Aircraft Painting
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Thread: Aircraft Painting

  1. #1

    Aircraft Painting

    I am making loads of aircraft but i get stuck at the painting stage, the technical phrase is "I'm c**p".
    Would it be possible for any of you to put together a guide to the initial painting of an aircraft, particuarly the division of the pcx into smaller areas do allow more surfaces to be painted and not worry about the limit of 15 pcx files.
    Also can any of you tell me why I get this awful feeling that this has been covered before!

  2. #2
    Hi Womble55,

    Get yourself a copy of AF5Paint. After you try it out and still have questions, we can discuss it further. The software is free and resolves most of the issues you are likely to rin into.

    - Ivan.

  3. #3
    I've had Af5Paint for a while, the problem with me is how do you utilise one pcx to do several parts. Your very own P47s and Corsairs are an example.

  4. #4
    Hi Womble55,
    Now that I see what you are asking, the reply is likely to be very long winded. The first thing to figure out is what scales (yes! scaleS) to use for the various pieces of the aircraft. It depends heavily on the way various components and assemblies were used. In other words, for the same subject, MY model will likely differ from yours.

    I generally use different scales for the following pieces:
    1. Wings, Flaps
    2. Horizontal Stabilizer
    3. Pilot - Different scale for the head and shoulders even.
    4. Fuselage & Cowl, Canopy Frame, Wheels
    5. Spinner
    6. Control Panel

    The hardest group to do is the Fuselage pieces. It is gnerally necessary to use the same scale in order for markings and panel lines to match across different assemblies.

    I will try to use a Curtiss-Wright CW-21B Demon to illustrate the mapping of textures in future messages.

    - Ivan.

  5. #5
    Here are some screenshots of the untextured victim. You can see by the various colours where the components are on the aircraft. I use the contrasting colours to check for bleeds as well.

    The pilot has already been painted here because I use the same standard pilot is just about all my aircraft and just change the offsets without bothering to recalculate. The pilot also uses a much larger scale texture in order to show more detail. It has its own unshared texture file.

    The shot of the underside shows that there are at least two other pieces there that will not be textured left-right like the rest of the fuselage. The belly pieces require a top-bottom texture to show wheel well outlines properly.

    BTW, notice the yellow wing fillet. It is a very long piece and may be the limiting factor in the fuselage scale. A top-bottom texture doesn't work well for the fillet because top-bottom textures expect the large dimension to be left to right. The fillet components MAY need to be rebuilt as two pieces. This redesign of the model often happens during the texturing stage.

    - Ivan.

  6. #6
    This is a cropped screenshot from AF99 showing what one component (Aft Fuselage) looks like. From the parts screen (which this is not), measure the length and height of each fuselage component. That will determine the scale to use for the fuselage as a whole.

    I wanted to do more, but my kids woke up and needed attention.

    - Ivan.

  7. #7
    Hello Womble55,
    After looking over the components that should be textured together at the same scale, I found that the longest component is the Aft Fuselage at 7.94 feet and the tallest component is the Rudder at 5.1 feet.

    Since we need to keep textures square to make texturing easier, the largest scale we can use would be 5.1 feet * 2 or 10.2 because on a left-right texture the length is twice the height.

    Now here is where life gets interesting: In general designers should maximize the scale of the textures to allow more detail. 10.2 feet over 256 pixels is an unusually large scale. (The CW-21B is a tiny aircraft.) Most aircraft of can't use a scale larger than about 15 feet to 256 pixels because their pieces are too big.

    I also prefer to have the scale such that each pixel be some even fraction of a foot which means 10.2 == 0.03984375 feet per pixel so 10.24 == 0.04 feet per pixel is a better choice. We will get into why this is a good idea later. If the aircraft has a lot of pieces, you might select 12.8 instead so that more pieces can be fit onto one texture file.

    Another issue is that the pieces of the aircraft should have about a 2-4 pixel boundary between them and other pieces so 12.8 might be a better choice than 10.24. I'll decide before the next message.

    - Ivan.

  8. #8
    For this aircraft, the first try will be with 10.24 feet over 256 pixels. Note that this scale leaves nearly ZERO margin for the texture for the rudder. Another issue is that since AF5PAINT only works to 0.1 feet and AF99 works to 0.01 feet, what we see in AF99 will be approximations.

    Attached is a screenshot of a painting template for the cowl assemblies. Note that this template is snapped to various reference points on the various cowl components. It is a single part and must follow 8.3 naming format because AF5PAINT can't take other formats.

    I call this part ZPCowl.afp. It only works from a side view.

    - Ivan.

  9. #9


    ....that really work? Gonna have to try it out. Thanks.

  10. #10
    Hi Nole,

    Glad someone posted a response. I wasn't sure if anyone was really still interested.

    Oh well, here goes the next couple installments:
    The attached photograph (Yeah Photograph because I couldn't figure out how to get a screenshot!) is very rich in information. It is the default placement of the ZPRudder.afp overlay part onto a AF99 / AF5Paint texture.

    I typically put a black bar at the top and bottom of each half of the texture. It shows me where there is a one pixel boundary on the texture. Note on the right side of the screen that the top of the rudder is well within the gray area of the texture but the bottom of the rudder is well within the black one pixel margin. This is why the rudder is the limiting factor.

    Note on the black square above Joe's shoulder that the Top of this texture is set at 4.5 and the Bottom is set at -0.6. Since AF5Paint works only to 0.1 foot and is showing a range of 5.1, we should set the actual values in AF99 to 4.50 Top and -0.62 Bottom to increase the range to 5.12 and hopefully provide enough of a margin for the bottom of the texture.

    I stated it incorrectly in my earlier post. Note how the locations in AF5Paint are only an approximation. (Don't worry, it gets worse!)

    Note the numbers that Joe is pointing to: -19.522 is the location of the cursor on the full texture just above his hand. This is useful information for relocating the texture. The default location set by AF5Paint is -13.1 Fore and -23.4 Aft. We will reset this to -19.54 Aft and -9.3 Fore (or something similar. These numbers are also useful to matching up Panel Lines later.

    To Be Continued....

  11. #11
    I generally prefer to start texturing an aircraft from the front, so the first area I will actually be working on will be the cowl assembly.

    The first image shows the default location of the overlay via AF5Paint. Note that the range from Top to Bottom is 5.0 feet.

    The second image shows the relocated overlay part to the "Forward" part of the texture.

    The third image shows how close the bottom of this assembly is to the edge of the texture. I am not worried here because....

    The fourth image shows Joe pointing out that the cowl assembly is made up of several components (notice the colour differences) and that they do not need to be adjacent to each other in the texture files.

    I believe this is the part that you are looking for. Hopefully the next installment will show how the various parts can be located appropriately in a texture file.

    - Ivan.

  12. #12
    SOH Staff
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    State of Confusion..... -8GMT
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan View Post
    Hi Nole,

    Glad someone posted a response. I wasn't sure if anyone was really still interested......

    To Be Continued....
    ...on the contrary,
    this is a great thread and is very interesting.
    please continue.
    I, for one, am not to this phase yet,
    but I am sure I will be looking for it when I get there.

    a very cool feature of AD2000 is that it can easily cover with "shaded colors".
    that way, one can go into game and have a quick look at progress.
    later, when the real texturing starts, BMPs and "texture limits" come into play.

    did I say much later?
    sometimes the magic works.
    sometimes it doesn't.

  13. #13
    On this message, we will take things slightly out of order. I have already textured most of the cowl but won't be describing the process in this message. Instead, the subject will be smoothing. (Hope I am using the correct terminology.)

    In laying out the texture for the Carburetor Scoop on the upper front edge of the Cowl Ring, I had planned for texture to look like the first image. What I actually saw was the second image. (Note the slightly red tinge on the aft part of the scoop.) This is one of the reasons why textures for different parts need to be layed out about 3-4 pixels apart from each other. If you don't, the rendering of the aircraft in CFS will blend each pixel with one directly aft in a Left-Right texture. The way to work around it is to leave at least a 1-2 pixel margin around each piece. Thus we have 3-4 pixels between pieces.

    This also works to your advantage on occasion because if you want a very faint shade or dark edge to a piece, this is how to do it.

    The way to see these images I am describing are to hit <Escape> to bring up the exit dialog for the first image. The second image is just the regular display. I highly recommend viewing these images full size to see the differences.

    We will be revisiting this smoothing / rendering issue again when we hit a Fore-Aft or a Top-Bottom textured part.

    The next installment should come shortly and should address Womble55's concerns.
    - Ivan.

  14. #14
    This image shows how the overlay looks in AF5Paint. Note that the background is now a rather bright shade of orange-red. The intent is to have a great contrast between the background and the colour of the aircraft so we can see if the texture covers the appropriate area.

    Note the values in the box to the right of Joe's arm. They will be SIMILAR to the ones used in AF99. The actual values used in AF99 are:

    Top: 2.31
    Bottom: -2.81
    Fore: 6.32
    Aft: -3.92

    so the scale is 10.24 feet for 256 pixels.

    Note that the panel line on the cowl doesn't line up with the overlay. This is because AF5Paint only shows 10.2 feet over 256 pixels.

    Joe is pointing to a component that I call the CowlBase. It uses slightly different numbers to allow some shading at the edges between the two parts. As it turns out, I really didn't need to do this because the joint between the CowlBase and the Cowl is completely hidden behind the wing fillet..... Oh well.

  15. #15
    Hi Womble55,

    This is the part I believe you are interested in.

    Note that this is exactly the same texture, only this time the overlay part is different and the offsets are different. This lets the Carburetor Scoop share the same texture as the other two cowl components. Note also that the Carburetor Scoop's texture has an arbitrary spatial relationship to the Cowl's texture. With the proer offsets, we can put this piece anywhere and scale it to whatever we want. We can even give it its own separate texture file though that would be very wasteful.

  16. #16
    Remember how we had a reddish tinge to the back side of the Carburetor Scoop in CFS?

    The texture used at the time had the yellow section of the Carburetor Scoop's texture the same as the background colour. Looking at the overlay, you would never figure that the texture doesn't cover the part completely. Part of this is due to the difference between the AF99 10.24 feet scale and the AF5Paint 10.2 feet scale. Part is due the rendering / smoothing issue discussed earlier.

  17. #17
    Here is how the numbers for the Carburetor Scoop texture look in AF99. Compare these numbers with the ones given earlier for the Cowl.

  18. #18
    First, a very quick recap of the painting process:

    1. Create a reference part in AF99 that has the same outline as the part you wish to paint.
    2. Use the reference part as an overlay in AF5Paint to show where the part will live on the texture file.
    3. Adjust the textures so that there are no issues with coverage of the part by the selected portion of the texture file.
    4. Bring the texture file back to AF99, process, and rebuild the model.
    5. Bring up CFS with your model to confirm there are no issues
    6. If there are issues, go to Step 3 (or further back if needed).

    - Ivan.

  19. #19
    I have mentioned several times how each part needs about a two pixel border beyond the physical edge of the part. The attached images show why this is necessary.

    The first image shows how the part of the fuselage has been textured. The longitudinal offset is slightly different from the cowl, but the vertical offsets are the same. (It is the vertical offsets that are important here.)
    The coverage of the part by the texture looks to be quite complete and it is.

    The next three images show red highlights when viewed at shallow angles. To eliminate this, the parts need about a two pixel border. When combined with adjacent parts, it means that parts' textures should be separated by at least 4 pixels or so.

    Sometimes this highlighting can be used to your advantage. You can select the boundary colour to give pieces of the aircraft an appropriate highlight colour. I did this on my Thunderbolts to give a cheap reflective metal effect. I don't know that the effect really looks like polished aluminum, but it does look less of a boring gray.

    - Ivan.

  20. #20
    The slight smoothing offset of Left-Right textured parts does not cause a symmetry issue because both sides are offset in the same direction.

    With Fore-Aft textured parts, the offset creating by the smoothing effect causes a nominally centered texture to look as if it is NOT centered. The two shots below illustrate the effect. One shot is with the normal smoothing effect. The other shot was taken after the <Escape> key was pressed to bring up the exit dialog. Note that in the one with the exit dialog, the vertical line is fairly well centered on the ridge of the spinner.

    On textures for round objects, I try to center on a pixel rather than between pixels to make drawing circles easier. (On drawing programs I use, you can't pick a circle's center between two pixels.)

    To correct this issue, adjust the offsets slightly in AF99 to make the smoothed image look correct. I believe folks generally don't care if the plane looks a little weird when they are about to exit the game.

    On my Fokker E.III Eindecker (not released yet) I wanted to animate the engine face to simulate the appearance of a rotary engine. This slight offset on a rotating part shows up much more than on a stationary part. I must have spent at least three evenings trying to adjust the textures slightly to make the make the engine not appear lopsided.
    I don't know that I got the effect completely right, but I believe it is as good as I can get it.

    - Ivan.

  21. #21
    In arranging pieces to be textured, keep in mind that sometimes two parts can share the same locations:
    The engine only has the forward facing side textured. The control panel only has the aft facing side textured. As such, there are no issues with putting them in the same location.

    - Ivan.

  22. #22
    I've just managed to get some air time on the local library PC, sometimes the local college overwhelms the system that the council use here. This is absolutly fasinating and will take many moons of study to get right but I shall persevere.
    Thanks Ivan and thank Joe as well for me, he's doing a cracking job.

  23. #23
    Hi Womble55,
    Hope what I am demonstrating is making sense to you. I have actually gotten quite a lot further on the Demon than is shown in the screenshots. I just didn't see the point of showing the same basic technique 10 more times when there is nothing new to demonstrate. There will be more. I just haven't gotten to those parts yet.

    - Ivan.

  24. #24
    As stated in the previous message, I have actually gotten much further since the last installment. Tonight there will only be observations of a problem in texturing and not the solution (which is actually a fairly obvious one).

    When texturing wings, I typically like to have the texture files be a fairly close mirror of each other. Often the insignia and camouflage will be different, but for the most part the panel lines and general outline should be identical or nearly so.

    Such is the case with the CW-21B Demon. I first adjusted the wing part overlay onto the Left Wing Texture file (I like to start with the Left Side when possible) and just mirrored the texture file to the Right Wing's file.

    As you can see from the normal CFS external Top view (WingTop1.jpg), the visible colour bands are not the same between the left and right sides. The specifications in AF99 are mirrors as are the textures, but the smoothing algorithm skews the textures almost one full pixel to the right.

    As you can see from the exit screen (WingTop2.jpg) the textures are lined up pretty well when the smoothing algorithm isn't being used.

    (To be continued....)

  25. #25
    Folks here probably have already figured out what the next part is, but here goes anyway:

    As you can see from the area that Joe is pointing out in AF5Paint in the first photograph, the coloured bars actually start at red bar that is aligned with the edge of the texture. In the earlier screenshots, we can't see that first red bar on either side. That tells us that the texture at the wing root has room to use. At worst, we will encroach into the single pixel red BORDER around the wing texture.

    The dimensions from AF5Paint are directly used for the Right Wing as can be seen from the second photograph.

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