "O of (even number) tincture¹ and tincture²". Sep 1, 2020 at 23:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.