Colors for altitude.. - RC Groups
Thread Tools
Jan 17, 2003, 02:59 AM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar

Colors for altitude..

I was struck by the coloring of the Sagitta 900 in that thread... black on the bottom, yellow on top.
I just repainted a Gentle Lady to a black bottom as I'd had problems seeing it.
Flew it a couple days ago and got some good photos, which I've pasted on a cloud photo..
Each smaller image is 75% of the previous.. againat a blue background (standard SoCal sky )
all the planes can be seen, if indistinctly for the right images..
in the cloud photo, the topview image although still there to #8 vanishes at image 6.
Black works better. (See Kelly Johnson. )
Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Jan 17, 2003, 08:02 AM
Registered User

That's a great illustration.

How did you take and process the images?
Jan 17, 2003, 11:00 AM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
Ollie, the original photos were taken with a Fuji FinePix 2800... at 1600x1200 resolution, 6x zoom.
Then transferred from the camera to Paint Shop Pro 7. Choosing one of the images as the sky, I took the other and with the "magic wand" tool selected it out of its background and pasted it into the first image to make the pairing. "Mirrored' the top view to get the plane orientation the way I wanted it..
Using the wand, selected only the plane images, and pasted those into the cloud photo. Each smaller pair was reduced 75% and wanded and pasted until they got too small.
Here's the Gentle Lady bottom image.
These new generation digital cameras with optical zoom ranges >2 are really good for this stuff..
Right, here's both images at full size..
The right image goes away faster because it is smaller, and it's less easy to seperate from the cloud background also because of the color..
Last edited by Sparky Paul; Jan 17, 2003 at 12:45 PM.
Jan 17, 2003, 12:07 PM
Registered User
shoe's Avatar
That's a great idea but I think that the result is a bit skewed due to the size of the original images. The original on the right is clearly smaller that the one on the left. By the third interation you can still see both quite well and the one on the right is MUCH smaller.
Jan 17, 2003, 03:19 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Picture problem aside I agree with Sparky about dark colors on the lower sides. The don't need to be black but any of the very dark colors that shadown to near black are the way to go for sure.

The only alternative that I've found is even close is transparent red or, surprisingly enough, blue and green. You wouldn't think that the last two would work but for some reason they seem to stand out quite well. Forget about trans yellow. It just dissapears too easily........ At least that's what my eyes found.

Dark unders and light tops (white seems to work the best) really lets you see what the model's attitude is when low and distant. The alternating dark and white in a turn being very good to catch.
Jan 17, 2003, 04:37 PM
I "plant" trees (balsa)
Gary Retterbush's Avatar
Sparky, as I recall the Aussies did a fairly good test a few years back with real sailplanes and came up with a dark green as the best.

I can assure you of one thing, white as used in most scale birds is NOT the answer! But, I just can't bring myself to spray an ASW27 or Discus or etc anything other than white.
Jan 17, 2003, 07:19 PM
Registered User
Evidently what matters most is intensity contrast, not color. A yellow-bottom glider against a bright blue sky is very difficult to see. But when it flies in front of a bright white cloud, it becomes much more visible, even though the "color contrast" is worse. The intensity contrast improves, and that's what counts. Dark bottom is good.

Also, I've found that it's important for the dark underside to be continuous across the span. A wing with two dark-bottom tip panels and a light-bottom center panel is MUCH less visible than the same wing with a uniformly dark bottom.
Save any bright decorative chordwise stripes for the top. On the bottom they will only degrade visibility.
Jan 17, 2003, 08:20 PM
Registered User

Re: Colors for altitude..

Originally posted by Sparky Paul
I was struck by the coloring of the Sagitta 900 in that thread... black on the bottom, yellow on top. (snip) Black works better. (See Kelly Johnson. )
Hi All,

The dark bottoms really do work well. My Sagitta is actually a very dark blue on the bottom and my BOT is black on the bottom. They are pretty much equal to see in the air.

There are other points about this color scheme that some might not notice from Paulís picture. One of the primary advantages is that the black stabs give better orientation at very high altitudes. I also cover the moving rudder dark (at the hinge line, not the vertical fin) to match the wings for the same reason.

I tried a little test while looking at Paulís photo. First, back away from the computer till the planes get very small. Then look away and look back. The dark plane shows flight direction much better. I have also found that when you get distracted and lose sight of your glider (it only happened once ...) that your eyes will locate the dark wings much faster. This color scheme works for bright skies, dark skies, fog, and cloud base.

Happy Landings,
Jan 17, 2003, 11:10 PM
Registered User

I agree with your comments. Trans yellow gets lost by itself. However, if you suround it with the dark colors it really glows! One of my models has all of the open bays covered with trans colors. The center panels and a few of the open bays near the tip are red with perhaps 18" of trans yellow inbetween. All of the sheeting is covered with black on the bottom and white on top.

The model has a poly wing, so in a lower alt. turn with a shallow bank, the off side wing tip is white on top and very visible with the closer tip showing the black underside. It really helps when the model is at a distance.
Jan 17, 2003, 11:23 PM
Ascended Master
Sparky Paul's Avatar
Way back when I used to think being able to differentiate between right-left was most important.. but after a lot of flying, it's not.
Top-bottom is most important. Light colored top, dark colored bottom so that when you see the dark image, you know you're looking at the bottom.
VERY important on manuvering airplanes!
Most of my racers are white on top, orange on the bottom.. they don't get more than a few hundred away anyway, so top-bottom is very important for orientation.
My fun flies are usually yellow on top, red or orange on the bottom, with a large white stripe on the bottom, for instant orientation. These planes don't get very far away or very high. Orientation is THE most important feature of the color scheme on one of these!
Scale paint jobs such as the generic all white full-scale glider which isn't controlled from a distance as the model is really should have the model adulterated with something to aid in orientation, however yucky it is scale wise.
White just plain goes away against clouds.
I see a lot of U-2 activity out here. The black ones disappear quicker than the natural metal (typically a U-2 is stripped to natural metal when undergoing depot level maintainence, and flies in that scheme after reassembly. NASA has a couple of mostly U-2s which fly by occassionally) or white ones, due to the reflective nature of the desert. White shows up for many thousands of feet of altitude, above where black is just impossible to discern.
I like transparent yellow on many of my planes because it "glows" when the plane is on the sunside of the flight area. I think the curved top surface acts like a lens to enhance the sunlight thru the covering. But when the plane is at a slant distance and far out, yellow and orange don't help much. That's why I sprayed the GL bottom with black Krylon.
The attached image of my Oly II shows the transparent yellow "glow" and the transparent green as an effective color.
Jan 18, 2003, 12:18 AM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Originally posted by Sparky Paul
Top-bottom is most important. Light colored top, dark colored bottom so that when you see the dark image, you know you're looking at the bottom.......
Exactly.... When I fly far from home plate and I'm lower in the sky than I'd like the switch from dark to white when I'm circling in lift (hopefully...) is super comforting and a great aid to ensuring that the model doesn't get tossed off on a tangent and winds up doing something I don't know about.
Jan 18, 2003, 02:53 AM
Registered User
Daemon's Avatar
Just another ditto here.
I fly everything I own anywhere from 1000 feet below, to a couple thousand feet above me, and light on top, dark on bottom is key to increasing my "speck" altitude and being able to see em against the ground when they're down low above the ground. (I fly from a paraglider launch often and have had to land at the bottom of the mountain a couple times.)

This isn't a thermal ship but it gets plenty of thermalling duty but here's a color scheme designed for MAX visibility in any orientation against almost any background and lighting conditions, with obvious emphasis put on the more common flight modes.
Click on the links to the right of the image to see all the various angles. Every color on that thing plays a very important role in the various conditions that things flies (which is ALL conditions).

BTW, someone suggested that yellow against white clouds works. Not in my experience. One of my gliders was yellow on the bottom and the only thing that showed up against sky or clouds at speck altitude where the broad black stripes across the yellow I added later.

Also people will say "ya, but almost every color ends up looking black at altitude", when justifying blue or red on the bottom. What I've found is that yes, they all look dark under the shadow of the wing itself, but they still disappear from view at a lower altitude than the gliders with a true black bottom.

Jan 18, 2003, 09:21 PM
large member
vario's Avatar

real lite on top

i have what i think to be the best of all worlds,,its clear on top [balsa color],dark on LE ,top and bottom,then brillant transparent for the underside see attached photo;; on a poly glider i had always liked to have the top of the tips a light color ,buy using clear on the top i get both dark and light! works for me

i also just needed an excuse to show off my 900 sagitta!!
Jan 18, 2003, 10:14 PM
large member
vario's Avatar
Jan 18, 2003, 10:26 PM
large member
vario's Avatar

Thread Tools