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FAQs by GIFfers

Last modified: 2007-11-03 by rob raeside
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Some comments by Željko Heimer: 

Question: Why should an image be made to FOTW standards?
Answer: In short - because it our rule :-) Seriously, the images that we post to the list are all intended to end up eventually on the FOTW web site. And, we would like to have the web site "decent" and "uniform", not only for some aesthetic reasons, but also to enable quality comparison among various flag images.

Question What format should it be in?
Answer: It should be in GIF format. GIFs are widely accepted and readable by all image capable browsers, they are supported by all drawing programs (except the most primitive ones like MSPaint) and they fully satisfy our imaging needs. GIF format has also a few drawbacks, though, but these can be discussed someplace else.

Question How big it should be? (in pixels)
Answer: The size of the image in pixels (coloured dots that make the electronic "bitmap" image) is determined as 216 pixels measured vertically. The horizontal size is, of course, then determined by the ratio of the flag represented. In some special cases we divert from the rule (as all other FOTW rules, this one has "except if there is a good reason against" catch that allowes some flexibility if there is a good reason). Such cases are, e.g. long masthead pennants, where is sticking to 216 pixels at hoist would produce much too big horizontal dimensions. Other good examples are vertically hoisted flags, that are inherently different and the 216 pixels size is for then used for the horizontal dimension.

Question: How big it should be? (in bytes)
Answer: A typical FOTW standard GIF would rarely be bigger then a dozen kilobytes, more often it would stick around 5 K. If you are getting images larger than this, especially if they include large areas of one colour, there must be something wrong - most probably connected with incorrect use of exporting (and resizing) options in your drawing program. This often has to do with dithering - to which I'll come back soon.

Question: What should the image include?
Answer: As a rule, the image should show only the flag field, i.e. it should not include fringe, nor header, nor halyard, nor cravatte, nor flagstaff, and especially not white "empty space" around the flag. Here again "except if there is a good reason against" the rule is used - so if, e.g. a certain flag is always to be used with a fringe, the fringe then might be included in the image. Also, there should be no explanatory inscriptions in the images - these shoule be given in the accompanying messages anyway.

Question: What to do with intricate details?
Answer: Sometimes (rarely with well designed flags, but not all the flags that we deal with are of good design :-( ) some parts of the flag are away too small to be clearly visible when the flag is pictured in FOTW standard size. This typically is a problem with small insrciptions or minute emblems. They should be reproduced in an accompanying image of enlarged relevant part(s) of the flag.

Question: What colours should be used?
Answer: See fotwcols.html and fotwcolo.html. Using "real" colours that some progams allow would not yield anything better for our images that are primarly intended for presentation on a computer screen. Therefore they are defined in the RGB colour palette, and not in the "more popular" Pantone or CMYK (which are useless for our purpose - Pantone is intended for dying and CMYK is for offset printing).

Question: What program should be used?
Answer: In short - whatever you like. There are many programs to choose from. There are two kinds of programs for making images - one is the so-called bitmapping programs while the other is vectorial. It is not in the scope of this quick essay to explain the difference, but to mention a few - Corel PhotoShop and JASC PaintShopPro (PSP) would be two of the most popular from the first group while CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator and Freehand would be three of the most popular from the second group.

Question: How do I name the files?
Answer: FOTW rules treat this topic in depth. In short - keep the names in 8.3 form, reserve the two first letters for the ISO3166 country code (see country.html on your favorite FOTW mirror) and the third character is a separator. Article 4 Section III of FOTW rules covers different separators that may be used, but the rules does not requre use of them - so if this thing with separators seems to dificult for you just use "underscore" (this sign: _ ). The remaining five letters are usually enough to explain what you are picturing (honestly!). [BTW, if you are maintaining some naming system of your own and want to retain it, no problem. Just make copies of the images you want to post, rename them to FOTW system, attach them and then delete - it is not too much to ask.]

Question: How do I give credit?
Answer: Always cite the reference you used for making a GIF. If you used partially or entirely some image already on FOTW to modify it and include it in your "redrawing", refer to the author credited on FOTW. Give reference to the source where you saw such flag - the book (FOTW BIB pages might help you), movie, TV coverage, personal observation, correspondence, web sites...

Question: Anything else?
Answer: Yes, another thing that I did not know where to put. When exporting GIFs from vectorial drawing programs, the most common error that is made is to leave the dithering on. Dithering is a technique that performs colour matching in such a way that neighbouring pixels are made of two different colours so that when looked from afar they would together "make" a different "middle" colour. This makes your flag GIF look grainy, and moreover it make the files much larger bytewise. (The same image undithered is several times smaller than its grainy dithered sister.) Sometimes this dithering is hard to notice (if the two colours are close to each other), but it still it make the file much bigger and the image harder to "maintain" (this last meaning harder to make some further changes to it eventually). Let me rise my voice a bit - DON'T DITHER!

Željko Heimer, 12 September 2001

Question: What do we do for flags that are not rectangles?
Answer: One thing Željko didn't mention on colors is that we generally use RGB 204:204:204 (light gray) as the transparent color on gifs of pennants, burgees, streamers, etc., provided it's not actually one of the colors in the flag itself.

Joe Mcmillan, 12 September 2001