Learn To Use Blender - Part 3

Introduction

Welcome to Part 3 of this tutorial series teaching you how to use blender. I highly recommend that you read through the entirety of the tutorial from start to finish so that you can pick up details that appear in every section.

Last time we talked about how to edit the mesh of the aircraft to reverse all the cutting that the original modder performed in order to create a blank of the aircraft model. From this blank we will be creating a seemingly new aircraft.

Now that you have an aircraft mesh ready to be painted it is time to actually finish the blank aircraft. This section will discuss the process your should take to finish the blank model and prepare to paint aircraft.

You can check out Part 1 here.

You can check out Part 2 here.

Saving & File Structure

If you have not saved the aircraft at this point, you should take the opportunity to do so. To help aid in remembering what the model is, I named the file "Blank_A345_OWL" to denote that it is a blank aircraft, or after this section, will be a blank aircraft, what the aircraft type is, and where I got the original model from.

Now simply saving the blender file is not good enough if you are looking to create several different paint schemes. I like to create a folder for each project I work on with the following file structure

  • Overall Folder (A345 Pack)
    • Blank Aircraft
    • Reference Images
      • Paint Scheme 1
      • Paint Scheme 2
      • etc
    • Logos
      • Paint Scheme 1 Logos
      • Paint Scheme 2 Logos
      • etc
    • Painted Aircraft
      • Paint Scheme 1
      • Paint Scheme 2
      • etc
    • YSFlight Files
      • Aircraft
        • air_.lst file
      • user
        • decaff_42 (insert your own folder name here, typically your online/ysfhq username)
          • A345 Pack
            • Paint Scheme 1
            • Paint Scheme 2
            • etc

While this may look somewhat complicated, it is the natural evolution of my different projects and my attempts to organize them. We will discuss more about this file structure later on, but for now, if you set the folder up, you can then save the blank blender file into the blank aircraft folder.

Removing Decals

Before we paint the aircraft white, we need to remove the decals from the aircraft. In object mode, we can select the decals, but that is not all that we have to delete.

Once you delete the decal we have to also delete the empty that is associated with it. There is not always an empty associated with the decals but in this instance there is. To delete the empty, we have to view a different layer. We find the empties in the 6th layer. Press the number 6 on your keyboard (not the number pad). I entered the Solid View Mode to see the empties better. Be careful in wireframe mode because the empties can be difficult to spot.

Notice that their centers were in the exact same location as our decals. That tells us that they are the ones we want. Additionally there are no animations in the general area, so it should be safe to delete them. When there are animations nearby, we will need to be more careful, and you should compare the decal name to the name of the empty.

We use the same process for deleting the decal on the tail, however we notice something different in the 6th layer.

Here we see dashed lines leading away from the empties. This is what you see in a parent-child relationship between mesh objects and empties in blender. This is super important for animations (which you won't get into for a while) but it is useful to be aware of this now. We can delete the empties like any other object in blender.

Now that there are no decals left to delete, we can paint the aircraft white.

Painting the Aircraft White

After all the mesh has been edited to be as close to the original pre-paint job condition as possible, it is time to paint the aircraft white to complete the blanking procedure. To do this we need to talk more in detail about the Vertex Paint Mode where we apply colors to faces.

Enter Vertex Paint Mode by going thru the drop down menu.

While the entire button window will change, this menu is the only one we will care about. The color box will start out white, but as you work on your model, the color will stay. There are two ways you can edit the color.

  1. You can edit the RGB sliders to the left of the color box.
  2. You can click on the color box to open the window below.

Here you can see several options. First we have the color box that allows us to pick and choose colors from the range shown. This range can be altered by the color spectrum on the bottom left, or by selecting one of the default colors in the middle vertical column. I have had a lot of success with the default colors, especially the grey scale on the left.

Below the default colors we see two boxes. One will show you the previous color you selected, while the other will show you the current color you are looking at.

On the right side of the window we have the sample button which allows you to select a color already applied to a face in the model.

Below this we can input any HEX code for colors, which is a series of 6 alphanumeric characters and is one of the most common way of defining colors.

We once again have the RGB sliders, but below this we have the Hue, Saturation and Value. I typically use the Value slider to darken or lighten a color.

Selecting A Face to Paint

Now once we select a color (In this case want white) we need to select a face. Put your mouse cursor into the 3D window and press "f" this allows us to select a face, rather than an object to paint. You will notice the difference like shown below.

Now that we can see the faces of the model, we can select them. In Vertex Paint Mode, we can only select the faces we can see, similar to having the occlud background geometry in edit mode. This makes it take a while to select many faces, but we can speed it up in several ways.

Here we select some faces on the engine nacelles.

Those faces after being painted white. Note the pink highlight on the faces that were selected for painting.

Zooming out we notice an interesting feature that other engine nacelles, that we did not select, were also painted white. This is an artifact from certain mirroring features in YSFlight that appear in this peculiar way in blender. Do not be surprised if you see this. Many older models will exhibit this behavior. I wanted to highlight this here so you do not get confused later on down the road.

Using YSPaint Scripts

You may have realized that there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of faces that you may want to paint a specific color between many different mesh objects. Therefore I want to show you how to use the Replace a Color script.

I understand if all this material is a lot to learn in a single segment, however I do not want to hide useful tools from you. I am always a fan of simplicity and saving time. Therefore, what better place to show you how to quickly replace one color with another for one or meshes.

To open up the Replace A Color script we have to first swap out our button window with the script window. To do this we click on the button in the top left corner of the button window as shown to the left.

When using the default screen setup for blender, constantly switching between the button and script windows. In later sections I will show you how I currently have my blender screen setup for both mesh work and animation. If you are interested in jumping forward a bit, you can go to the Blender Wiki page about Changing Window Frames.

I highly recommend that if you want to learn more about using blender, that you look beyond the YSFlight community. I may be one of the more knowledgable YSFlight users of blender currently active, but I still have huge gaps in my knowledge of blender. In the end the work we do that is 100% unique to YSFlight modding is relatively little when compared to all the work that is strictly blender related (editing mesh, painting, applying certain scripts, setting up parent child relationships for animations, etc.).

Once you have the script window open, click on the scripts button directly next to the button we clicked to change the window to a script window. Navigate to Mesh -> Replace A Color.

This will activate the script and change the script window to have the following two color boxes.

As the arrow between the two boxes might suggest, this script will take any face with the color in the left box and turn it into a color in the right box when you hit the replace button. If you click on the color boxes, just like in vertex paint mode we will have all the color choices available to us, including the sample option to pick up a color from the model we want to replace.

If we do this for the off-white color you may have noticed in some of the first work on the mesh, we will first need to select which objects should have this script applied to it. In our case, I would like to apply this color change to all the meshes. Therefore I select all the objects in the object mode by pressing "a" until I see everything is selected.

Notice how once I have applied the script one object — in this case the wings — enters into the edit mode. Once you apply the script it will push you into edit mode for one of the objects you were applying the script to.

Now you will want to do a similar thing to the yellow that is on several different objects. If we follow the same steps you would expect the same result to happen, but only applying to the yellow color. Unfortunately there are some times when the script will not work properly and simply not apply the color replacement.

There are a few potential ways around this, including saving the file, closing and reopening blender and trying again. However that may not always work. In most situations, I can work around this by looking for meshes that can be reduced to a single color. In this aircraft, the tail is the only object I can blindly select everything by pressing "a" and painting the entire object white. While we may thing the fuselage can be done in the same manner, if you look at the back you will see the APU exhaust port is going to remain non-white, so we cannot blindly paint the fuselage.

Now you may have thought that it would have been better to start with the yellow color for the Replace A Color script, however the off-white was present in more meshes and applied to more faces, so it would made better sense to start with that.

Finishing Your Blank

Once you have painted your aircrat white, deleted all the decals, you are ready to finish the blank by saving the blender file. I recommend that you use an obvious name to let you know that this is a blank aircraft such as :

[BLANK]A345_OWL.blend

This filename can easily be changed for later aircraft that will be painted such as:

  • [AmericanAirlines]A345_OWL.blend
  • [Delta]A345_OWL.blend

By saving this into a special blank aircraft folder like shown in the file tree at the top of this page, you can organize everything. One of the reasons I like this file tree is that it is quick and easy to travel through it in the blender file browser. Rather than hunting around your computer, you have everything in one spot.

Here is what a blank aircraft should look like. Note that not everything (landing gear & engine intakes for example) is white. These features are going to remain this color for the rest of our modding of the aircraft.

Part 4

You can move on to Part 4 here!

In this tutorial we discuss how to paint the aircraft with a custom paint job using the mesh-cutting method after first learning how to cut a mesh in blender.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions or Comments, you can direct them to this topic on ysfhq.com or get in touch with me via my contacts page.