Tincture is the word Heralds use for colour. There are three kinds of tincture: colours, metals and furs. With one exception, everything on a heraldic device must be in these tinctures. Colours are sometimes blazoned as being counterchanged within the device.
The five colours, in approximate order from most to least common, are:
Less commonly used in heraldry are the three stains:
These are not recognised in SCA heraldry.
The two metals are:
The furs are many, but the most common ones are:
- Ermine (black ermine spots on a white field)
- Counter-ermine (white ermine spots on black)
- Erminois (black ermine spots on yellow)
- Pean (yellow ermine spots on black)
- Vair (a regular pattern of blue and white)
(Note that counter-ermine is called ermines in the literature, but we use the longer name to help stave off typos.)
The one exception to these tinctures is called 'proper'. If an creature has a normal, unarguable colouration, then it may be described as proper. For example, a tree proper would have a brown trunk and green leaves, or a man proper would be pale pink (in Europe at least). This has some implications for matters of contrast. If there is no normal colour for a creature - lions, for example, can be anything from white through yellow to black - or if it's a mythical beast, then it doesn't have a proper colour, so this exception doesn't apply.
The following table shows the tinctures and their black and white equivalents.