Recolouring II: Converting a Vimy into G-EAOU

Discussion in 'Tips, Tutorials & Tools' started by Leif Oh, Sep 2, 2004.

  1. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Jan 27, 2004
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    I didn't feel like making the excellent Fly Models Vickers Vimy bomber into the military version, with its plethora of guns and bombs. Searching the web for Vimy information, I instead came upon the 1919 record flight of the Australian Smith brothers, from England to Australia.

    Their Vickers Vimy G-EAOU (taken as an acronym for "God 'elp all of us" by those involved in the flight) was all dark green (which makes recolouring simpler), with large identification letters in white. The original aircraft is preserved in Adelaide, Australia, and there is also a modern flying replica.

    So here's how to go about recolouring an already excellent available model, into the exact version you'd like to build. This should be taken as one modeler's experience, aimed at other modelers (and not expert tips between designers, who already know all about this, and more).

    In the process, you'll learn a different, and perhaps more elegant, way of recolouring than in the first installment of tips on recolouring.

    Learning how to save a selection

    When you are ready for recolouring, you have already scanned & scaled the original prints, and rearranged the parts to create your own new print originals. These are what you should work upon. Here's a part of my new print original in 1/25 for the Vimy's rear fuselage, still in the original colour scheme.


    The Photoshop "Layers" menu has been overlayed, so you can get an idea of the different steps of what follows. There are only two layers, a white "Background", and the "Original".

    1. The first step is to use the magic wand tool and click in the PC10-coloured (dark brown) area of the fuselage. If you are lucky you'll get something like this in your first attempt:


    It seems that we have indeed been able to capture all the PC10-coloured areas in one click! - But wait, let's magnify the image a couple of times:


    Now we see that this is far from the case. All the little snowflakes are areas which have not been captured. The reason is that the designers have made the coloured areas "grainy" on purpose, in order to simulate uneven colouring of the fabric covering.

    The uneven coverage of your initial selection might not be a bad thing - as you will see below it means that some of the thousands of nuances making up the PC10 colour will be visible through the green colour we wish to introduce, thus maintaing the illusion of fabric unevenness. But for the sake of practising a bit more, let's try to get rid of at least half of them.

    2. Here's the trick: While your initial selection is still active and there, hold down the cap's key, and click some more times with the wand tool in different places in the PC10 areas. Keep holding down that cap's key.

    For each click you will find that the wand picks up larger and larger areas. When you are satisfied, it might look something like this:


    Here, we still have a lot of "spots" to simulate unevenness, but not too many.

    Now, in the "Selections" menu (sorry if my terminology is off at times; I'm working with a Swedish edition of Photoshop), save this selection as something like "Green - PC10". You will find that this is a great way to work. Just wait.

    3. Now go pick up a suitable green colour, from the colour-picker of your graphic programme, or from some suitable source (see e.g. Sources for correct aircraft colour schemes").

    Create a new layer, "Green over PC10", and in that layer, go to the "Edit" menu and choose "Fill" from "Foreground colour" (the colour you picked should be there). Hey presto, you've got a green Vimy; with uneven coating and all seams and details in other colours intact. Good job!


    4. Repeat this process for all other PC-10-coloured parts on your sheet. Here's the beautiful part: For each of these selections, choose "Save selection" and bring up your previously saved selection "Green - PC10". Now choose "Add to selection" - and you will have an enlarged selection of the areas you wish to colour green.

    At any time you could always bring up this selection, and just change the nuance of it, or do anything else you need to do with this labouriously accomplished selection. No need to start from scratch again with the magic wand!

    5. Repeat the process for the clear-doped fabric areas at the bottom of the aircraft. Save this selection as "Green - dope", and carry out the colouring in a separate layer called "Green over dope".

    The reason for keeping the two different recolourings separate is that at some later stage you may wish to have different opacity of green over different underlying colours. (I never did, but better safe than sorry, right...).

    Also, a final word on this part. You may still have to do some work with the lasso tool (as outlined in Recolouring Part I), particularly when attempting to cover national insignia and other stuff.

    Use the same method, of adding to a previously saved selection, to include these areas in the overall saved selection of "Green - PC10".

    Creating identification letters from a photo

    Now we are ready to tackle the next main part of this recolouring, i.e. adding identification letters in white. Here's a useful photo I found on the web, of the preserved G-EAOU in Australia:


    As you can see, all the letters are there, albeit in different sizes, and all distorted. Since you will need the letters in a variety of places (top and bottom of wings, both sides of fuselage, sides of fin), I found it useful to make my own straightened up original, and work from that:


    I used the lasso tool to outline the existing letters, and fill them with "insignia white". The text was straightened up by using the different resizing tools available in Photoshop (and other programs as well, I'm sure), and copied on a layer of the green colour I had chosen.

    After that, relevant parts of the text (sometimes letter by letter) was pasted in a separate "G-EAOU" layer over appropriate areas of the rear fuselage, and distorted back to look like the photograph.

    The "Lift here" captions were created by the text tool, and rotated slightly. A different set of arrows, similar to the ones in the photograph was added.

    I find it useful always to make notes in the images itself of the RGB codes of colours used. Same thing goes for the print originals. That way you never have to look them up somewhere else.

    Changing and moving details; creating a new fin

    Now there are only a few things left in converting the military Vimy to the G-EAOU. The round gun mount ring on the rear of the fuselage was changed to a leather-combed open two-seat position (for the two mechanics coming along on the flight). This was made from slightly compressing the corresponding part at the pilot's position.

    The transparent windows on the rear sides of the fuselage have a different position and size in the G-EAOU. Copying the existing windows in the model, and resizing them in a separate layer solved that problem comparatively easy. Here's how it looks now (and do compare with the original version above!):


    As you can see, the number of layers have increased considerably by now!

    Finally a new fin was constructed, by closely studying the photograph, and added to the existing rudder of the model. Some textures from the existing fin was used, and the final result filled with the same green as the rest of the model.

    This took some considerable time, but you'll get the hang of it soon enough. This was a first for me, and I didn't know any of it until needing to do it, and having to find a way to do it. The next project certainly will run much smoother - although first I'll have to build the Vimy, of course.

    Which will be another story.

    Leif Oh.

    See also, on this site:

    • "Color reference in Federal Standard", by Gil.
    • "Redrawing and Coloring a Model File with The GIMP", by Ryan Short, part I, and part II.
    • "Sources for correct aircraft colour schemes", by Leif Oh.
    • "A beginner's five first steps in recolouring", by Leif Oh.
  2. j77ason

    j77ason New Member

    Sep 4, 2004
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    And to think I have a 1/33 scale cardmodel of this Vimy - I think it is 1/33 at least!!
    Like your article however - must read up on it and try it out - Great Job!!