A TUTORIAL ON REPAINTING AIRCRAFT FOR MS FLIGHT
may be printed direct or downloaded
(12k) in Word format for printing.
It is possible to repaint existing aircraft for MS Flight Simulator
with a colour scheme of your own using currently available public domain
software tools; this means that you do not need FS Flight Shop (or similar
product) to create "new" aircraft. However, as the tools available
are not designed to be used together, it is not readily apparent how
to use them to repaint an aircraft.
The purpose of this document (together with the associated archive files)
is to offer an introductory tutorial on how to repaint your own aircraft
using these tools. The tutorial describes how to convert existing aircraft
(in FS5.1 or FS95 format) into "new" aircraft for FS98 (if
you wish to produce aircraft for FS95 only, please read version 1.0
of this document which covers FS95 aircraft).
After installation of all the tools, your first aircraft repaint will
probably take about 5-6 hours work, later ones 2-3 hours or so (depending
on the complexity of your new colour scheme).
Included with this archive is the following freeware (public domain)
FSPALETT.BMP, a bitmap image containing the FS colour palette
You will also need additional freeware tools (available from this
Converter by Kai Wang-Erlandsen, Windows program for viewing textures
(files required are TEXCON01.ZIP and update TEXCONU1.ZIP
from Utilities Section)·
Flight Dynamics Editor
You will also need additional tools:
MS converter for FS98, all available from Utilities
section - you probably already have this.
- a hex
editor, to modify contents of the MDL files; recommended is Hex Workshop,
shareware available from http://www.bpsoft.com
- a BMP
graphics editor, to repaint the texture files; recommended is Paint
Shop Pro, shareware available from http://www.jasc.com
Unzip and install all of the required tools following their individual
1 - Getting Started
First of all, you need to select an aircraft model to repaint. FS models
of most well-known aircraft are already available as freeware, so search
the available archives (see Appendix for a list of archive sites) for
all the aircraft of the type you want; if several models of the same
aircraft are available, select the best from those available according
to the following criteria:
· the visual model looks accurate and attractive (look and see,
compare with photos of the real aircraft), and includes "extras"
such as working flaps, spoilers and lights
· the flight model is accurate (fly before you buy!)
· the existing model is textured as much as possible (aircraft
sections are a base colour, with bitmap textures pasted onto certain
parts - look for models with texture maps in areas that you want to
repaint; as an example, it is possible to repaint the fuselage of the
default Cessna 182 RG in FS98, but not the tail fin, as it is not textured)
- use Texture Converter to preview the existing texture maps of your
chosen aircraft (usually these have *.?AF filenames)
· where several versions of an aircraft already exist, some may
already be repaints, so use the "master" aircraft where possible.
· remember that you will not be able to change the shape of any
parts of the aircraft, add new parts or take parts off, or change the
colour of any non-textured parts
Install and test fly your chosen aircraft as a reference for your own
You will also need as many good photographs of your target aircraft
as you can get (if you are copying the livery of a real aircraft).
2 - Creating a Duplicate Aircraft with a New Identity
2.1 Duplicating the Files
Having installed your original FS98 aircraft (or installed a FS Flight
Shop aircraft into FS98 format using the FS98 converter), you will find
that it consists of several files. For example, if the aircraft is called
ORIGINAL, you will find the files:
ORIGINAL.AIR (aircraft definition, the Aircraft\ORIGINAL subdirectory)
ORIGINAL.MDL (aircraft model, in the Aircraft\ORIGINAL\Model subdirectory)
ORIGINAL.0AF (texture file, in the Aircraft\ORIGINAL\TEXTURE subdirectory)
ORIGINAL.1AF, ORIGINAL.2AF, etc. (other texture files)
The first thing to do is to duplicate all of these files, then rename
the copies, for example:
NEWPLANE.0AF, NEWPLANE.1AF, NEWPLANE.2AF, etc.
2.2 Editing the AIR File
Having changed the external identity of the files, we now we need to
change their internal identity. Use FDE to load in NEWPLANE.AIR, then:
the first page, edit the details to reflect your new livery; add your
own credit to the original author's credits
the last page, change the complex model to NEWPLANE.MDL and enter
the new aircraft's registration
may wish to alter the aircraft dynamics on the other pages, but this
is optional and unnecessary if you do not want to change its performance
Save the revised AIR file with the same name (NEWPLANE.AIR).
You also need to alter the aircraft.cfg file in the Aircraft\ORIGINAL
the text after title= in the 2nd line as required (this is used as
the menu item in the aircraft menu in FS98)
the text after sim= in the 3rd line to NEWPLANE (this is the name
of the flight model used by the aircraft)
Editing the MDL File
We now need to change the MDL file to use our new texture files. Use
your hex editor to load in NEWPLANE.MDL; search through the file looking
for the original texture file names (ORIGINAL.0AF, etc.) and replace
each with its new filename (NEWPLANE.0AF, etc.); make sure the 3-chracter
extensions are not altered. Save the revised MDL file with the same
You also need to alter the model.cfg file in the Aircraft\ORIGINAL\model
· change the text after normal= in the 2nd line to NEWPLANE (this
is the name of the visual model used by the aircraft)
If you now run FS98, select the Aircraft Menu and choose Select Aircraft,
you should see your new plane on the list (distinct from the original
on the list). Select your new plane, and it should look and fly exactly
like the original (if it doesn't (or doesn't appear on the menu) you
must have corrupted either the AIR or MDL file during editing (or one
of the .cfg files), and will need to erase these files and start again).
Now that your new plane has its own identity, you are ready to repaint
3 - Repainting the Textures
3.1 Changing the Format
The existing texture files will be standard 256x256 pixel 256 colour
pictures, with a file size of 64K (some aircraft may have "shrunk"
texture files which are smaller than this, and these cannot be altered,
but I've only ever come across two planes like this). However, this
format is not supported by most graphics editors, so we need to change
them to the BMP (bitmap) format, which is supported, before we can edit
them. Use Texture Converter to load each texture file (NEWPLANE.0AF
etc.) in turn, then save in BMP format (use filenames like NEWPLAN0.BMP,
NEWPLAN1.BMP etc. for the bitmaps corresponding to the original files).
3.2 Editing the Bitmaps
Use your preferred bitmap editor to edit the BMP files. Remember to
leave features like windows, hatches and engine vents intact, painting
your new logo around them. You will also have to use the FS palette,
otherwise your aircraft will change colour when you fly it - use the
enclosed FSPALETT.BMP file as a source palette for the colours to use
in your new livery (if the colour you want is not in FSPALETT.BMP, it
is not available in Flight Simulator)!
3.3 Changing Back to Textures
Now we need to convert your revised BMP files back to aircraft texture
format - use Texture Converter to open each BMP file in turn, and save
back as NEWPLANE.0AF etc.
4 - Hints & Tips
Depending on the original aircraft chosen and the extent of your texture
repainting, you may need to do some additional editing to finish off
your new paint scheme correctly - going back to re-edit your bitmaps,
then reconvert to textures, then review in Flight Simulator, and so
on until you are happy with the result!
sections of the same bitmap are used on different parts of the aircraft,
or the texture fits onto an irregularly shaped area (e.g. a tail fin),
you may need to use trial and error to locate the correct sections;
try using bright colours from the palette temporarily to identify
particular target areas in the final textures.
bitmaps must line up (e.g. where several bitmaps are used in line
along a fuselage); if your graphics editor supports multiple open
files, use this facility to help in maintaining alignment. In some
aircraft, the textures may not line up quite as you expect, and you
may need to shift your bitmaps a pixel or two to maintain correct
visual alignment on your aircraft.
existing windows, hatches and panel lines to guide your repainting.
of the "bright" colours in the palette are not affected
by darkness, allowing you to create night-visible effects, such as
complex logos and writing, copy real ones wherever possible, for example:
logos from existing FS aircraft in your chosen livery
logos from graphics on airline websites
your picture editor to clip out logos from photos of the real aircraft.
may find that one texture file is used in more than one place on the
aircraft e.g. on the top and bottom of a wing. If you need to modify
the texture in only one place (e.g. to add an underwing registration),
you will need to create a new texture file (initially a duplicate
of the original) and change the reference in the MDL file to the new
texture (e.g. copy NEWPLANE.6AF to NEWPLANE.9AF, and change the instance
of NEWPLANE.6AF in NEWPLANE.MDL to NEWPLANE.9AF using your hex editor;
as there will be more than one reference to NEWPLANE.6AF, you may
need to use trial and error until you get the correct one)!
texture files arrive on the aircraft reversed - this appears to be
random! If this occurs, simply reverse the original bitmap using your
you are using FS95, you need to exit and restart in order to load
a newly modified aircraft. If you are using FS98, you don't need to
exit - just reselect the aircraft from the menu, and the latest textures
will be loaded in.
you wish to make your "new" aircraft available on the web,
collect all the component files and a "readme" text file
into a ZIP file; as a courtesy to the original aircraft author, you
may like to contact them to tell them you have produced a repaint
of their aircraft.
V2.0, © Iain Murray, 1999