View Full Version : Drawing Airfield Layouts

Peter Kirk
04-06-2008, 23:15
My drawing skills are not up to much, despite having an 'O' level in technical drawing. I have had many goes at drawing from aerial photos, especially earlier wartime layouts but the result where of sketch quality, impatience being the main issue here. Anyway it oocurred to me the in this computer age there must be a simplier solution. Ignoring the obvious CAD solutions (it took me a day to draw a curve in one) my thoughts turned to Vector graphics, which, if my memory is correct, are scalable and rotatable without loosing quality, unlike JPG or BMP file which seem to degrade rapidly if turned through anything other than 90 degrees. The thought was to create constant scale components (hangars, pens, loops, hardstands etc) and buid a drawing that way - it works in Powerpoint for business use.
Does anyone know if this ever been attempted or indeed possible if so would it be difficult?


04-06-2008, 23:27

I faced this very same problem for our first publication, whose subject matter is RAF Ashbourne & RAF Darley Moor, Derbyshire. After a few experiments, I managed to get things about right which were suitable for final publication.

What I did was scan the relevant image (in this case the general arrangement section of the record site plan) and save it as a .jpeg. Opened as a layer, I created a transparent layer over the top of it and, fiddling around with a lot of lines, managed to create the following. I did it in Macromedia Fireworks MX2004. The programme still stands up very well today, I might add!

It might be worth pointing out here that as it was for commercial publication, permission was requested, and given, from the RAF Museum after submitting sample scans and tracings.

General arrangement sketch, RAF Ashbourne, Derbyshire (adapted from A.M Drawing No. 1116/45)


Paul Francis
04-06-2008, 23:51
The technique I use is to scan a original drawing and then trace it using Paint.net a free programe to download. Its very easy use and the results can be stunning.

05-06-2008, 10:58
Trust me to make things difficult for myself then!!


Peter Kirk
05-06-2008, 17:32
Do you both use mice or graphics tablets?
I have edited photo's with a mouse and make much use of the undo button (Paintshop Pro 7.4 by the way) as I don't seem able to keep the control the on rounded bits.

Thanks for the advice it has been very helpful.


05-06-2008, 18:02

I sometimes do an airfield chart for my Flight sim addons. Here's one I did for my RAF Leuchars addon all done in Photoshop CS by hand (well mouse).
I've left it as a link because its a large image.

http://www.ukmil.org.uk/e107_files/publ ... e-char.jpg (http://www.ukmil.org.uk/e107_files/public/1205438109_21_FT0_raf-leuchars-aerodrome-char.jpg)

Stevo ;)

Paul Francis
05-06-2008, 18:08
Here is one i did earlier, obviously this is a jpeg and the detail and colour is shot but the original drawing is really good and bright. All done in Paint.net and for free!!


05-06-2008, 18:18

Just had a look at the paint.net website and it looks very similar in layout to Photoshop even the tools menu has the same symbols and the History and layers menus are more or less the same.

Amazing considering its free, I think I'll download it and see how similar it is to Photoshop.


Paul Francis
05-06-2008, 19:00
Paint.net has saved my life. Before it was available I used to draw airfield layouts by hand on myler - plastic film using pencil (0.35mm) and I got quite good at it. But then it was a trip to the photocopy shop to get a positive and then annotate the plan by spraying building numbers with spraymat etc. But now with Paint.net its so simple and a damn site quicker to produce great results.

05-06-2008, 19:09
In answer to PNK's post, I personally use a mouse, although I have a drawing tablet somewhere.

I've also just had a look at paint.net's web site and seems an interesting piece of kit. As it's free, I think it'll be worth the download and give it a try. Thanks for bringing it up Paul.


05-06-2008, 19:44
Interesting as I have to draw many Belgian Military Airfields...
And thinking to use a pencil, etc... the good old method !

Paul Francis
05-06-2008, 19:51
olympusman, the pencil is a 19th Century instrument, you need to get into the modern age. Your mission is to download Paint.net, this evening. You know it makes sense.

05-06-2008, 19:57
olympusman, the pencil is a 19th Century instrument, you need to get into the modern age. Your mission is to download Paint.net, this evening. You know it makes sense.

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


05-06-2008, 22:19
I use a pencil aswel, then finalise in pen, can look quite period aswel! I have covered Trebelzue/St Mawgan various phases using this method.

The 'puter is a darn sight easier and tidier though!

Peter Kirk
07-06-2008, 12:37
Computer drawn plans look computer drawn and my first attempts had blocky straight lines. Scanned pencil or Rotring pen drawn ones look smoother somehow, though less prefessional. My next question is what canvas size do you start with in Paint.net as it must be large to avoid the blocking?
My interest is in the phases of airfield (rather like norwichpaul's excellent drawing of Northolt above). My drawings were all on tracing paper (to allow overlays) and pre-computer and pre ATB plans and are sometimes grid enlargements of photos in books - i.e. inaccurate!


Paul Francis
07-06-2008, 12:54
PNK, I just scan an original plan (at A4) at the lowest res poss, then open it in Paint.Net at what ever the appropitate canvas size is (the programme sets this to the scanned image). If later I want to increase the canvas to add a title or key etc then that is v easy to do. The runway lines are not really jaggid that much you would never know at A4 or even A3 (they look like straight lines). I printed the above plan in glossy colour at A3 (photographic quality) and it was superb. It looks a mess as a reduced JPeg in the above post. I use these drawings in my reports and they do look good, especially in colour where I can illustrate the period in which a building (or runway) was built, even extensions to buildings. Or show which buildings were surveyed to what level, or colour code building types etc. The list is endless and limitless. Once you have a basic plan drawn, its so easy to use it again and again to highlight different things. To do this all by hand would take up too much time. Like I said before the programme has saved my life. I dont agree about your comment that plans drawn look as if they were done on the Computer, CAD yes they are awful, I get CAD maps for my work and thy are terrible a complete mess and nothing like old fashioned OS maps. My avatar was drawn in Paint.Net which is the north sign I now use in my drawings.

21-06-2008, 18:15
wow, just tried the free paint.net tool! That is amazing especially for a freebee.

Peter Kirk
21-06-2008, 19:23
Having got my scanner working again I have no excuse but to try again.
Thanks for all the helpful advice. It'll probably take a few weeks to decide which one to draw!


Richard Flagg
21-06-2008, 19:38
Keep us all posted Peter, you will have to post up the results here!!

21-06-2008, 19:41
The most impressive thing (so far) is how it draws corners and radiuses.
Once you adjust the line it seems to know how to draw the corner properly and smoothly.
Can't wait until I work out the layers function!

Peter Kirk
21-06-2008, 20:34
I was afraid someone would ask to see the results. If I delay long enough maybe memories would fade?

Alright give me a few days then!


Peter Kirk
21-06-2008, 23:41
Okay here it is.


I used Paint.Net for this and the traced a scan. I did this in about two and a half hours. I know there are a lot of bad joins and other mistakes but I thought it best to show it like this as there was very little effort required.

I must say I am impressed with Paint.Net so thank you for recommending it.
The only gripe is that drawing circles in the right place is nigh on impossible and I couldn't figure out how to move them.

Adding text was a lot easier than Paintshop Pro and as I never read instructions this was an excellent feature.

The only thing to do now is decide how much detail to include.

One down 600 to go (give or take)


Richard Flagg
21-06-2008, 23:55

That looks brilliant, far better than I could do! I downloaded paint.net but couldn't figure out how to use it, I got frustrated with it and have deleted it!!!!! Its probably a patience thing, I have none!!!!! It does look like a brilliant program, and you have shown that it is.

Peter Kirk
22-06-2008, 02:40

The trick is not to do any freehand work. The bulk of it is straight lines and joined by straight line bent using the two pivot points that are in the line 25% and 75% along it. Mawganmad gave me the clue and it is brilliant to make curves. The only thing you have to bear in mind is that you may have to join a number of lines to get all the curves you want.
The other trick is to use layers. All the circular pans were copied and pastred from one master and re-sized. You can merge layers one at a time and this again is much easier than Paintshop Pro.

I take back all I said about computer drawing. It was obviously the software.

It's now 2:38 AM and I blame norwichpaul for keeping me up - been playing with Paint.net and not realised the time!


Richard Flagg
22-06-2008, 07:50
More practice then!!! I'll be downloading it again then!!!

22-06-2008, 10:21
Lol I was up playing with this all night aswel!
It truely is amazing, and I have now sussed the layers
Here are four stages of copying an airfield on to an old map.
Don't laugh at the airfield sketch, as it is only for scale and dimensions.





As you can see I have traced the runways and other vitals from a current map, taken the tracing and overlapped onto a C.1930 map. The amazing thing is, everything lines up, notice old road crossing Trebelzue. The current crash gate exits for RW 31/13 line up with the original road aswel.

Not only does this show how useful paint.net is, but how accurate OS maps are over 60+years, despite the heavy drawing of the earlier ones.
My eventual aim is to show the various stages of airfield expansion over the old map.

You can also do this by tracing over airfields from Google Earth, thus giving you access to any airfield and high accuracy.

The curves and corner tool is amazing and it really does seem to predict how the corner should end up. The pivot points at 25 & 75 % can be dragged to create the corner at any point in the line.
In a short amount of time I got fantastic results.

This can be used also for building plans (inc towers), layouts etc, and as Paul says, pretty well endless uses.

I really urge anyone to try and persist with this tool, i'm using a low end PC with a basic mouse, and am amazed at the results.

Peter Kirk
22-06-2008, 12:31

The overlay on the 1930's map really shows the disruption to the local community. Something you don't appreciate on the modern maps.


Paul Francis
22-06-2008, 12:32
Glad your having fun with Paint.net, REF you really need to get into it if you want to be in PNK, Mawganmad and my gang!!

Richard Flagg
22-06-2008, 12:37
Paul, you are supposed to be on holiday!!!!!!

I'm working on it again, it will take time as I haven't a clue how it works!!!

Paul Francis
22-06-2008, 12:40
AiE is part of the Holday experience, surely you know this.

Richard Flagg
22-06-2008, 13:03
Yeah true!! You just can't keep away from us all can you!!!

22-06-2008, 13:37
The overlay on the 1930's map really shows the disruption to the local community. Something you don't appreciate on the modern maps.

Too right, Deer Park, and Trenoon were devastated by St Mawgans contruction, I guess something felt up and down the country.
Trebelzue on the other hand only took up farm land.
St Mawgan was a difficult land requistion due to some high profile labd owners.

Re doing circles immagine the existing circle is in a box, start your new circle (or elipse) in the top left corner of the box and work right and down.
Anyway, here it is with curves!


We could start the anti Ludite gang! Glap your getting some holiday relaxment with the forum NP!

Peter Kirk
22-06-2008, 14:24

How long did it take you to do? It looks very good.

The thing is, I can't decide is how much extra to add. They always look good with fields and farms but that takes time. I will try my hand at the lands map of Gaydon to see how quick it can be. The original is really a sketch over the 1909 OS map but it might be fun.


22-06-2008, 15:39
I did that this morning.
Can be endless if you want it to be, or decide your cut off and stick to that.
The pic I posted is the 1945 layout of the airfield only, the dispersals were a bit on a nause!
The tech site is next, I have some good pictures to help me with that, and itS surprising how the layout follows old lanes and roads, much different to what you see on Google Earth now.

Peter Kirk
23-06-2008, 22:34
Late last night I started a more detailed map. It took a few hours and I cut some detail but I think it looks okay. It is very much a sketch, when you look at the pans you will see what I mean.


I am missing some detail like hangar locations and bomb dump (the original sketch has the bomb dump roads the same with as the peri-track!). I also want to try adding tree symbols.
The more I use Paint.Net the more impressed I am, especially when I am probably only using 5% of the application for this purpose.
The biggest problem is working out the detail on the "original". In the village on the bottom left was impossible to work out the roads. Next time I will check with modern and contemporary map to confirm this sort of detail.


Paul Francis
26-06-2008, 04:11
PNK and Mawganmad your drawings are really good - well done.

26-06-2008, 09:39
The results are impressive... would like to have that level... but not a PC freak !
I have (an official) Paint shop 12 version... will try with this software or go to Paint.net !
Looks like that different softwares are proposed on Paint.net... which one do I have to take ?

Paul Francis
03-07-2008, 19:07
Paint dot net is brill, its free and easy to use you can draw airfield plans and sort out your photos too. Why pay for software when an equally good programme is free to down load. It makes perfect sense.

25-11-2008, 13:38
Hi all,

I am new to all this posting of information and using this website but just a quick post to let you know how I would re-draw old map / airfields, or other building!!


In this link I have posted a very quick sketch of East Moor Airfield. Basically I use Auto CAD every day for work purposes so I am quite proficient with the re-drawings of details and site plans etc..., (I use a mouse) I basically used a mapping service where I can view road maps, and detailed maps but can only view an official OS map if I pay to view this. For a the sketch above a have taken a screen shot of the existing map and copied this into Auto CAD - then from there it is a simple procedure of re-drawing over the top of this image. If I was to start drawing an airfield now from scratch I would view the existing OS map (having to pay!!) take a screen shot then redraw this in CAD, alternately you could buy a digital copy of the area but this would cost probably 200+. If I was going to produce drawing of an old so map, or drawing I would scan the image and import this into CAD to redraw the same way. I can then print this drawing in A1 to A4... and save this as a PDF, BMP, DWG, JPG, EPS, or even import it into a word document.

Also I can use various layer to create different line thickness and also colour / shade the drawing.

If anyone would like more info please let me know.



Paul Francis
25-11-2008, 17:26
Thats exactly what we do in Paint.Net and its free, easy to learn and the results are quite amazing. Jon I couldn't get the link to work.

Peter Kirk
25-11-2008, 17:41

I could'nt get the hang of Auto CAD (in DOS days!) and found it too fiddly. As you use it on a daily basis I assume it is a lot easier. As you can see from the previous posts a lot of us have become fans of Paint.NET and it seems to do pretty much what you describe. The most difficult thing I found in the past was curves and this is not a problem any longer. They key thing is to use what you feel comfortable with and it sounds as though Auto CAD works for you.
The layers thing is probably the most critical aspect and when I drew the Gaydon layout I had multiple layers including OS and a couple of drawings from the National Archives. The OS layer was for map accuracy and TNA layers for wartime layout. There was a lot of compromise though.
My next project is to "sketch" Mildenhall as it was in 1941/2. I will probably post the result so keep an eye out over the next few weeks/months/years.
I also use a mapping service but have found the major drawback is the size of output. It requires a number of tiles to get a whole airfield site so as you say it is very expensive. As a result I haven't used it much despite the excellent coverage of the 1950's and 1960's. I think it is geared to large companies rather than individuals for research.