Sunday, March 08, 2015

 Making Draped Flags 

 By Mitch Berdinka   

There are numerous sources for flags on the internet and you can buy them readily from many sources. The one problem they all have, however, is they don’t look natural. Flags don’t hang straight out unless they are in a stiff breeze. See the following photo of a flags. Notice how the rear ends hang lower than the end attached to the pole.

What’s needed is a way to convert Rectangular flag shapes to a parallelogram

A parallelogram has opposite sides parallel and equal in length. Also opposite angles are equal (angles "a" are the same, and angles "b" are the same). We need to put our square or rectangular flags into a parallelogram like the one on the right above.
Well there is a simple program that will do it for you if you know how to use it. I’ve had good luck with it and hope you will give it a try. I’m sure there are easier graphics programs out there that will do it far easier, but such programs can be expensive and if you are on a limited budget you’d rather spend money on figures to wargame with rather than a software program you might use one in awhile. The program I use is totally free and you may already have it on your computer. Its MS Paint. Not the newer on that comes with Windows 7 or 8, but the older one that was provided with Windows up to the XP version. Its available here: of you can just do a Google search for “Paint XP”.
You can use the new version of Paint to do this, but the commands are in different paces and I found it harder to use, but the process is the same. Now if each side of the flag is the same, it’s a little easier, but I’ll show you how to do one where each side is different. Once you know how to do that, the simpler flags are a snap to do. One thing you have to be careful of is to make sure you don’t invert any text so that it reads backward.
So to start out I’ve found a French Napoleonic Flag of the 3rd Line Regiment. The better image you start out with the better the finished product will be. It looks as follows:

So call this image up in MS Paint. We’ll be using the “select” toll to do most of this process. It’s the dashed rectangular box icon near the upper left section of the screen. See below.

What we want to do is separate each side of the flag from the center section. This is so we can skew each side into a parallelogram. Each side needs to be the same size so “select” each side and move slightly away from the center section. You may have to increase your working area to do this and center you flag image in the center so you have room to move items left and right. You use the Zoom tool to make it easier position the select tool.  See below:

Move the left side also. When done you should have something like this:

Now comes the tricky part. Select the right side. You can have some gap between the flag image and the select tool, but make it even around the image. Then we will use the “Stretch/ Skew” tool. The Skew values for the right side of the flag are -15(that’s Minus or Negative 15) for both the Vertical and Horizontal. This works for me but you may want to use a little more or little less. You can to experiment a bit to find something that suits your needs, but the fifteen value is a god start point.

Now we have to get the image so the sides are vertical again. We do this by skewing it again, but this time the values are different. Use the “select” tool as before, but this time enter Positive 14 for the Horizontal skew value and Minus 14 for the Vertical skew value. Why 14, I don’t know, it just works out that way. Using 15 overcorrects the sides aren’t vertical. So if you use a different starting value, the correction value will be different also. A little experimentation may be required. If you make a mistake, hit “Edit/Undo” or “Control Z “  to take you back.
If your flag is identical on both sides and does not have any text, then all we would do is “select” the image, copy it, then paste it into your Paint working area. Then all we need do it select it and use “Flip/Roate” tool under the “Image” tab to flip it horizontally and then proceed to move the sides together as described further below.
Now we use the same process on the left side of the flag. The initial “Skew” values for the left side of the flag are positive 15 for both the Vertical and Horizontal. The correction values to bring the side vertical are minus 14 for the Horizontal and positive 14 for the Vertical.  You should now have something like this:

All that remains is to bring both sides together so they meet up with the center portion. You will have to lengthen the center portion to match the sides. Do this by using the “select” tool to copy one end of the center section and pasting it on to get the correct length. When done you should have the following:

Now print out the image, cut it out and glue to the flag pole of you units. Printing it out to the correct size may be a problem, but I’ll leave that to another article. Suffice it to say, some trial and error may be involved, but I’ll assume you’ll know how to use your own computer. When you glue it on, bend the flag to give it a slightly “S” shape and it will look like its billowing in the wind.
Below is a comparison of two Napoleonic Spanish units, one with a rectangular flag and one with flags that have been modified using the procedure above. Which one looks better to you?

Hope you have found this article useful and can use it to improve the looks of your wargaming armies. MS Paint is a fairly useful tool and its FREE! The best flags I’ve seen that you can buy are from the Flag Dude. He can be found here He has really nice stuff made by some proprietary process. I think it’s the material he prints them on. They look beautiful but are expensive, $4 for a single 15mm flag. The process above should give us “economy” wargamers some nice looking flags to use on the battlefield.