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MSFS Color Matching aerial imagery in MSFS


Staff member
Resource contributor
One of the more difficult aspects of bringing aerial imagery into MSFS is matching the default color. If, and when we have seasons, this will be even harder to accomplish. I recently went through the aerial imagery tutorial by Nool Aerosystems.
The toolkit is great, and it makes a tedious project semi-automated with good results. The tutorial uses ImageMagick to accomplish it's recoloring of aerial tiles, but I found that result to be less than optimal.

What I found that works is using Paint.net to color match a prepared base image. The same should be able to be done by Gimp or PhotoShop.

1) Get the reference image
2) color-correct the reference image to the sim
3) Color match the aerial Image to the reference image
4) Now process the re-colored aerial image into MSFS

Where to get a base image? I use Bing Maps aerial imagery. Just make a screenshot and save. You want the color and the color relationships. An MSFS screenshot of the default may also work, but then you are dealing with sun angle, seasonal sun angle, shadows, atmosphere, etc...


If I use this as a base color image, it won't look very good. When imagery is streamed to the sim, it has been enhanced. Luminence, contrast, saturation, hue, are all altered either on the source tiles, or by some combination of shaders, before the imagery is even streamed to the sim. To match this, we can use a paint program to alter our base image to match what the sim streams. There is some trial and error needed. I was able to get this for KLAF:


More contrast, more color saturation, darker, less blue (more yellow).

Using Paint.net color matching, I was able to get this in the sim:


Nearly flawless. Can't find the seam between streamed and CGL unless you know where it is.
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Staff member
Resource contributor
Here's a compilation using the bing tiles imagery, with no alteration from ImageMagick or any paint program:


Notice how unsaturated it is, and too blue.

I'm guessing that the streaming tiles we get are pre-processed at the server. They are darkened and made bluer to account for the sim"s sunlight. The increased saturation may have to do with trying to make the aerial imagery seem more attractive (closer to real like), or may have to do with mitigating the atmospheric effects of water vapor, etc... Contrast might be sharpened for this as well.

I don't know if there is a standard algorithm or if some form of AI adjusts on a tile by tile basis.
Interesting stuff. I would assume that colour would vary wildly by location, so I tend to adjust visually, same as Prepar3d, but add a much higher gamma to prevent that lightening. Then load it and do any tweaking visually from there. I prefer my preferences even if there's a slight mis-match, so I mask to roads/fields etc so that a colour-change isn't that noticeable.