TIFO for Dummies

As the season draws near, its time to start thinking about what you do to get ready for the games. Some people paint their faces or wear silly hats or wave flags, others craft a batch of homebrew or make sure they’ve got plenty of beverages on hand for pre and post game celebrations. Some of us make stickers or buttons or flyers to hand out. Some organize carpools or try to get newbies out to the game. All are welcome activities and a part of our gameday rituals. Something I started doing last season was painting banners, or tifo. These can be large or small and made from paper or cloth. I have friends in MLS cities (Big Props to Lenny Foster and the Idaho Reds RSL SG) that had made them before so I reached out to them to learn the basics and scoured the World Wide Web to learn as much as I could and in the end just started doing it to see how it turned out. I don’t claim to be an expert, but the ones I’ve made (Chickenhead, Duftman, Louligan, etc.) have turned out pretty well and have been fun. The players liked seeing them up at games and I think it’s a good way to show passion and spirit at the park. Now, these are no great works of art, but from across the park they look pretty good and I encourage others to give it a try. That’s why I’m writing this piece- to talk about the steps it takes to paint a banner in the hopes that someone else will do it and we can get multiple banners up at the Glavin Complex this season.

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Chickenhead Banner

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Duftman Banner

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St. Louli Banner

OK. So you’ve decided you want to paint a banner. The physical materials you’ll need to buy are some type of cloth (you can buy a twin sized flat sheet from WalMart for $5 or go to a material store and check out the clearance section), fabric paints and some brushes or sponges (I’ve even used cheap acrylics), magic markers, some time (a couple days depending on the complexity of your design) and access to a simple light projector (you can also buy one, but usually you can find a teacher or crafty person that has one). If you’re not a real artist (I’m not) you’ll also want a computer and a graphic program like Photoshop or Print Shop to design your image. And probably the hardest thing to come by- a good idea (or even a bad one). For the purpose of this article we’ll follow the creation of the St. Louligan Ripper Banner. “Borrowed” from the old Powell Peralta Skate graphic.

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Starting Graphic

Once you’ve drawn or created your ideal sign on the computer the next step is to translate that to the material. I use a little craft projector that my mother in law used to use to paint murals on walls with. They range in price from $25-$50 or if you know somebody that works at a school you might be able to borrow an old classroom overhead projector. You could also use an old slide projector or hook up your computer to a presentation projector that might be at your office. Anyway- once the image is shining up on your material in a dark room you can blow it up or move it around until it’s where you want it. Then it’s simply a matter of tracing that image onto the fabric with a magic marker. Try to use the colors you’re going to paint with or a light color that the paint will cover up. That’s the hard part. After you have your image traced onto the material it’s just like coloring.

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Projector

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Blank Sheet

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Projection onto sheet

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Tracing

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Traced Outline

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Painting

Keep a printout of your original drawing on hand and fill in the drawing with the appropriate colored fabric paint. This may take a couple of days to let paint dry and to put colors next to other colors and to do touch up or missed spots. It takes time and you’ll make mistakes, but once it’s done I think you’ll be surprised at how well it looks from 20 feet away. Don’t focus on the mistakes that you can see up close- no one will be looking at it that way. Straight lines don’t have to be perfectly straight and no one will mind if the finished product doesn’t have the detail that the original drawing had or if you accidentally paint something the wrong color.

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In Progress

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A little farther along

The first one is always hard, but you’ll get better the more you make. A couple of tips- its easier to paint on white or light colored material. Dark material will take several coats of paint. Keep the design as simple as possible. Try to keep it a 2 dimensional cartoon image with a limited number of colors and shading (if the design is complicated it will be harder to reproduce and will lead to more frustration when painting). Make any wording or letters large enough to read from across a field. It would suck to spend a couple days painting a banner only for the people on the other side of the pitch to wonder what it says. Don’t get overly critical. Remember this is supposed to be for fun. If somebody doesn’t like it, they can paint their own banner. Even the best tifo has mistakes, but most people won’t notice them if you don’t point them out.

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The finished product

Finishing touches. I like to put brass eyelets in the corners of my banners so they can be easily tied to a fence or stand. You can buy cheap eyelet kits at Home Depot or similar stores. They’re not necessary, but you won’t have to cut a hole in your new creation to put it up. Also, you can build a PVC pipe frame to make it stand up over the stands or higher than a fence. Again, Home Depot will have different lengths and diameters and connectors for PVC pipe- just measure out your banner and cut the pipe accordingly. You can also make what is called a two pole, which basically puts the banner on two poles of PVC and you can raise it up at appropriate times during a match. Make sure wherever you put your banner up you’re not blocking someone’s view of the game or plan on raising it only at certain times like when someone scores a goal.

That’s basically the whole process. I’m more than willing to help anyone that wants to make their own banner. I can help with photoshop or lend the light projector or answer any other questions that you might have. You may find an easier way to do it- please share your experiences with the group. Again, this isn’t a necessary project, but its fun and there is a sense of accomplishment that comes when you see your creation hanging up at a game. For more tips and examples, just do a google search for TIFO or soccer banners and you’ll see all kinds of neat projects- some of the larger supporter groups with big budgets create spectacular displays with choreography and movement or banners the size of entire stadium sections. It’ll be a while before we get that big. Start small and have fun.

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