Recommended Image Size and Format for Collection

This is my first post on this forum, so I’m not sure if I’m posting this in the best category, but here goes…

I want to create a collection of images focusing on U.S. state flags that can be used by students, teachers or anyone interested in flags. It will include images of all the official state flags (all public domain), along with images of some state flag proposals (some public domain, others Creative Commons). There may even be some customized pictures that can only be used in print or on merchandise for a fee.

Some of the designs will also be broken down into elements. In other words, there may be a blue rectangle, a separate white stripe that can be modified or deleted, etc.

What’s the minimum size that you would recommend? I’ve been working on such a collection in association with an ePub, and all my images are 1,000 pixels wide. However, people who want to use such images in posters, videos, Power Point presentations or whatever will probably want a bigger size.

My guess: I should probably make every image 2,000 pixels wide, resolution 300 in Photoshop format, with a second copy of each image in a .png format. For more complex images, I might replace the .png with a .jpg format.

I’m planning on selling the folder of images for $10 or maybe even $25, so I want it to be professional.

What format and dimensions would you recommend?

Thank you.

Are you creating these flags? If so, in what application?

You might want to create them all in a vector application, like Adobe Illustrator so that they could scale to any size without losing resolution. Maybe make PNGs at whatever size you felt best, then include a link to the scalable vector file. Lots of state flags already exist in public domain vector formats, to it’s just a matter of finding them. For example, here’s a link to my state’s flag in SVG format, which is scalable. Wikimedia Commons might already have all the states in SVG format.

I work mostly with Photoshop. I have Illustrator, but I haven’t really learned how to use it yet.

It sounds like you’re saying that if I create the images in Illustrator, then the size is irrelevant, because they’ll simply scale to any size. But shouldn’t I still choose some standard size? Maybe 500 pixels?

Also, if I create copies of each vector image in a .png format, what would be a good minimum size - 2,000 pixels?

I’m aware of the all the public domain art out there. But that’s just a part of my project. I want to put public domain images of all the state flags in a folder, then add images that strip each flag down into its basic elements (a separate layer for stars, for example) and add images of new state flag proposals.

My overall goal is to create a portable library of flag art that can be used by people who are experimenting with flag designs or who are looking for illustrations for school reports, magazine articles, books, etc.

It sounds like I may have to sit down and learn how to use Illustrator.


Just a quick note…I have to run off to work now, so I won’t be able to reply until tomorrow. Thanks for your feedback!

People like me wouldn’t bother with the PNGs since we would just scale the vector file to any size needed, then make our own PNGs (or whatever) from that. Most people won’t have a clue how to use an SVG and will simply want to use the downloadable PNG in their PowerPoint presentation or school report or whatever.

Will you be building a website to host these images? If so, I suppose what I’d do is create PNG thumbnails of each, then create links for people to download larger PNGs along with the SVG files. What I wouldn’t do is load all of the full-sized PNGs on a single page since it would be a gigantic bandwidth hog.

If there’s no custom website involved and just a bundled package that you’re distributing somehow, I suppose a maximum size of 1500 or 2000 pixels wide would cover most people’s needs, as well as smaller sizes of, I don’t know, 300 & 800 pixels.

As for the vector file, I’d probably just make it, maybe, 7 or 8 inches wide so people could print it out on a standard desktop printer without scaling it. But for people with the know-how to use vector graphics, the physical size is irrelevant since they can be scaled to any size.

Anytime we need flag art, we get official versions whenever possible. Photoshop renditions are (almost) never used and even vector attempts by amateurs are avoided.

More often than not, we end up ordering flags from an official flag company that just sells them already made. There is no way we want to be responsible for offending anyone participating in an international event that requires them.

That said, I suppose another free flag source isn’t gonna break the intertoobs for those that want them for smaller, less intense purposes.

Wherever you get the files from, the most important thing is to make sure the colors match when printed. It might take time to find or it may be all on one site, but you should find the Official State Colors, meaning the RGB or CMYK of each color.

Great tips. Thanks.

I have been amazed by the extraordinary variation in pictures of state flags and seals. Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder what a particular state flag really looks like.

If you apply colors as RGB or CMYK you get what you get when printed. They are NOT standard color spaces and totally reliant on the color interpolation of the profile being use for the output (media and ink dependent.)
Pantone would be the better choice.

For instance we use this for US flags, using the Pantone colors 282c and 193c rather than the derived equivalents.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect lots of states don’t have Pantone specs for their flags. Some of the flags are quite badly designed with lots of colors and details. I suspect nearly all of them were designed, selected and modified by committees of people that had no clue about this kind of thing.

Yeah, with those state flags, unless the state has a standards site, what prints, prints.
The thing with state flags, or any flags for that matter, is the “live trace” and creative license taken with them. We still try to stick to a .gov or country government site whenever possible.
But like I said, in real world events, we buy them ready-made.


You hit the nail on the head.

I think many, if not most, state flags and seals were designed by individuals. But most were amateurs, to put it politely.

All you have to do is compare pictures of the state flags with pictures of national flags, Canada’s provincial flags or Japan’s prefectural flags. Most state flags are unbelievably bad.

And, yes, many states don’t really care about how their state symbols are portrayed, promoted or whatever. Some legislator in Tennessee thought they needed an official flag salute, so they adopted one. Then they discovered they already had an official flag salute. Now they have two official flag salutes.

But even when designing new state flag proposals, it can be difficult to determine exactly what color should be used for various elements. Is there some official or symbolic color you should be fishing for, or do you just want to choose a color that’s attractive?

Most are pretty bad — especially the ones where the name of the state is spelled out. I do like Arizona’s and New Mexico’s flags, though. Maryland’s is interesting too.

Oregon’s double-sided beaver flag is so awful that it crosses the boundary into being amateurishly quirky, which sort of gives it a funky hipster look that starts looking intentional — it’s a weird one.

You’ve obviously been looking at all of them. Which are your favorites (or least favorite)?

I’m working on a book (actually two books) about state symbols right now. I’ve actually been working on this project for years, and I have lots to say. :wink:

My favorite state flag is the one that was voted #1 in a 2001 NAVA survey - New Mexico. The irony is that it depicts a Native American religious/spiritual symbol, which has sparked some controversy. The Zia tribe would like to at least receive compensation for the commercial use of their “trademark.” Accordingly, I’m going to pay them for the rights to use their symbol in my books.

Other personal favorites include Alaska, Arizona and South Carolina.

Maryland’s flag is very distinctive, though some call it a little weird. It has also been caught up in the great Confederate symbols witch-hunt. It’s a long story, but two of the colors used in the flag are linked to the Confederacy. My opinion: So what? The colors were combined after the war as a gesture of conciliation. I think that’s cool.

The irony is that NO ONE mentions Washington State’s flag, which is incredibly ugly and portrays an aristocratic slave owner to boot.

Another flag I really hate is my native South Dakota’s. It looks like a billboard. Neighboring Nebraska’s flag is so bad, it was once flown upside down at the state capital for several days before anyone noticed. Ironically, there’s a law making it illegal to insult Nebraska’s flag! I’m going to test that law with my book.

My books include flag proposals for all the states that have substandard flags. Most of the proposals are my designs, but I linked to another site where people can see other people’s designs as well. A very nice design was created for Minnesota several years ago. I’m not challenging that one.

There’s currently an effort to re-adopt Maine’s original flag. Though I agree that the current flag sucks, I’m not a big fan of the original flag, either. I created my own proposal.

Hawaii is a weird one - a real conspiracy.

The state flag is technically sound, but it looks like a colonial banner. There is a popular flag proposal supposedly representing Native Hawaiians.

However, some people say the current flag was actually approved by King Kamehameha (or one of his peers), while the flag proposal is a fraud. I haven’t figured out what the truth is.

I used several flags in putting together a state symbols map @

Regarding Oregon’s flag, yes - that’s a pretty stupid design. Pretty ugly state seal, too. Frankly, I think most states should upgrade their state seals, not just their flags. Vermont has one of the most elegant state seals and coats of arms both. California and Colorado have pretty nice state seals as well.

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P.S. North Dakota is interesting, too. It has one of the most fabulous coats of arms, and the motto on the arms is far better than the official state motto to boot. The arms is displayed on the Governor’s flag, which is nicer than the state flag. Why are they hiding their best symbols?

I was amazed to discover an article in some North Dakota newspaper where a columnist asked if anyone knows the words to North Dakota’s state song.

Like isn’t that information available from the government or a library???

Going off on yet another tangent, the fifty states are really serious about state slogans these days. Kentucky’s “Unbridled Passion” is one of the most popular, while Washington’s “SayWA” is one of the biggest jokes.

There is a graphic component as well, as slogans are often portrayed converted into trademarked images. (I’m still trying to get a handle on the legal requirements for using such images in a book. I’ll have to ask about that on this forum.)

Also, some states have adopted official logos or “symbols.” Colorado and Tennessee are a couple states that have official logos, while Tennessee also calls the three stars on its flag its official symbol.

I suspect there will be growing interest in official state colors. There’s a lot to explore here.

There’s also all the wacky state symbols that appear out of nowhere, but get approved by state legislatures as official symbols.

For example, my state (Utah) has, among other more normal symbols, an official state insect, fossil, cooking pot, historic vegetable, square dance and state rock.

There was a bill introduced at last winter’s legislative session to get a better flag. I can’t remember for sure, but I think the legislature set up a committee (would you know it) to pursue it. Here’s a link to the proposals (if you haven’t seen them already):

Thanks for the great post. Interesting stuff. Sounds like those will be books I’d buy.

Massachusetts’ flag has the image of a Native American on it.
The crowd on the coast wants it changed.
Trouble is, the image is meant to be a tribute to the Algonquin Massachusetts tribe for which the state is named.
Perhaps the state name needs to be changed too?

TN native here. A couple years ago we had a local design firm, RedPepper, design the new TN logo. It got a ton of backlash due to the price tag and design:


When I first saw their Utah flag proposal, I thought “Good job!” Then I saw the date on the flag and said “Huh?” What a stupid stunt.

I do think it would be best to have a competition and solicit other designs. Fortunately, there is a competitor @ I kind of like the design featuring the state flower. In fact, I wanted to get permission to use it in my book, but no one replied to my e-mail.

On the negative side, Utah was the first state to adopt an official firearm - a trend I don’t like - and the history behind the M1911 is pretty sleazy.

Another interesting symbol is the state bird. It’s popularly described as the California gull, but some historians think the gull that saved the Mormons’ crops was actually a Franklin’s gull. There’s also disagreement about what the gulls said them from - crickets, grasshoppers or katydids? Some have even suggested there was no apocalyptic agricultural disaster in the first place. Weird story.

I like your new state reptile, the Gila monster. It’s too bad it’s found in just one Utah county and is apparently disappearing there.

But some of my favorite state symbols are Utah’s art symbols - prehistoric rock art and Spiral Jetty. Those are both so cool.

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