Facts about German Camouflage Paint in World War II
by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle
As with all of their procurement efforts, Germany established a program
to control manufacturing and application of camouflage paints. Specifications
were sent to the paint suppliers detailing the exact method for preparing
test specimens to send in for examination and approval. In addition,
the inspectors at the assembly plants were provided with color swatches
to use in accepting products painted in accordance with orders specified
in contracts. This strictly controlled and enforced program ensured
uniformity in both the paint and the final assembled product. These
camouflage paints were used for the entire range of military equipment
and vehicles intended for frontline use - not just Panzers.
At the start of the War, all Panzers were painted in a two-tone scheme
of Dunklegrau (dark grey) and Dunklebraun (dark brown). Dunklegrau
RAL 46 (later renumbered RAL 7021) was the base coat. Irregularly
shaped patches of Dunklebraun RAL 45 (later renumbered RAL 7017) were
to be spray painted onto 1/3rd of the surface.
In June 1940, a general order was issued to stop applying patches of
Dunklebraun and only use Dunklegrau RAL 46 for the entire surface.
In February 1943, a general order was issued to change the base coat
from Dunklegrau to Dunklegelb nach Muster (later numbered RAL 7028) -
a tan color. Field units were issued tins of Rotbraun RAL 8017 (red
brown) and Olivgruen RAL 6003 (dark olive green) paste concentrate to
create camouflage patterns suitable for local conditions. This practice
continued after Panzers were covered with anti-magnetic Zimmerit starting
in August 1943.
In August 1944, an order was issued to the assembly firms to apply the
camouflage pattern at the assembly plant using Dunklegelb RAL 7028 as
the base coat with Olivgruen RAL 6003 and Rotbraun RAL 8017 applied in
patches. This order created the uniform pattern which has become
known as the ambush camouflage scheme.
Following the order to drop Zimmerit in September 1944, Panzers left
the assembly plants with a base coat of primer Rot RAL 8012 (dark red)
with only about half of the surface covered with patches of Rotbraun,
Olivgruen, or Dunklegelb.
Finally, as initiated by orders dated November 1944 - but not to go into
full effect until June 1945 - the Panzers were to receive a base coat
of Dunkelgruen (RAL 6003). A camouflage pattern was to be created
at the assembly plant by spraying on Rotbraun or Dunklegelb in sharp contours.
Camouflage paint colors, authorized for use in hot climates or in the
winter, will be covered in a separate article. The effects of light,
fading, wear, weathering, dirt, dust, and scale will also be addressed
in future. For now, well stick to the following fundamental
facts to create basic starting points from which to build.
Only one dark grey - Dunklegrau RAL 7021 - was used as a base
coat on Panzers!
There was only one Dunklegelb, which was RAL 7028, used from February
1943 until the end of the war in 1945!
Original test color swatches of Dunklegelb RAL 7028 have not been
found to date!
Tests show there is no significant variation in Dunklegelb RAL 7028
found on well-protected museum pieces originally painted from 1943
The current RAL classic color swatches do not match the wartime RAL
The original RAL paint colors have not been accurately shown in
color photographs, digital copies of color photographs, printed
color photographs, or in drawings colorized with water colors!
The color prints in our books published by Osprey are useful for camouflage
patterns but do not accurately reproduce the original colors.
Colorized drawings in other publications are usually figments of the
It is impossible to determine color or shade from black and white
photographs but they can be useful in determining camouflage patterns
created with contrasting color paint!
Most Panzers in museums and private collections have not been repainted
to match the original camouflage colors at this time! Even though
inside the Patton Museum, the original paint on the Sturmgeschuetz
Ausf.G was not protected and has changed with time.
The only way to obtain reasonable examples of how Panzers looked
during the war is by repainting surviving Panzers in the original
matt camouflage colors!
A G13 (being converted to represent a Jagdpanzer 38 from May 1945) is
being repainted to obtain a very close match to the original matt colors.
It is owned by a private collector and will be displayed at future military
vehicle collector shows in the U.S. This dedication to authentic
detail should be encouraged and awarded while the usual practice of spraying
on any shade of tan, green, brown, and grey should be discouraged.
Accurate color slides of this vehicle will soon be available from Panzer
Tracts as an aid in painting models for the period from September 1944
to May 1945. While these slides can be copied onto color photographs
or scanned into digital formats for viewing on a monitor, the actual colors
are usually not converted accurately.
We are also working with other collections to get additional Panzers
repainted to closely match the original camouflage colors. In this
way a full range of accurate full-scale examples will be created as a
base for systematically assessing the other effects.
Other Panzer Facts Installments: