Making Cartoon Flags from those “Free” Practice Flags

| November 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

[We used these flags with the parade tune: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” Adams

(published by Alfred]


  • Solid Color Flags in the Color of the Character

My Grinch was on green.  I have done patterns for Mario on flesh (tan) with a blue hat and black mustache, Rudolph on light brown with red nose and sparkle ears, Frosty on white, Spongebob on yellow.  The black marker shows better if you don’t get too dark with the color of the flag.  You can use the solid flags you get as “free” practice flags when you order a set of show flags from many companies or you can order new flags (or used ones from guardroom – they have a practice category!).

  • Pattern

I made my own pattern.  I used Photo Elf to make the pattern because it has a poster option where I can blow the image up as large as I want.  Some students are fantastic at freehanding cartoons as well.  It’s a great way to get them involved!

  • Markers

Sharpies work the best.  I used the Sharpie Chisel Tip.  You have to rotate them as they get dry.  If you store them tip down they will be “reloaded” for the next day.  For 16 flags I used 8 Sharpies.

  • Fabric For Contrast

Be creative!  I used leftover yellow that I had in the closet and then bought sparkle mesh for the pupil in the eyes.


I used a t-shirt as inspiration for my design.  I simplified the design by eliminating the mouth and some of the wrinkles so it was a more simple design but still recognizable as the character.

Kids can help with this step, some are very savvy with painting programs or with freehand sketching.

If you don’t have a program to make poster sections, use the old trick of dividing the picture into 4 down, 5 across for a 34 x 56 flag and freehand the sections on to letter size paper.

I enlarged my design to the exact ratio as the flag—34 x 56. Photoelf allows me to do that. It also allows me to make a poster of regular letter-size sections, so I made mine 5 across by 4 high, printed in landscape setting. (I omitted the ones that were void of drawing.)

Next, I taped the pattern to my picture window (good thing it was October, everyone thought it was a scary Halloween decoration!)   I put up paper to trace the pattern for the eye.

Now I was ready to trace!  

  • I started in a section where the black line was wide to check for how the ink will bleed out from the marker tip.  Once you know this, try to keep the chisel tip at the same angle and be consistent from flag to flag.  I
  • used a “scribble” technique, short strokes to make the long lines, and found it best if one person does all of the flags for consistency. I usually did two or three a day.
  • Try to keep the tip of the marker angled down to aide the marker flow.
  • Trace the eye rims but not the pupils.

When my hands got tired of the markers, I would work on the eyes.


  • First I made the pattern.
  • I cut the yellow as as solid shape.
  • Then I sewed on the black pupils and cut away the yellow from behind. This helped  keep the fabric from stretching.
  • Then, I took a flag and matched the fabric applique eyes to the marker outline of the eyes.  I stitched with black zigzag over the marker.
  • Finally I trimmed away the green from the back so that the eyes showed through to both sides.

We won overall best entry in the holiday parade!


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Category: "DIY", Design, Equipment, Floors & Props, General, Non-Competitive Performances, Performance

About the Author (Author Profile)

Sue Cechal got her degree in instrumental music education from St. Cloud State (MN) in 1975. After 37 years of teaching H.S. marching, concert and jazz bands, she now volunteers her time in N.E. Wisconsin working with guards and band programs. Her main focus is integrating music education into guard instruction, including the state and national standards. She approaches guard as the “visual” instrument of the band and loves teaching the basics of guard and dance to small town programs.

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