A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fonts for Flags

This is a plea for a bit of help - it's not a critical matter, by any means, but it is possible that someone who is interested in printing military flags may have some useful suggestions.

As one of the sideshows of my wargaming, I enjoy researching, designing (or "laying out") flags with PaintShop and printing them up in the correct size for issue to the 20mm troops. In an ideal world, I would like to be able to hand paint my flags, but I don't have the skill and the results would disappoint me, so I print them on the posh graphic printer, using posh photographic paper. Works fine, and if they fade I can always re-print them.

Recently I've been looking to produce some more examples of convincing-looking flags for Spanish irregular units in the Guerra de Independencia (Peninsular War). Of course they are going to be fakes - no-one has an exact idea what most of these flags looked like, so my aim is to produce something which looks fairly convincing, and is generic enough to allow the unit to change its identity to suit the scenario!

Here are three reproductions (not mine) of some real flags. I am interested in the style of the lettering - the guys that made up these flags were not necessarily sloppy or lacking in taste - they wanted their flags to look good, and the lettering presumably looks like what lettering was supposed to look like on such flags. In other words, what you see here was to some extent constrained by lack of money or time, but it represents a contemporary style.

I've spent a couple of interesting evenings searching for antique fonts on the internet (and that's free fonts, boys and girls), and I've found a lot of interesting stuff, but I find that it is very hard to get graphic designers or font specialists to stray far away from the Germanic "Olde English" lettering I used to see on marmalade labels, and in general their products are far too slick and far too marketing-oriented for my purposes. I understand that no-one is likely to make a TrueType font as crude as some of these, but any kind of unsanitised 18th-19th century lettering would be refreshing.

This is maybe a long shot, but has anyone got any ideas for sources for the kind of historic fonts I'm talking about?


  1. I googled '18th century fonts' and came up with a few free candidates. I'm not sure if they're as rustic as you're looking for, but it might be a start. The URL for my search terms is http://www.google.com.au/search?aq=f&gcx=w&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=18th+century+fonts

    1. Thanks for the link - appreciated - it got me back to some of the sites I'd seen before, but a couple of new things too. One of the more interesting sources I found was a discussion thread on gameboardgeek.com (of all places) - anyway, one approach which may give some decent results is to use caslon or jsl antique font, use small capitals for lower case, and mess around with the spacings in the graphics tool.

      Cheers - thanks again - Tony

  2. Eamon Honan directed me here. I am a design professional with an interest in wargaming.

    You face an almost unique challange, in that you are seeking to reproduce what one might call 'folk typography/heraldry'. The examples you present illustrate a strange intersection of a typographic sensibility married to the constraints of an insurgent miltia. This produces the identifiable, yet hard to reproduce, strain of heraldry that strives to be uniform, but ultimately betrays it's origins amongst those who oppose the ruling power.

    I would be interested in lending my skills to trying to reproduce the style of these insurgents for the project you have in mind.

    1. Greetings - thanks for getting in touch. I am keen not to say the wrong thing here, so please bear with me if I stumble about.

      I don't think we get many design professionals in here - we do get a number of excellent figure painters - even sculptors. I would be delighted to get some assistance in identifying or creating a font similar to the coffee-coloured flag in the post, but my resources and the casual nature of the project would militate against my spending any actual money on this! If you are interested in some form of gentle collaborative effort to produce something which would be freely available to anyone else with an interest in the hobby, please email me via the contact details in my Blogger profile.

      In particular, any pointers to a DIY font creator tool which is capable of being handled by someone who does not wish to take a degree in the subject would be most welcome.

      Best regards - Tony

  3. I use Adobe Illustrator which has an extensive list of fonts, one of which looks vaguely like the font (Capital letters anyway) in your coffee-coloured flag. The font is called Caslon, apparently it was in widespread use in the 18th century. I found one web site with some historical and practical information, including downloadable font packages (with Caslon):


    I don't know if it does the job you need it to, but the font is free in any case!



    1. Jim - thanks very much for this - I found Caslon yesterday, and it looks promising - another free font of similar style is called JSL Antique. I've also been looking at shareware font design software - it might be possible to create a font like the one on the coffee flag. btw - I spent a while looking to see if there was ever a pattern on the coffee flag, and I don't see anything - I guess it was just plain white cloth with writing on it, like a parade banner!



  4. There are a set of fonts that come with the free Fantasy Role-Playing mapper software, AutoRealm.. you may not need the mapping software but their "archaic fonts" are quite nice... it's all free so worth a try??? I'm not connected other than that I have the fonts on my PC - guess I tried the mapping s/w at some time! :o)

    "A new set of seven archaic and runic fonts is provided : AutoREALM, AutoREALM Blackletter, AutoREALM Cuniform, AutoREALM Futhark, AutoREALM Hieroglyphics, AutoREALM Mentelin, AutoREALM Phoenician. Curve-fitted text : text can be curved along a Bezier curve, be left-right-center justified. The classic Bold/Italic/Underline styles are provided, too".

    Link... http://autorealm.sourceforge.net/download.php

  5. Steve - thanks very much for this - I've downloaded the software - the Mentelin font looks especially interesting.

  6. What a great post and what an idea Mr Foy!! Love it, I'd love to help but can't think of anything that everyone else has already said, I shall follow your progress with keen interest!!!