Traditionally, prayer flags come in groups of five: one in each of the five colors. The five colors are in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent the five elements and the Five pure lights. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions, purposes, and "sadhana". Blue symbolizes sky and space, white symbolizes air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water and yellow symbolizes earth. According to traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.
The center of a prayer flag traditionally features a Lung ta (mighty or strong horse) that wears three flaming jewels (specifically ratna) on its back. The Ta is a symbol of speed and the transformation of bad fortune into good fortune. The three flaming jewels symbolize the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and the Sangha (Buddhist community): the three cornerstones of the Tibetan philosophical tradition.
Around Lung ta there are several versions of approximately 400 traditional mantras, each dedicated to a particular deity. These scriptures include mantras of three of the great Buddhist bodhisattvas: Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion and the patron saint of the Tibetan people), and Manjusri.