Design your own flag

Posted: 11/05/2020 | Scottish War Blinded

Michael McAllister, Art Volunteer at the Hawkhead Centre, has created an art activity to keep veterans engaged during lockdown. 

Many members who attend one of Scottish War Blinded’s activity hubs are missing spending time in the art room. To keep members engaged with art, Michael has created a ‘design your own flag’ activity which veterans can do from home. 

Here, Michael, explains how to get started:


Hello everyone.  I hope you are all faring well and keeping creative.

I can’t believe it’s May already and the 75th anniversary of VE Day has come and gone.  Across the nation, flags were raised in honour of those who fought to free Europe from tyranny during the Second World War. 

Flags have always been so important to us. Whether a national flag or a regimental banner, they symbolise in one image the values that tie us together as a community.

Which flags are important to you? 


The brief:

For this exercise, I’m going to ask you to design a flag that represents either yourself or someone important to you.  If you have a group of friends for example, you might consider making a flag for them.

Though most flags represent positivity and community, remember that some represent less savoury values.  Please bear this in mind as you develop your flag, especially if you’re designing one for someone else, please be kind and respectful.  Even satire can hurt!

Together, we will look at the design decisions that go into making a flag look great!  For this exercise, I’ll break the design process down into four easy steps. 

They are Research & Reference, Brainstorm Ideas, Refine Your Design and Finish Your Flag.


Step 1: Research and Reference 

Before you put pencil to paper, I would like you to decide who your flag is for. 

Once you’ve decided who your flag will represent, I want you to get a general feeling for how different types of flags look.  A quick Google search shows that there are a broad range of aesthetics out there when it comes to flags.

National flags for example are generally brightly coloured with simple geometric shapes. Historical flags such as Roman banners, pirate flags and medieval heraldry all offer a fantastic way of adding a theme to your work. American state flags look great as they generally have a detailed central emblem (often an animal) with a simple coloured background.

Similarly, inanimate objects are used on flags to great effect to symbolise a variety of different things.  If you were to add an object to your flag, what would you like it to symbolise?

There are so many different styles of flag out there.  If you are able, why not do a little research for yourself and gain some inspiration!


Did you know?

The study of flags is formally known as Vexillology (from the Latin word vexillum: meaning flag).

By extension, you as a flag designer are taking part in the practice of vexillography!

Once you have a rough idea of your desired flag aesthetic, I would like you to think about the characteristics or the individual or group for whom you are designing your flag.



What colours will your flag be?  Do you or they have a favourite colour? Think about the colours you associate with your subject such as attire or decor.

What colours would best represent your subject?

Consider colour psychology when representing characteristics as colours have the power to  evoke moods in the viewer.

Primary colours

Red = passion and Impulse.  Blue = calmness & coolness, Yellow = happiness & fun

Secondary colours

Green = serenity & vitality.  Orange = enthusiasm and warmth. Purple = ambition & sophistication


Black = strength & darkness.  Grey = neutrality & control. White = purity & morality


Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas

Once you’ve done a little research, it’s time to put some ideas down on paper.  The best way to do this is by drawing a few miniature flags on one sheet of paper in a process we call thumb-nailing.  At this stage, ideas are more important than neatness.  You don’t have to spend long doing this, just so long as you draw some designs and pick one you like. 

Simply draw a few rough rectangles out on some scrap paper before filling them with your ideas.

Pro tip: At this stage, focus on the big shapes first.  You can add detail later if needed.


Step 3: Refining your Design

Once you’ve settled on your favourite idea, it’s time to take that design forward to the refinement stage.  Draw out four rectangles on a piece of paper and in each rectangle, roughly redraw your design with a slightly different layout or colour scheme in each. 

Once you’ve created four variations of your design, take a look at them and choose your favourite one. That design will become your final flag.


Step 4: Finish your Flag 

Up until now you have been creating quick, rough drawings to brainstorm ideas and develop your design.

Now you are ready to create your final flag.  My advice here is to take things slowly, draw out your chosen design as neatly as you can in pencil before finishing with any other supplies you have to hand.

I’m aware that not everyone has fancy art materials to hand, so just use whatever you have at home.  Whether you’re using printer paper with colouring pencils or applying oils on canvas, the idea and the story behind your flag is the most important thing here.

Remember, your finished flag need not be very big. Just go with a size that is comfortable for your eyes.  For me, that’s around A5 size (6”x8”).

As always, we would love to see what you’ve come up with!  If you are posting your flag on the 'Members and Friends of Scottish War Blinded' Facebook group, please let us know who or what your flag represents and what the inspiration behind your design was.

Good luck!