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USRD Shield.svg Shield tutorial
A subpage for a department of the AARoads project

Below are frequently asked questions about shield designing.

Getting started

Install a vector graphics editor

All shields are currently designed and saved in the SVG format. Therefore, you must get a vector graphics editor, such as Inkscape (open source) or Adobe Illustrator (proprietary). Follow all the instructions while running the install program.

Get the Roadgeek 2005 fonts

The series of fonts currently used for highway shields on Wikipedia are the Roadgeek 2005 fonts, which are based on the series of fonts found in the FHWA's MUTCD. Download the zip file at the above link, unzip the folder, and install them per your operating system's instructions. If you were running a vector graphics editor while installing the fonts, you will have to restart the program for the fonts to appear.

The Roadgeek 2005 Fonts package contains several styles of fonts. Examples of the most commonly used fonts are shown below.

Font Examples Routes
Series B IA 415 MO 366
Series C I-280 DE 100
Series D I-5 US 30
Series E PA 5 RI 7

Making shields

After everything is set up, you are ready to make shields!

Check to see what is needed

Before you make any shields, you should first check to see what files are needed. There are a few categories which track instances where a shield is missing, they are:

The only trouble is that these categories do not tell you which shield is missing, you have to find it.

Download a template

Next, go to the link above at Commons and select the template of the shield you wish to make. There are many templates there that are ready to use. Simply download them and go to the next step. If a template does not exist, check to see if there is a sign blank. If a blank exists, download it. Leave the template or blank page open. We'll come back to it. (Make sure you click on the shield to make the font numbers changeable.)

If neither exist, you may request one at the requests page or you may follow the directions below.

Edit the template

  1. Open Inkscape and maximize the screen if it isn't already.
  2. Select Open... Ctrl+O and choose the template or blank you downloaded.
  3. When the file opens, select the Create/edit text button. It looks like an A with a cursor next to it.
  4. Text editing
    If you have a template, continue reading. If you have a blank, skip this section.
    • Click the text. The cursor should appear much like a word processor.
    • Change the numbers to whatever you like.
    • Easy, wasn't it? We're not done yet, so keep reading.
    If you have a blank, continue reading. If you have a template, skip to #5, you have already completed this section.
    • Click anywhere in the blank and type whatever numbers you like.
    • Highlight the numbers you just typed and open the Text and Font... option ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+T in the Text menu.
    • Change the font to the appropriate Roadgeek series font (see the chart above). If you're not sure which font to use, reopen the sign blank's Commons page and check out the category that corresponds to the blank. That is, if you're making a shield for a Missouri state highway, look at the Missouri Route Shields category. Look for numbers around what number you're creating to see what font to use.
    • Click Apply and then click Close. The numbers will have changed to the correct font.
    • Go to the "Fill and Stroke..." option ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+F in the Object menu to adjust the color of the text. Right below the Fill tab, make sure the square next to the x is clicked. The vast majority of text will be black. Change the text in the RGBA: box to 000000ff. The first six characters correspond to the color's hex triplet. The last two correspond to its opacity and should always be ff. Go to the Stroke paint tab and make sure the x is checked; in most cases we do not want stroke.
    • Now resize the numbers. Most (but not all) route numbers are 12 inches (300 mm) high on at 24-by-24-inch square (600 mm × 600 mm) or 30-by-24-inch rectangular (750 mm × 600 mm) shield. Other common number sizes are 11 inches (280 mm), 10 inches (250 mm), and even 8 inches (200 mm).
      • To calculate the height of the numbers, follow this formula template height x (number height ÷ shield height). So if you want 12-inch (300 mm) numbers from a 24-inch (600 mm) shield on a 600-pixel-high template, you would figure 600 x (12 ÷ 24) = 300.
    • Click the numbers again and then click the arrow icon.
    • Above the shield image, there are four boxes with a letter preceding each box. The X and Y boxes show the coordinates of the bottom left corner of the selected element (the numbers). The W and H boxes show the width and height of the selected element. The box to the right of the H box is the selected unit. We want pixels (px).
    • Click the lock between the W and H so that it is "locked".
    • Resize the numbers to 300 pixels by changing the H number above the shield image.
    • That wasn't so bad, was it? We're almost done!
  5. Center the text "optically about the centerlines". If you do not trust your eye you can open the "Align and Distribute..." option ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+A in the Object menu. Choose the "Center on vertical axis" icon to center vertically. If you made your shield from a blank, choose the "Center on horizontal axis" icon to center horizontally as well. You should compare your shield with others in the category to see if they look similar.
  6. If it looks right, then we are ready to save! If not, review this tutorial or ask at the Shields department talk page.


If you used a blank, you can save your work as a template first!
Simply select the "Save as..." option ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+S and name your file something generic but close to the naming scheme of the rest of the shields in the category. The three-digit Montana highway template is named Media:MT-000 template.svg, compare it to Media:MT-200.svg.
If you used a template, or have already saved your blank as a template
Now we can save the text to path. Click the text and then select "Object to Path" option ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+C. This is important! Converting the text to path will preserve the shape of the text so it will look how it does to you to anyone who views it. If you do not convert the text to path, only people who have the Roadgeek fonts on their computer will be able to see it as you see it. (Compare the Montana template to the MT 200 shield)

Select "Save as..." ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+S and name your file within the naming scheme.

Upload to Commons

  1. Go to Commons:Upload, choose your newly-created file, and fill out the description template. Some markers have a template which will fill out the description field for you.
  2. Select an appropriate license, as listed on :c:COM:USRD/L.
  3. Put the file into any appropriate categories, such as the same category as the template or blank. You still have that page open, right? If you do, check the categories. Templates should be placed in the Highway shield templates category.
  4. Click upload. You're done!