Repainting in Microsoft Flight Simulator
By JanKees Blom
In the last chapter of the previous tutorial, we finished completing all the paintwork, which was relatively easy. Our next task though, is how we go about making our new repaint into something we can fly around with in FSX (or P3D).
As I explained in the previous tutorial, all the texture folders contain four different texture files, called; C47_1_T.dds, C-47_1_T_Spec.dds, C47_2_T.dds and lastly, C-47_2_T_Spec.dds, with each one consisting of a 'normal' and 'alpha' part. The paint we have so far, corresponds to the normal part of both C47_1_T and C47_2_T, combined in one file. This combination effect is a peculiarity of this model (you do find it in a few others, but usually each different texture file has its own paint kit file). Here we will have to separate the two, but that will come later. First, we need to produce the spec and respective alpha textures.
To do this, I use a relatively simple method, that takes very little time. If you look in the paint kit, you'll see there is already a layer called 'alpha'. Most good paint kits will come with both, base alpha and spec textures, sometimes within one file, sometimes though, developers (e.g. A2A) use separate files.
Can you remember what the alpha of the normal file is used for? That's right; it controls the amount of reflections! So, bare, shiny aluminum will have strong reflections, while matte camouflage paint will have (preferably) no reflections; everything else sits between the two. Strong reflections need to be dark, no reflections, white. Image 1 below shows the alpha layer visible.
As you can see, there are lots of dark textures. These will be for the shiny bare aluminum parts of the repaint, while all the white part will be dull.
So, what parts of the repaint need to be dull? Well, the wheels obviously, but also the majority of our new paintwork. However, look at the wings; our aircraft doesn't have deicer boots on the leading edges, so we will need to make those dark! To get rid of them, I've used the magic wand tool to select the white parts on the deicing boots; copied them into a new layer, and then gave that layer a dark overlay, so the leading edges of the tail and wings will shiny.
As for our paintwork, I gave that group an overlay as well, making it white, and I made the layers with the wheel textures, etc. invisible (Image 2):
The result of this is that the white parts will be dull in the sim, and the dark parts will be shiny. When performing this technique, I usually use the same alpha for the spec file as well. There the alpha controls the sharpness of the reflections, with black being sharp reflections (for the metal), and white giving blurry reflections (for the paint).