I always start drawing the image of the aircraft skin by tracing the lines of the main panel seams. They will form a kind of reference “grid”, which later I will fill with other details: rivet seams, inspection doors, etc.
I will draw all these technical details in Inkscape, because it is much easier to modify such shapes in this vector-based program than in GIMP, which is mainly intended for the raster images. What’s more, I can export this scalable vector graphic from Inkscape to a raster image of any resolution.
Initially I prepared in Inkscape an empty drawing, set up its layer structure, and placed the appropriate links to reference drawings on the UV and Reference layers (Figure 64‑1):
I duplicated here the basic structure for the detailed bump map, which I worked out during my P-40B project. It is explained in all details in the “Virtual Airplane” guide (chapters 3 and 4 in Vol III, or chapters 6 and 7 in the complete edition). In this case I just used the hierarchical layers feature for grouping the related layers (in Panels, Fabric) together. (This feature was introduced in the latest Inkscape 0.9x, while the guide was written earlier, using older versions of this software).