Monday, March 24, 2008

Making Flags

Some have asked me to post a description of how I make flags. It is fairly simple; I use Napflags (primarily), but also I purchase some of them in 25mm and reduce them for 15mm. In doing this, the manufacturer of choice is GMB, but I ALWAYS purchase the GMB flags I want before reproducing them. In other words, I don't replicate purchased flags more than once, and I do NOT condone the absconding of copyrighted material. Don't forget that if it weren't for copyright protection, the wonderful choice of stuff to buy would not likely exist! Napflags offers flag files free of charge, with no restriction on how many one reproduces. Ergo, it is a good practice to donate to the Warflag website (the site Napflags are available from) to keep it up and free. I first open the Napflag JPEG files using the MS Paint program.

In the Paint program, the desired flags are selected and copied to the clipboard. To print the flags, I paste the selected image into MS Word and resize on the page. Resizing can be a challenge, as the size of the image on the screen is NOT necessarily what comes out of the printer (even at "100%" zoom). Trial and error is the only way to get the proper size, but I'd estimate that the flags shown below should be resized to just about 4.5" on the scale at the top of the screen. This produces flags that are just about 16mm in height, which is roughly the size of the British regulation King's and Regimental colors.

The image is then sent to the printer, an HP PSC 750 - by now an antique piece of equipment, but highly effective in making 15mm flags! Once the flags are printed, I find that the printed images need to be coated with a flat lacquer, due to the fact that the ink is water based, and without the lacquer coating, the colors will run when trying to glue and paint them. I like the Armory's matte sealer, which is generally available in hobby stores.

The flags are cut once the sealer is dry, either with a hobby knife or with scissors. The inside of the flag is then painted with white glue, folded around a temporary "pole" (in this case, a piece of brass wire). I usually allow the white glue to set for a little while before making the "waves" by using a small paintbrush handle as a shaping tool.

Once the white glue is dried, all that is left is to paint and fix the flag. I like the Napflag images because the colors are vibrant, and there are files with "texture" embedded into them. I use the "textured" flags because of the variation in color that actually serves to define the features of the flag far better than the non-textured flags. For British flags, I'll start by painting the edges (folding the flag causes the edges to become mis-aligned) with shade colors. The blue is shaded with Vallejo Prussian Blue (#965). The red is shaded with a maroon color - almost any maroon color would work, and in this case, I used one of those cheap bottles available at Wal-Mart, FolkArt True Burgandy (#456). At the same time, I cover any obvious incongruities in the printed color on the flag.

Highlights are then applied - blue highlight color for this flag is Reaper Miniatures Dragon Blue (#18014), and the red highlight is Vallejo Vermillion (#909). The highlights are painted on in a more or less diagonal direction from the inside top of the flagpole to the outside bottom of the flag. White is highlighted with Vallejo White (#951), although almost any white would work. Once the highlights are applied, the painting of the flag is complete, and can be fixed to the figure.

In my opinion, one shouldn't use the cast flagpole that comes with a 15mm figure. The reason is that it is very fragile, and they tend to bend and break when one plays games with them. My solution may be a little counter-intuitive to some - I simply don't use a pole. Instead, I cut the molded pole, remove the flag from the temporary brass pole and super glue the flag to the molded figure.

The last pic shows the figure completed, with the top of the pole glued in where it should be. This should show why 16ga wire makes for the best temporary pole - when the flag is removed, the white glue used to shape the flag also preserves its shape around the wire, which fits perfectly with most molded flagpoles.

Some wonder whether this procedure, which leaves a large part of the flag without an actual pole could possible be robust enough for use on the game table. My experience is that this procedure works exceptionally well; if a figure is dropped or bumbled somehow, one simply needs to straighten the flag, and it looks as good as it did the day you affixed the flag to the figure! Next up will be an article on painting piping and lace.


Fuller said...

This has to be one of the best tutorials on using paper flags that I have come across.


Fuller said...

One of the best tutorials for using paper flags that I have ever come across.


Mark Case said...

Thanks for the support! I haven't posted for a while, so I guess I should get busy . . .

Tajima1 said...

Mark, this is an excellent blog. I have just returned to Napoleonic figures after a long break and treated myself to some AB French. I found your tutorial on flags first rate and have used your technique. The idea ref. cutting the flagpole is inspired and makes a far better job. Great work, keep it up and I look forward to following your posts.

John said...

Excellent work! I agree, one of the best paper flag tutorials out there!

John said...

Excellent work!