Painting Guide for Aztec and Texcalan Shields

This page covers the shield designs of both Aztecs and Texcalans (Tlaxcalans). The list below is not comprehensive and I recommend you look at the painting guides for Aztecs and their enemies for other shield patterns, or go straight to the Codices for more ideas. The nahuatl for shield is “chimalli”.


Patterns in Aztec Shields

The Aztecs had rules about the shields carried by particular classes of warrior but these are rarely apparent from the available depictions. Sometimes it seems Suit Wearers used whatever design they fancied.

About 1/4 to 1/3 of shields depicted had the feather fringe, however, my observation is that a majority of Suit Wearers used shields with the fringe. Given commoners could not wear feathers, they would not have had feather fringes on their shields nor elaborate shield patterns; commoners, of course, comprised the majority of an Aztec army.

Beyond that I’ve found two possible patterns and even these are suspect:

  • Cuachicqueh Shield Pattern
  • Huaxtec Shield Pattern

Cuachicqueh Shield Pattern

The Cuachicqueh Military Order might all have used the distinctive shield illustrated, however, I have seen the same shield associated with other suits in the tribute lists of Codex Mendoza.

Codex Mendoza - Rank 7 Warrior - Seven Plus Captive - Cuachiqueh - Shorn Ones

Codex Mendoza – Rank 7 Warrior – Seven Plus Captive – Cuachiqueh – Shorn Ones

Huaxtec Shield Pattern

Some, but not all, warriors wearing a Huaxtec style uniform had shields that matched the suit pattern. The 2 captive warrior illustrated is a good example, but there are others.

Codex Mendoza - Rank 2 Warrior - Two Captive - Cuextecatl

Codex Mendoza – Rank 2 Warrior – Two Captive – Cuextecatl

Some Huaxtec uniforms also featured a truncated form of the same hat.


Quetzalcuexyochimalli (“Quetzal feather Huaxtec shield”)

Just glancing through the various illustrations available to me it seems that patterns with nose-moons and curved bands appear to be the most common shield designs for both Aztec and Texcalan Suit Wearers. The colours vary, and the number and position of the curved bands vary, but the general look is the same

In the Codex Mendoza Shield41 is carried by a 4-captive warrior, 2/3 of those wearing jaguar suits (who by definition have also taken 4-captives), 382 of the shields in the tribute section of Codex Mendoza are of this type, making it the most common depicted (Heath 1999). 300 of these have alternating red and yellow banded rim, but the remaining ones have the plain yellow depicted. The feather fringe could also have red in place of the yellow.

Shield41 Cuexyo Red - Codex Mendoza - 4 Captive Warrior

Shield41 Cuexyo Red – Codex Mendoza – 4 Captive Warrior

Shield05 appears in a tribute list of the Codex Mendoza next to a red suit with a backbanner including a large red feather fan.

Shield05 Cuexyo Red - Codex Mendoza - Suit Wearer with fan banner

Shield05 Cuexyo Red – Codex Mendoza – Suit Wearer with fan banner

Shield02 is carried by a blue suited Jaguar Warrior in Pohl (1991, Plate B1 Triple Alliance Jaguar Warrior).

Shield02 Cuexyo Red - Pohl 1991 Plate B1 - Triple Alliance Jaguar Warrior

Shield02 Cuexyo Red – Pohl 1991 Plate B1 – Triple Alliance Jaguar Warrior

Shield04 appears in a tribute list of the Codex Mendoza next to a Jaguar suit (white with black spots)

Shield04 Cuexyo Green - Codex Mendoza - White Ocelotl Suit with Black Dots

Shield04 Cuexyo Green – Codex Mendoza – White Ocelotl Suit with Black Dots

Shield06 appears in a tribute list of the Codex Mendoza next to a blue frightful spectre suit.

Shield06 Cuexyo Red - Codex Mendoza - Blue Frightful Spectre Suit

Shield06 Cuexyo Red – Codex Mendoza – Blue Frightful Spectre Suit

Wise (1980) gives Shield01 as the shield of a Texcalan captain.

Shield01 Cuexyo Green - Wise 1980 - Texcalan captain

Shield01 Cuexyo Green – Wise 1980 – Texcalan captain


Cuextecatlchimalli (“Huaxtec shield”)

In addition to the Quetzalcuexyochimalli (“Quetzal feather Huaxtec shield”), the Aztec adopted at least two other shield designs from their Huaxtec enemy, both called Cuextecatlchimalli (“Huaxtec shield”).

Codex Mendoza describes the dress of a 2-captive warrior as a Huaxtec suit and matching shield.

Codex Mendoza - Rank 2 Warrior - Two Captive - Cuextecatl

Codex Mendoza – Rank 2 Warrior – Two Captive – Cuextecatl

Shield09 and Shield26 are from a b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a suit wearers. Colours conjectural.

Shield09 Cuextecatl - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield09 Cuextecatl – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural

Shield26 Cuextecatl - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield26 Cuextecatl – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural

Shield03 appears in a tribute list of the Codex Mendoza next to a Huaxtec suit of a similar blue with darker blue hawk scratches (the parallel lines).

Shield03 Cuextecatl Blue - Codex Mendoza - Blue Huaxtec Suit Wearer

Shield03 Cuextecatl Blue – Codex Mendoza – Blue Huaxtec Suit Wearer

Variations on a slightly different theme from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Could be carried by an Suit Wearers or ordinary Clan Warriors. Colours from Heath (1999).

Shield25 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield25 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield29 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield29 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield30 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield30 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield33 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999

Shield33 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala and Heath 1999


Texcalan shield

Shield28 appears to be almost as popular with Texcalans as the Quetzalcuexyochimalli mentioned above. I’ve seen it illustrated many times in various Codices being carried by Texcalans, but only one instance of it being carried by an Aztec. Unlike other shield designs, the colours of this one always seem to be the same.

Shield28 Texcalan

Shield28 Texcalan

Heath (1999) illustrates a similar shield carried only by Aztec rulers – called a Teocuitlateteyochimalli (“Silver stones shield”). It differs by having white full and partial pellets instead of the circles and semi-circles.


Texaxacalochimalli (“thick lips shield”)

The Texaxacalochimalli (“thick lips shield”) had stylised eyes and mouth. Texaxacalochimalli were very common and occurred in various colours. The example to the left is from Heath (1999) although the colours are conjectural. Some examples take the style to extreme showing just circles and lines.

Texaxacalochimalli (“thick lips shield”) with stylised eyes and mouth

Shield46 Texaxacalo - Heath 1999 - Colours Conjectural

Shield46 Texaxacalo – Heath 1999 – Colours Conjectural

Shield07 and Shield24 are from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a suit wearers. Colours conjectural, but based on a similar shield with three circles. This is one of the shields definitely carried by both Texcalans and Aztecs.

Shield07 Texaxacalo - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours conjectural

Shield07 Texaxacalo – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours conjectural

Shield24 Texaxacalo - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield24 Texaxacalo – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural

Shield16 is a 3 circle variation on the design above. From Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a suit wearer.

Shield16 Texaxacalo - Lienzo de Tlaxcala

Shield16 Texaxacalo – Lienzo de Tlaxcala

Shield36 is a slightly more elaborate version again.

Shield36 Texaxacalo - Lienzo de Tlaxcala

Shield36 Texaxacalo – Lienzo de Tlaxcala


Quetzalxicalcoliuhquichimalli (“Quetzal [mawcaw] feather shield with stepped fret design”)

As many as 10% of the shields depicted in the tribute section of the Codex Mendoza are of this type, and it wasn’t restricted to the Cuachicqueh as a Priest with six captives is also depicted with one (Heath 1999). The type was called a Quetzalxicalcoliuhquichimalli (“Quetzal [mawcaw] feather shield with stepped fret design”). It was always in green and yellow, although either portion could be either colour. Rim always red or yellow. The codex Mendoza contains three variations on this design, and other sources contain more.

The Cuachicqueh (Seven plus captives warriors) probably all used the distinctive shield illustrated. But it was not restricted to them as I have seen the same shield associated with other suits in the tribute lists of Codex Mendoza.

Codex Mendoza - Rank 7 Warrior - Seven Plus Captive - Cuachiqueh - Shorn Ones

Codex Mendoza – Rank 7 Warrior – Seven Plus Captive – Cuachiqueh – Shorn Ones

Cronofus says out the yellow and green portions of the design are meant to be the same shape, like an Aztec version of the Ying-Yang symbol. The shield of the Cuachicqueh warrior in from Codex Mendoza shown above does not have this symmetrical arrangement, so I have redrawn it to have the green and yellow sections matching (Shield51).

Shield51 Xicalcoliuhquichi - Codex Mendoza - Cuachicqueh

Shield51 Xicalcoliuhquichi – Codex Mendoza – Cuachicqueh

To be honest I’m not convinced by the symmetrical nature of the stepped fret shields. This rule may have applied to some, but the examples below are clearly not symmetrical.

Shield23 is from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a Texcalan suit wearer. Colours conjectural.

Shield23 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Texcalan - Colours conjectural

Shield23 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Texcalan – Colours conjectural

Shield11 is from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a suit wearer. Colours conjectural.

Shield11 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield11 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural

Shield12 is from Lienzo de Tlacala. Carried by a Texcalan suit wearer with a large fan backbanner (the backbanner is likely to be the Quiahiztlan royal banner). Colours Conjectural.

Shield12 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Texcalan - Colours Conjectural

Shield12 Quetzalxicalcoliuhqui – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Texcalan – Colours Conjectural


Mixtec style / Ychimalxupil

Heath (1999) says these patterns were based on Mixtec designs. All are from Lienzo de Tlaxcala with colours from Heath. Chronofus calls this a Ychimalxupil style.

Shield27 Ychimalxupil - Heath 1999

Shield27 Ychimalxupil – Heath 1999

Shield31 Ychimalxupil Black - Heath 1999

Shield31 Ychimalxupil Black – Heath 1999

Shield32 Ychimalxupil Black Red - Heath 1999

Shield32 Ychimalxupil Black Red – Heath 1999


Representations of Quetzalcoatl (“Feathered serpent”)

All are rendered in black and white, usually with white dots (stars) on the black part (Heath, 1999). The number of stars could vary.

Shield19 is the shield of the 4 captive Warrior Priest. The Priest wears a black suit and Huaxtec hat, both with white dots like the shield. (see Pohl, 1991, Plate C2 Mexica Warrior Priest ).

Shield19 Citlallo - Pohl 1991 Plate C2 - 4 Captive Warrior Priest

Shield19 Citlallo – Pohl 1991 Plate C2 – 4 Captive Warrior Priest

Shield20 with a feathered serpent from a b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a Texcalan suit wearer. Colours conjectural, but likely to be black and white – note the lack of stars.

Shield20 Citallo - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield20 Citallo – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural


Hihuiteteyochimalli (“feather pellets shield”)

Heath (1999) says the pellets are always white but the field could vary. He also mentions that this particular shield (with a yellow field and white rim) is carried by the 2-captive priest in the Codex Mendoza; I doubt this is the guy he means.

Codex Mendoza - Colhuacan Captor

Codex Mendoza – Colhuacan Captor

A variation is the zitlallochimalli (“Star-studded shield”) carried by Captains. It had nine pellets on a black field with a open feather border.


Northern Mexican

Apparently a traditional shield design of northern Mexico which the Aztecs brought south. Heath (1999) says most shields of this type were black and white, or red and white, but could also be in green and black, tan and black, etc.

Shield18 and Shield39 are carried by both a Coyote Warrior and another suit wearer in b/w scenes from Lienzo de Tlaxcala.

Shield18 Piano Key Black White - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Coyote - Colours Conjectural

Shield18 Piano Key Black White – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Coyote – Colours Conjectural

Shield39 Piano Key Black Tan - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Coyote - Colours Conjectural

Shield39 Piano Key Black Tan – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Coyote – Colours Conjectural

Shield37 Piano Key Red White - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Coyote - Colours Conjectural

Shield37 Piano Key Red White – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Coyote – Colours Conjectural

Shield38 Piano Key Black Green - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Coyote - Colours Conjectural

Shield38 Piano Key Black Green – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Coyote – Colours Conjectural

Colours based on Plate D Aztec Eagle Warrior (Wise, 1980); the shield in Wise has a feather fringe.

Shield08 Piano Key Blue Tan - Wise 1980 Plate D - Aztec Eagle Warrior

Shield08 Piano Key Blue Tan – Wise 1980 Plate D – Aztec Eagle Warrior

Shield40 is a particularly elaborate variation carried by a 3-captive priest (Heath, 1999).

Shield40 Piano Key Multicoloured - Heath 1999 - 3 Captive Priest

Shield40 Piano Key Multicoloured – Heath 1999 – 3 Captive Priest

Shield45 is a variation from the Codex Florentino with a chequered field rather than striped.

Shield45 Piano Key Chequered - Codex Florentino

Shield45 Piano Key Chequered – Codex Florentino


Poztequichimalli (“Cleft Shield”)

Design and colours from Heath (1999). Other colours were used.

Shield34 Poztequi Yellow Green - Heath 1999

Shield34 Poztequi Yellow Green – Heath 1999

Shield35 Poztequi Red White - Heath 1999

Shield35 Poztequi Red White – Heath 1999

Shields could be dissected in other ways. Shield48 is taken from Heath (1999).

Shield48 Poztequi Black White - Heath 1999

Shield48 Poztequi Black White – Heath 1999


Conch Shell

Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco carrying a conch-shell shield (Codex Ixtlilxochitl)).

Codex Ixtlilxochitl - Nezahualcoyotl

Codex Ixtlilxochitl – Nezahualcoyotl

Shield15 Conch-Shell - Codex Ixtlilxochitl - Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco

Shield15 Conch-Shell – Codex Ixtlilxochitl – Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco

In Heath (1999) the shell is shown pointing upward as in the next picture.

A b/w picture of ‘Tzilacatzin the mighty’ has Tzilacatzin carrying a shield with this pattern – looks to me similar to Nezahualcoyotl’s shield so I assume it is a variation on the Conch-Shell design. From the Florentine Codex. Colours Conjectural. Tzilacatzin was an Otinin Warrior who caused the Spanish some grief during the siege of Tenochtitlan.

Shield14 Conch-Shell - Florentine Codex - Tzilacatzin the Mighty - Colours Conjectural

Shield14 Conch-Shell – Florentine Codex – Tzilacatzin the Mighty – Colours Conjectural


Other shield designs

The guy is a sacrificial victim however his costume is that of the god Xipe Totec so may have been worn by Aztec Warrior Priests as well. Certainly the shield pattern looks similar to others in the illustrations.

Codex Magliabechiano - Sacrifice

Codex Magliabechiano – Sacrifice

Shield17 is carried by the shield bearer portrayed in D2 Tlaxcalan soldier (Pohl, 1991)

Shield17 Disk - Pohl 1991 Plate D2 - Tlaxcalan soldier

Shield17 Disk – Pohl 1991 Plate D2 – Tlaxcalan soldier

Shield10 is from a b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a Coyote warrior. Colours conjectural.

Shield10 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Coyote - Colours Conjectural

Shield10 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Coyote – Colours Conjectural

Shield21 is from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a Texcalan suit wearer. Colours conjectural.

Shield21 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Texcalan - Colours Conjectural

Shield21 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Texcalan – Colours Conjectural

Shield13 is from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a suit wearer. Colours conjectural.

Shield13 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Colours Conjectural

Shield13 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Colours Conjectural

Shieldd22 is from b/w illustration from Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Carried by a Texcalan suit wearer. Colours conjectural.

Shield22 - Lienzo de Tlaxcala - Texcalan - Colours Conjectural

Shield22 – Lienzo de Tlaxcala – Texcalan – Colours Conjectural


Shields for the common man

Clan warriors carried plain shields. The Codex Mendoza always has these shields in straw yellow, however, most were apparently been whitewashed. The border could be red, blue or white (Heath, 1999). None have feather fringes. The most common plain shield was white with a blue border.

Shield49 Plain White Blue

Shield49 Plain White Blue

Shield42 Plain Yellow Blue - Codex Mendoza

Shield42 Plain Yellow Blue – Codex Mendoza

Shield43 Plain Yellow Red - Codex Mendoza

Shield43 Plain Yellow Red – Codex Mendoza

Shield44 Plain Yellow White - Codex Mendoza

Shield44 Plain Yellow White – Codex Mendoza

In this case both the Aztec 3 captive warrior and his most recent conquest have the same shield design.

Codex Mendoza - Rank 3 Warrior with captive - Three Captive - Papalotl

Codex Mendoza – Rank 3 Warrior with captive – Three Captive – Papalotl


Shield Transfers

If you are painting 25mm figures then you can make your life easier. Veni Vidi Vici make Transfers (Decals) for 25mm Aztec Shields.

BB4 Aztec, 19 different designs. Available in:- Red, Black, White, Green, Blue or Yellow

You can check them out on the Veni Vidi Vici site.

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