Thursday 31 May 2012

Tutorial: Flags

When you followed the posts concerning my Napoleonic Brits you probably have noticed that they are equipped with several flags. Although there are several dealers who offer excellent pre-painted flags I decided to try my luck and make them by myself. Because I'm rather satisfied with the result I'd like to share the way I made them:

1st Step: Find pictures:
Fortunately the World Wide Web bears a lot of information concerning the Napoleonic period. Plain pictures of flags aren't that easy to find but there is an excellent website around the 100-days-campaign with detailed information about uniforms and flags: Link (French Site). Additionally there are some excellent Osprey books covering the flags during the Napoleonic Wars and other periods: Link (Osprey's website).

2nd Step: Prepare and print flags:
There are several ways to get the flags you need when you found matching graphical material. The most challenging way is for sure painting them by hand or at least trace the pictures and colour them by hand. Well I'm not that skilled as a freehand painter and I want to be able to finish the flags for a whole brigade in a reasonable amount of time. Therefor I decided to use the instruments of modern picture editing software. I used a picture which I found at Mont St. Jean (Link). It showed one side of the flag and some spontoon and tassels in front of it. So I cleared the picture, mirrored it for the other side and restored the writing and the symbols which shouldn't be mirror-inverted. Additionally I inserted a red rectangle at the place where the banner pole is to be glued on.
Then I printed the flags in the right size (for 28mm British a flag of 28mm height is fine) on our inkjet printer, cut them with a frame to pin them on a piece of foameboard and covered them with three or four layers of spray varnish. I used the same varnish I use for the miniatures and fortunately nothing became blurred.
The painted and varnished King's Colour of the 44th Rgt. of Foot "East Essex"
3rd Step: Prepare the banner pole:

The correct length of the pole would be about 3 metres including the top. Divided by 56 for 28 mm (1:56 scale ratio) it's about 5.35 cm. The top has about 0.4 cm so I cut a oiece of 1 mm brass wire of 5 cm length. Then I sharpend the edges slightly to make it easier to glue the top on and to glue the pole into the colour bearer's ferrule.

The prepared banner pole.
4th Step: Glue the flag onto the pole:
First I glued the banner pole into the middle of the flagsheet (back of the red rectangle) with superglue. After drying I glued the rest of the banner with a glue stick for paper. I decided to use another glue for that because I wanted to have the longer drying time to be able to bent the flags a bite like waving in the wind. In favour of that I twisted the flag around to pieces of round timber and fastend everything rubber bands.
The drying flag.
5th Step: PVA glue for more strength:
Since those flags are to be used for gaming I wanted to have them a bit stronger. Therefor I covered them with two or three layers of thinned down PVA glue. After drying it's nearly clear and because of the very thin cover I couldn't recognise any corruption of the colours.

6th Step: Finishing touches:
Now it's really easy to finish the flags. I painted the white paper edges and the poles in suitable colours as well as the banner tops which I cut of the plastic banner poles which where delivered with the figures. Then I glued everything together: The poles, the tops and the bearers...

The finished Colours.
There are some minour flaws which might be improved but generally I'm really pleased with the result. Since I didn't find a dealer who offers really each and every flag I might need, this is the way I'll make all the banners for my Napoleonics.

I hope you enjoyed this little turorial and perhaps it helps some of you. It's really no big deal to make such things if you're passably skilled with picture editing.


  1. Superb tutorial, thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the tutorial, rather timely, as I'm about to embark on some flag making.

  3. Thanks for this good tutorial!

  4. Excellent work Monty!!!
    I do relatively the same thing, I always spray varnish my flags as you do, glue the flag together using paper glue like you, then glue the flag to the pole using pva, I've tried superglue but sometimes its ruined the flag. Lastly I paint the edge of the flag using the colour scheme from the flag...and that's it!

  5. Excellent work, thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks ....
    High value information ..... and pretty pics .... i will follow your blog .... thanks

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  7. A great tutorial, thank you for posting it. Like you, I've used image editing software for flags in the past and it works well. Nice tip for getting the flags to wave using wood. I have always put the wave in by hand and it can be a bit of a hit and miss method!