AVSIM Commercial Utility Package Review

Abacus FS Repaint

Product Information
Publisher: Abacus
Description:  Aircraft Repaint Utility
Download Size:
8 MB
Format:
Executable or CD-Rom
Simulation Type:
MSFS 2004
Reviewed by: Brian Fletcher AVSIM Staff Reviewer

Introduction

Repainting an aircraft is a fun and relatively simple way to add realism or your own personal touch to Flight Simulator. In fact, repaints seem to be the most commonly uploaded freeware files for Flight Sim. Unfortunately, there can be a few impediments when trying to repaint aircraft, including disorganized bitmaps and the need to convert some textures before they can be altered. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of repainting aircraft, at least in my opinion, is the inability to see the finished product as an assembled aircraft without having to start Flight Simulator.

That brings me to FS Repaint from Abacus. FS Repaint is more than just another paint program; it also gives the artist the opportunity to view the entire aircraft exterior model and virtual cockpit as it would appear in Flight Sim immediately after repainting the bitmaps. This eliminates the need to start Flight Simulator to check your work. Plus, if you want to add new variations as opposed to repainting the ones you already have, FS Repaint will do all of the dirty work for you. By this I mean that you do not have to copy a texture set and than alter the aircraft.cfg file, this program takes care of all of that.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with repainting aircraft, you may not fully understand what I am talking about just yet. But hang in there and I will get you caught up. The first step to repainting an aircraft is to either create a new variation or choose to alter an existing one. If you are going to create a new livery, you will need to copy one of the existing texture sets, rename it, and alter the aircraft.cfg file by adding a new variation. Then you may have to convert the textures, which I will discuss more in depth later on. Finally, you can begin to repaint the aircraft using a variety of texture editors, the most common being Paint Shop Pro and MS Paint.

Once you have completed editing the two dimensional textures, you will need to start Flight Simulator and load the aircraft to see how it looks. The exception to this rule is if you happen to have an add-on utility that displays the aircraft assembled. Assuming that you do not, you will then have to return to the bitmaps if more editing is required and then restart Flight Sim to view the changes. Oh, and you may need to convert the textures each time you finish painting so that they can be seen in Flight Sim.

Now imagine if you could simplify this procedure by simply starting a program that contains a list of all of your aircraft and each of the variations. Then you could choose which one you want to alter, or make a new variation, paint the aircraft, then immediately see how it looks all without having to start Flight Sim and not having to convert the textures. That sounds a whole lot easier doesn’t it? That is exactly what you get with FS Repaint.

There is plenty of time to explain each of these steps in more detail but first we need to get FS Repaint installed. This utility is available from the Abacus website at www.abacuspub.com for $29.00. Since I have mine installed already, let me show you how I did it, then we can start having some fun.

Installation and Documentation

FS Repaint comes ready with an auto-install file. Simply unzip the download and run the installer and you are on your way. You can select where you would like the program to be located, and quite frankly it really does not matter. I have chosen to install mine to my FS9 directory and placed a shortcut on my desktop. Once installed, there will be a help file readily available wherever you chose to install the program.

Though installing FS Repaint is simple, you will need to make sure that you set the program up properly to get the most out of your painting experience. There are several options in the menu bar that allow you to alter how the program appears and operates. You will also have the ability to select the destination of the texture editor that you wish to use.

How It Works

After starting the program, you will need to select which aircraft you want to work with. All of the aircraft in your collection will be organized alphabetically by manufacturer with each variation listed thereafter. Once you find the aircraft you want to paint, you will have the option of opening the exterior model or the virtual cockpit. You can also choose whether you want to create a new variation or alter an existing one.

If you choose to create a new variation, you can simply right click on the aircraft name and select “create new variation”. A new menu will pop up giving you the opportunity to specify certain characteristics such as the variation name. You will have to select a reference texture when creating a new variation.

After loading the aircraft, you will need to click on the “textures” tab to open a list of all of the available bitmaps for that aircraft. Ideally these textures will be fairly well organized, but if they are not, you can still determine which bitmap is for which component(s) of the aircraft by dragging the cursor over top of the texture preview box. When you are ready to start painting all you have to do is click on the bitmap that you want to alter and the paint program of your choice will load up. Alternatively, you can also right click on the aircraft part that you want to modify. This feature is especially useful if the bitmaps are not distinguishable.

 

The Help Files All my aircraft are listed Create A New Variation screen Proceed with creating a new variation?

After your done repainting the bitmap, you can close the paint program and you will be right back at the FS Repaint main screen. Now the aircraft will appear with the modifications that you have made. If you’re happy with your work then you can exit the program. If not, then you have the opportunity to choose not to save the alterations by simply clicking “no” when asked whether or not you want to save your work when exiting FS Repaint.

The Menu Options

The menu bar across the top of FS Repaint contains an array of useful options to help you set up FS Repaint to your liking. The file menu offers you the options of saving your aircraft, closing the aircraft that is currently open, or exiting the program. The edit tab contains an options menu that is full of alterable options such as automatic save settings, background color options, and gives you the opportunity to select the directory of a third party texture editor and the Flight Sim directory.

The view tab allows you to select which items you want on the main screen, and also gives you the option of loading the aircraft main model or virtual cockpit. This is also where you can choose how you want the model displayed, i.e. one, two, three, or four windows. You can also use this menu to choose whether you would like to display the entire model or just certain parts of it.

 

Two window view Four Window view

The tools menu has just one sub-menu that allows you to animate the aircraft. When you select this mode, the aircraft will continuously turn in a given direction until you alter its movement with the mouse. The final selection on the menu bar is the help menu which provides all the information you need to know to use FS Repaint. There is even a walk-through to help get you started.

 

Round and round she goes....

To the right of the menu bar are two buttons, one with a picture of the moon, and the other of the sun. These buttons are used to change the 3D model from the way it appears in daylight, to how it looks under the cover of darkness (night textures).

 

Lights on... Lights off...

Let's Paint Something

Perhaps the best way for me to explain what this program is all about is to dive right in and start painting an aircraft. For this example, I am going to slap a coat of paint on the default Bell 206B. Since this helicopter only comes in one variation, I think it is time to expand my options a little. I will start by finding the Jet Ranger in the aircraft selection menu on the left side of the screen, then I will right click on the aircraft title and select the text that says “create a new variation”. Now I will have to select which livery to use as my template, which should be easy since there is only one. Then I can name my new variation whatever I choose, wait for the aircraft list to be updated, and get to painting.

Since I am not what you would call an expert re-painter, I am just going to do a two-tone scheme with black and yellow. With the default Bell 206B the entire exterior model is assembled into one bitmap and only one side of the aircraft is present. That means that whatever I put on one side of this helicopter will automatically appear on the opposite side. Most of the third party aircraft that I have repainted have separate templates for each side, but since this one does not I will be unable to add text or pictures unless I want it to appear backwards on the other side.

 

Repainting the Bell Jet Ranger

As I mentioned earlier, you can right click on any part of the aircraft to select the correct bitmap to repaint, but in this case it will not do me much good since all of the parts are on one bitmap. This is where having the assembled 3D model comes in very handy. If I do not know which part I am painting, I can slap a little paint on it, exit the paint program, and see where the paint is on the model. I can then reload the aircraft and now I have identified the part without having to alter its texture permanently.

This process was especially useful when I was trying to find a rear section of the fuselage. I simply added a little red paint to an area that I thought it might be until I found it. Since I am using yellow and black, the red stuck out like a sore thumb. It might be a good idea to name each of the parts as you identify them, as this will make it much easier if you are going to do multiple repaints of a certain aircraft. Most of the bitmaps that I have come across have left plenty of room in between each part to type the name in.

At this point I have already painted the yellow where I want it and am ready to move on to the black. From time to time I have found that some of the colors do not line up properly when you are extending the paint scheme from one part to another, and this is where having the 3D model comes in handy again. I can simply check my work and then make alterations as necessary. An example of this, is when I was trying to line the border between the yellow and black from the fuselage to the tail. Even though I had to exit the paint program a few times to check my work, it was a lot easier than having to start Flight Simulator every time.

Now with the bulk of my helicopter painted I can work on some of the smaller and more detailed parts. I can also work on the virtual cockpit if I want to personalize it a little bit. After checking over my work I think I am ready to show you the finished product. Even though it is not exactly an award winning paint job, it is something that I can call my own.

 

Repainting the Virtual Cockpit

Test System

Compaq Presario SR1232 AMD Athlon 2.2 GHz
2 GB Ram
NVIDIA Ge Force FX 5500
StarLogic 21” Flat Panel
CH USB Flight Yoke
CH USB Rudder Pedals
Saitek X52 Flight Control System
FTP 290 Throttle Quadrant

Flying Time:
155 hours

To Buy, or Not To Buy

I can not possibly suggest that you should or should not purchase this product, mainly because I have no way of knowing the interests, capabilities, and desires of every Sim enthusiast. But, if you are interested in repainting aircraft, this utility could quite possibly become your new best friend. The benefit of having FS Repaint is that it is an all-inclusive program for repainting. The textures are automatically converted, the paint program is included, or one of your choice is accessible through FS Repaint; and you can see the end result without having to start Flight Sim.

I have been unable to find any major problems with this utility. The only minor problem I found was the inability to save a few of my newly repainted aircraft, but that issue has been resolved and should not be a problem for anyone else. If I had to suggest any part of the program to be less than impressive, I guess it would have to be the paint program included, which I still find to be considerably better than MS Paint. However, as I mentioned before, you have the opportunity to use any image editor that you wish.

All in all I found FS Repaint to be a fantastic program for repainting aircraft. If you enjoy repainting aircraft you should give this program a try. For the $29.00 price tag you really don’t have that much to lose, but a lot to gain. Even if repainting aircraft is not one of your hobbies, this program may be just what you need to get you started. Overall, I would call it a “great buy”.

 

What I Like About FS Repaint
  • The ability to see the assembled aircraft without having to start Flight Sim
  • Quick and easy access to the paint program
  • The option to view the virtual cockpit assembled
  • The 3D model loads very fast

 
What I Don't Like About FS Repaint
  • The program froze on me twice. It is unclear if the problem rests with the program or my computer

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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