Friday, June 10, 2016

Painting my own Flags

So I was watching YouTube videos of painting figures and terrain while painting the last of my Spanish Renaissance army and I came across this video Carrying the Banner.  So I watched it and was inspired to try it.  After heading out to the local art supply store to pick up some Japanese Brush Painting Paper, which I ended up buying three different types after looking at the 5 or 6 different types they had at the store.  One came in a roll called Hosho Paper and the other two were different types of Rice paper.  The Hosho Paper was in a roll and cover with a paper label so I couldn't see how thick it was when I bought it.  Once I got it home and cut a piece off, I found that it was transparent enough to trace a design but a little too opaque to make out fine detail.  So I decided against it.  I then took out one of the other sheets of Rice Paper.  It was thin enough to see details while I traced a flag.  Now I will preface this whole project that I am no artist.  I am terrible at freehand drawing, hence the reason I needed a thin paper to trace the flags.  If you watched the above video, you will notice that she drew in a lot of the detail for the flag she was working with and it was 28mm.  I was going to work with a 10mm or 15mm flag.  I ended up using 15mm flags for this project with 10mm figures.  The 15mm flags allowed me to see detail and paint them.  Also these flags were going to be added to the commander bases so having a larger flag seemed appropriate. 

Now on to how I tackled this project.

The top flag is the one I started with and I thought it would be easy to transfer to the rice paper.  

After taping the flag to the table and then placing the rice paper on top, I grabbed a ruler and started to draw in the straight lines. I found out that the pencil point I was using was too thick.  I needed a mechanical pencil with a thinner point.  The thicker point made drawing in detail difficult and actually did the tracing part twice.  The second time is what you see above.  The first one was rather ragged.   Like the video states you have to use a pair of scissors to cut this paper as it will tear if you use a knife.  The paper is like fabric in certain ways. 

The colors I picked for the flag.  I also used black to outline the edge of the flag so there wouldn't be a white edge. 

The brown stripes were painted. I used the paint straight out of the bottle. Only on occasion did I thin some of the paint a little.

Now I painted in the white.  I should have thought this one through a little more and applied a light grey to the flag first.  The white didn't POP the way I was hoping.  I did a second flag as well with white and coated it with Sky Grey first and the White looked fantastic.

Now I applied the red.  You can see that some of the brown and white stripes aren't even in thickness.  Part of that came from my failure at tracing the lines with a thinner pencil point.

Now just like the video I took the flag and flipped it over and applied a coat of scenic cement (she uses thinned PVA).  The paper was thin enough and I had coated the flag really well that it was difficult to peel off the table.  So using a the edge of an exacto knife I picked up a corner and started to apply it the flag pole.  This took the most time.  Just trying to align the edges was fun (read sarcasm into this.).  

Once I finally got it all aligned I dabbed a little bit of Cyanoacrylate to the base of the flag and flag pole. That helped in keeping it on the pole.  As the glue dried I started to shape the flag.  Because I did such a horrible job with the initial lines I decided to make the flag look like it was flowing in a strong breeze.  Like in the video the rice paper is very workable and you can shape the flag in almost any direction very easily.  You just have to be patient and as the glue is drying keep shaping it. Once you have the shape you want keep a little bit a pressure on it and it will set.  The flag dried to the touch in about an hour.  It's been several hours since I took this above photo and the flag is very stiff and wont move now.

Despite the difficulties I had with the first flag I pushed on and did two more today. I did all three flags in one day. Now mind you I did have to stop and do a few things around the house and so on, so I didn't work on these straight.  From start to finish, from tracing the flag to placing it on the figure took about 45 minutes.  That was also taking a few minutes to let paint dry and so on.

The middle flag is the one where I painted the sky grey on the white areas first before painting on the white.

The above photos are of the three flags I did in one day.  The red and yellow striped flag was my last one and it is ( I think) my best one.  These will now become part of the command stands for the army.

I do like this technique and I'm sure I will get better at it as I practice it more. I have a French army to work on next but I have decided that I will only use this procedure for the command stands.  The regular standard bears with the units will get paper flags.

I hope you found this interesting.  Please take a look at the video link if you want more details on creating your own banners.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. My only concern is that with many flags both sides are not shown and that might be problematic. I do commend you for making the effort to do something like this even though, self-admittedly, you are not a good artist. This effort should definitely encourage those of us who share that concern.

  2. Hooray! You have a fine scratchbuild job, sir from start to finish. They are finely wrought and should look grand on the battle field.

  3. One advantage of painted flags is that the colors are always deeper and more vivid than all but the most expensive printed flags. The bold, simple designs of this era are especially suited to this technique!

  4. That video was a great find, thank you! This sounds a great way to attempt to do flags and standards.

    My free-hand drawing skills are lamentable (ok, non-existent), but I do wonder if it's possible to print on such paper via an inkjet to get the general outlines.

    1. The only thing I would worry about with printing on this type of paper is whether or not the ink would bleed. The paper is very absorbent which might not work. The other thing is that it doesn't come in 8"x11" sheets like regular printer paper. The piece I ended buying was more poster size and you would have to trim that down to make it fit in a printer.

    2. OK, good points. I think my printer can print on photo-sized paper (not that I have ever tried) so I might have a shot at that once I source some paper - at least there would be lest wastage if it goes pear-shaped.