The Best Ways To Create Flag Textures

Flag Textures

If you want to incorporate a flag texture in your next web design, check out our tutorials on creating realistic flag images for designers who are familiar with Photoshop. We also offer a walkthrough with a free alternative for those who don’t have a copy of the photo editing software.

The Best Ways To Create Flag Textures

Using textures in your web design can really help to give the page more depth. Where it’s background for a navigation bar or simple decoration, textures bring your page to life and add character. If you’re writing about something particularly patriotic or just want to add a fun effect to an existing logo, creating a flag texture can be a great way to add that uniqueness to your page or your image. It’s a relatively straightforward process if you have the right software and the patience to learn something new. From Photoshop to its free alternatives, these are the best ways to create a flag texture.

How We Choose Our Ratings

Often when we encounter best-of lists, there are clear list toppers, and usually obvious things to avoid. In this case, there are a few different ways to go about creating the flag texture for your website design, but there aren’t many, and the options generally require some degree of familiarity with at least one software program. With that in mind, we want to deliver accurate and honest information, and we believe these to be the best and easiest ways to create a waving flag texture to integrate into your web design.

Photoshop

Many web designers and graphic artists are already working in Photoshop, and for this reason, using this software is a great way to make a flag texture. It’s likely that you already have Photoshop if you have found your way to this article, but if you do not, don’t fret. We will offer a free option for those without the software.

If you are a web designer who already is familiar with and owns Photoshop, first you need to locate or create the image that you would like to apply the flag texture to, be it an actual flag image or another of your choosing. Once you know which image you would like to apply the effect to, then you will need to find a picture of fabric. A quick Google Image search should do the trick, but find one that is ruffled in a pattern that you like. Fabric images that appear to be draped are great for banners, while those with vertical folds work well for crafting the illusion of a flag waving in the wind.

Next, open both of these images in Photoshop. After both have been opened, begin applying effects to your fabric image. This effect is called Gaussian Blur. To find it, navigate to Filter. In the dropdown, locate Blur, and in the subsequent dropdown, find Gaussian Blur. This will open up a separate window with an image, plus and minus buttons, and a sliding scale for the Radius. Use the slider to adjust the Radius in a way that hides the details of the fabric. Some experimentation for this step is necessary. When you’re finished you should be left with only the folds of the fabric image, with the details hidden.

When you find an adjustment that looks right to you, save your newly edited image as a PSD layered image file. If you do not save your image as a PSD, this effect will not work.

After that, it is time to focus on your flag image. For this portion, you need to add a displacement filter to your chosen image. Apply the displacement filter to your image using your newly saved fabric photo. Navigate to Filter, and select Distort in the dropdown. In the following dropdown, click Displace. This opens the Displace window. Set the Horizontal Scale as well as the Vertical Scale to 10, and select Stretch To Fit under Displacement Map. Then, select Wrap Around beneath Undefined Areas, and click OK.

Now you should have a vague resemblance of the image that you’re actually wanting, but there’s something missing. Make your fabric layer active again, and select the whole image with ctrl+a. Copy the image with ctrl+c, and then paste it onto your chosen image with ctrl+v. Once you have pasted the fabric layer over your image, change the layer mode to Hard Light.

Voila, you are finished! You should now have an image with an overlaid texture that creates the illusion of a folded, crumpled, waving, or draped flag. Keep in mind that this effect can be used on any image, including those that are not flags, and have fun crafting entertaining wavy textures for any of your images in Photoshop.

Gimp

For those graphic designers who do not own or have access to Photoshop, there is an alternative that you can download for free. Gimp, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is an image editing software that is similar to Photoshop and can be used for retouching, editing, freeform drawing, image format conversion and more. If you are a graphic designer without access to Photoshop, Gimp is your next best bet, and the software is even offered for Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows.

Once you have downloaded Gimp, you need to select an image of a flag or another image that you would like to apply the flag texture to. You also need to find an image of fabric. As mentioned in the Photoshop section, make sure the folds in the fabric picture coincide with the way you would like your finished image to look. If you would like it to appear draped, find an image of draped fabric, and so on. It is worth noting that white flags work best for this effect, unless you want the pattern of the fabric to also show in your finished design.

After you have located these images, open them in Gimp. On the image of the fabric, if the fabric covers the entire image, select it with ctrl+a. If the fabric is part of an image, like that of an actual waving flag on a flagpole, use the lasso tool to carefully cut out the section of the fabric. Note that you should be as precise as possible when cutting the fabric image if your entire image does not consist of the fabric. Once it had been selected, cut the image with ctrl+x, and paste the flag into a new image with ctrl+v. If background layers were generated when you pasted, delete them, and then navigate to Image and select Fit Canvas to Layers. This makes the field around your fabric transparent.

Next, navigate to Colors and find Desaturate in the dropdown menu. Even if your original flag was white, it is still important to desaturate the image. There are a few options from Gimp here, and it is best to experiment with the settings until you have found something that looks right to you.

When you have found optimal settings for your fabric, open the image of your flag or your other selected image, and copy it into a new layer of your fabric image. Use the Scale tool to resize the new layer until it is roughly the same height as your edited fabric image. You may also choose to reduce the opacity of your chosen image to better see the fabric shape underneath.

Using the Perspective tool, try to match the corners of your flag or other chosen image to the fabric shape. Too much reliance on this tool may cause the final product to look warped, however. You can make the fabric layer and your chosen image layer the same size by clicking Layer to Image Size in the Layers dialogue.

It is possible that there are now areas where the fabric and your chosen image overlap or do not line up, but they need to match precisely. If your chosen image overlaps your fabric image’s edges, activate the fabric layer, and use Select by Color on the transparent background. Then, change back to the layer of your chosen image and simply press delete. The overlaps will be trimmed away.

If your fabric image stretches past the perimeter of your chosen image, select the transparency, then invert your selection with ctrl+l. This should select only the flag and prevents you from going outside of the lines. Then, use the Paintbrush tool to color parts of the flag showing through. You can use the dropper tool to select colors that match your flag directly from the image.

Next, navigate to Filters and select Map from the dropdown, and then click Displace. This opens a separate window. Make sure both of the dropdown boxes here have the fabric layer selected. You can leave the displacement values at their default settings. Select Wrap for Edge Behavior and Cartesian for Displacement Mode, and click OK.

You may think you did something incorrectly, but your image will likely look like a mess at this point. It won’t for long. Move your fabric image on top of the flag image layer and set its mode to Hard Light. This should make your image look extremely overexposed.

Once you’ve achieved this effect, navigate to Colors and find Levels in the drop down menu. This opens up a window with sliders that can fix the balance of the image. Again, adjust the sliders until the image looks reasonable to you.

The displacement process may have the flag looking rough around the edges, but this can sometimes be fixed with a combination of clever Smudge tool, Paint Brush, and Eraser usage. Take your time here, as it directly affects how your end result looks. When you think it looks its best, merge the layers into one, and now you’re finished! Export the image and use it in your web design however you wish. Try the effect on images that aren’t flags and see where the inspiration takes you.

Buyer’s Guide

You may have noticed that the option to create a flag texture using Gimp is a much lengthier process than that of using Photoshop. This is the beauty of certain paid software, as more advanced programs generally offer a better ease of use and user interface. While you can make perfectly passable flag textures with Gimp, the free option may not look as good as one created in Photoshop. Of course, not every designer can purchase Photoshop, and this is where Gimp becomes an invaluable resource that offers a very close photo-editing experience for absolutely free.

For those who wish to purchase Photoshop for the community access and ease of use, here are a few tips:

  • Keep your budget in mind. This should be obvious, but it is worth noting that if you’re breaking the bank to invest in this software, rethinking the purchase may be in order. 
  • Find the plan that is right for you. Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud offers a few different month-to-month and annual plans. Research on the 
  • Adbobe website to find out which option has the features you need without the ones that you don’t. Keep in mind that Photoshop is no longer available outside of a subscription. If a subscription-based service is not your cup of tea, you may need to take steps to find an alternative.
  • Try before you buy. On Adobe’s own website, you can access a trial version of Photoshop to give it a test drive. When you will have plenty of time to dedicate to evaluating the software, give the trial period a chance and try a small project. If the project turns out well, or even if the project turns out poorly but you had fun in the process, you will know if Photoshop is an investment that you should consider further.

Whether you decide to purchase a subscription to Photoshop or build your chops in the free alternative Gimp, creating a flag texture for your next web design project should be a snap. Use these tips and experiment with other tools in your photo editing software that may make your image look even more realistic or give it more depth. Remember that you are creating an illusion, and because of this, you may get hung up on your own design. Take a break and come back if you get frustrated during the process. You may be delighted to discover it looks better than you thought.