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How to Print the USA Flag on T-Shirts [With Examples]

How to Print the USA Flag on T-Shirts [With Examples]

usa flag on right sleeve of shirt

We get the request to print the United States flag on shirts on a regular basis (want shirts printed with the U.S. flag on it? Get started here).

When we first started printing, we didn’t think much of this request. However, after we hired a veteran of the Navy, we learned there is more to printing the flag than we had originally thought.

If you search online, there are a lot of guidelines for flag usage.

Using the American Flag correctly on apparel is important because it's a sign of respect and admiration for former and current members of the military.

We're going to help explain and simplify the guidelines for you.

The two important rules for using the American flag on Apparel

shirt with american flag on sleeve

Some of them are a bit vague, others don't account for all current and potential uses, but there are two really important guidelines for screen printing the American flag on shirts - ‘stars before bars’ and the official colors.

The most common placement for the U.S. flag on a shirt is a sleeve. The sleeve in which it is worn is up to the individual customer, but the direction the flag faces is not.

As our employee was fond of saying, ‘stars before bars’. This means that the stars on the flag should be towards the front of the body and the "bars" or stripes on the flag follow behind.

It is meant to mimic the way the flag would be positioned as it was held aloft and carried into battle.

If the flag is not printed on the sleeve, the direction it points is up to the discretion of the customer. 

safety shirt with american flag on back

What are the official Pantone colors in the flag? 

Everyone knows that the American flag is red, white, and blue. That's easy. 

But it gets complicated when you acknowledge that colors are subjective. Red to one person is different than another. 

Blue can be interpreted as royal blue, light blue, navy, or any other variation.

Additionally, people interpret colors differently, lighting can change, and that can lead to varying expectations for a print.

That's where Pantone colors come into play. Using Pantone colors helps us establish consistent expectations and values for colors.

For the U.S. flag, there are specific Pantone colors for the red and blue. The red in the flag is PMS 193 and the blue is PMS 282.

The red is pretty traditional, but the blue is a bit surprising for some people because it is navy, not royal.

Other uses for the American flag and colors

construction hoodies with usa flag colors

In addition to printing the U.S. flag on shirts, we often get the request to use the red, white, and blue colors and stars and stripes in non-traditional ways. 

In these instances, when a business is trying to emulate the look of the flag or identify as proudly American, we follow the same rules and guidelines we explained above.

This is a very common request in safety apparel for construction companies and contractors.

You can see in the above photo that while their logo is not the U.S. flag, it has the same elements - stars, stripes, and red, white, and blue colors.

When we print a design like this, we talk to the customer about the appropriate colors to use and why we recommend them.

When we get a request to print the U.S. flag, these are the two standards that guide us and we make sure our customer understands before we print.

And if you're looking for an American made shirt blank to use for your order, check out our five recommendations for best American made shirts to use for custom orders.

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