The Perfect Aircraft Guide

Author :alotef
Category :Design Tutorials

Welcome to my first tutoria. This one will teach you how to create a near perfect aircraft. From the line-drawing, to the coloring, to the highlighting and shading, this will show you how to produce a beautiful aircraft. So buckle up, and get ready for the birth of art!

-------------Step 1-----------------------
The Research
Yes yes, I said RESEARCH. Now at this moment, you'll all be thinking:
'Oh gawd...Research? Geez, I'm on holiday!'
Well, trust me, this is the easy part.
All you really need are some good websites, and a good book. For books, I highly recommend:
-The Osprey Publishing series
-The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft series (This will be a little hard to find, as it was released weekly as a collection in the 1980's)
-The 'In Action' series. (Messerschmitt Bf109 In Action part 1 & 2, The Junkers Ju88 in Action, part 1 &2 etc.)

As for websites, check out:
Your basic research tools: &

Once you have found the aircraft you wish to create, you should go hunting for 3-view diagrams and plans. You can find some in the books I have recommended, and in these following sites (Don't forget to give credit if necessary!)

-------------Step 2-----------------------
Drawing the Blank
'The Blank' is the black and white picture upon which all of your future models will be based.
Using the 3-views and pictures you have collected, draw the aircraft, or trace it, as best you can. Try to keep it in scale (In this case, 1/72: Most profiles are in 1/72 scale)
and re-create the aircraft's shape. Below is my attempts at re-creating the Heinkel He-111 H2.
When you are designing the aircraft, don't forget to make the 'Flip' side (The other side of the aircraft.) On most aircraft, the port (left) side of the aircraft will be different from the starboard (right) side of the aircraft. Be it camouflage or design elements (air intakes, flare chutes, markings), there will be some difference.

Note that the starboard side is different from the port (the cockpit canopy has a guard on the port, not on the starboard).

-------------Step 3-----------------------
Now the fun begins.
Remember all that research you did? Go back and find a nice color profile of the aircraft. (One that represents the type of aircraft you are creating).
Comparing with the picture, re-create the colors with the 'color mix' tool in MS Paint:

By now, you should have a full palette of colors for your aircraft.

Now it's time to start to fill your aircraft with the colors you have selected. Take your time! This is the most fun, but the most important color stage

You may have noticed that on my last picture, some of my panel lines have been drawn-over by the paint. (Can't see it? Look closely! :P)
For example, I have exaggerated this effect here:

It really doesn't matter if while you paint, you paint over panel lines. Because you have your blank, you can just copy and paste it  it over so your panel lines will be renewed! Compare the image above with the image below:

Ok. By this point you should have painted the entire aircraft. Now it's time for...

-------------Step 4-----------------------
Now it's time to make your aircraft look realistic by lighting it up.
Firstly, mix lighter colors of your base colors with the color mixer we used before. Simply make the base color lighter with the slider to the right of the menu:

Now that you have the highlight colors done, it's time to spread them out on your aircraft. Paint the highlighted colors on every raised surface, and on the leading edge of every panel line as shown below:

Dont forget that for windows (which are always a very light shade of blue), the highlighted color is always simply white. This gives a nice 'reflective' look.
Now with this done, it's time to move on to....

-------------Step 4-----------------------
Shading the aircraft is just like highlighting it: Create darker versions of the base colors, and place them on every surface that rolls underneath the aircraft. (But do not darken the opposite side of the panel lines that are shaded...This looks too much!)
Here are the colors:

And of course, the completed shading:

Phew. Almost done. By now, your aircraft should be looking pretty cool. :P

-------------Step 5-----------------------
The Markings

Here is a group of markings, and I will explain why they are presented as they are:

The markings themselves are surrounded by a grey-green background. This is so you can see them clearly, and also because the markings use extremely light colors (almost white), and so you might not be able to see them properly if there was not a darker background.
Now, pick the markings you want to use, and drag them on to your aircraft.

(Note: The markings here are completely historically inaccurate. They are only used for this tutorial.)
Now, you may have noticed that the markings are pasted over the aircraft's panel lines. Simply take your blank, copy it over, place it on top, et voila:

-------------Step 6-----------------------
The Last Part
This is the easy part. All you have to do is:
1. Flip the aircraft over so there are 2 copies, 1 flipped vertically to produce the 'mirror image' that is used for those who print the model.
2. Write a small description of what unit the aircraft served with, and interesting info on the aircraft itself.
3 Write your name and a link to the JG site (
4. Upload so we can all applaud your work! :)
Here is the final image:

Of course, there are other little effects you can add:
-War Damage
-Extras, like landing gear and alternate canopies or aircraft variants
-Exhaust smoke trails behind engines