German armour colours .pdf
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Title: German Vehicle Colours and Camouflage of World War Two
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GERMAN VEHICLE COLOURS AND CAMOUFLAGE
OF WORLD WAR TWO
A painting and modeling guide | A.L.Beckett
During the six years of World War 2, no army displayed such a varied approach and evolution to the
colouring of its vehicles than the Wehrmacht. A combination of officially issued colours,
improvisation in the field, initiatives within local commands, variations applied by manufacturers,
and finally, in the last months of the war, the effects of shortages and breakdowns in the supply
chain infrastructure resulted in a plethora of colours, patterns and combinations.
Although colour photographs of this period can be found, they can prove as unreliable as
photographic reconstructions of black and white photographs, artist’s impressions, and the paints
applied to restored or displayed vehicles in museums or private collections. The variation in film
quality, the chromic qualities of photographic film of the period, and the reprinting of colour
photographs can all result in distortions of the original colours.
This is a painting and modelling guide for those who are working with scale models. The smaller size
of the subjects creates its own optical illusion; if the actual 1:1 scale paints were to be applied to a
scale model, they would appear unusually dark in comparison to their appearance on a life-size
Therefore, the colours displayed in this document are not a 100% faithful reproduction of the actual
RAL colours as they appeared on the original machines. They have been lightened, in an attempt to
create an authentic look of the original colour schemes on a much smaller scale model. The colours
have also been presented as “clean”, i.e. they have not been subjected to any form of weathering,
which is an option left to the imagination of the individual painter.
This document is the result of pouring over photographs, books, websites, and displayed vehicles,
plus a lot of comparisons made between the almost numberless amount of variations on the colours
that such sources provide. It is not intended to be the ultimate authority on the subject, but rather
as an aid to those who may find themselves as mystified by the contradictory resources that are out
there as the author was when this project had its genesis some years ago. All the colour plates
displayed therein are created by the author, using references to photographs, both colour and black
and white, of vehicles in the field. Hopefully it will help to lend some aid to your painting and
modelling projects, and any errors are the authors own.
Adam Beckett, 2014.
PART 1: The colours.
From 1939 until almost the war’s end, the German armaments ministry issued orders regarding the
overall colour schemes of vehicles in the field. As the war developed, these orders also began to
cover the use of camouflage paint, trying to create some form of orthodoxy in the application of
disruptive paint schemes.
The first order issued that covered the period of the war was initially issued in 1935, replacing the
three colour scheme that had been introduced during the period of the Weimar republic, and which
remained in evidence even as late as the Spanish Civil War. The order stated that vehicles would
receive an all-over coat of RAL7016 Anthrazitgrau. This was then to be given a one-third coverage of
RAL8002 Signalbraun, with a soft contoured or blurred edge, applied by spraying. Although there is
some photographic evidence supporting the existence of this scheme during the early years of the
war, it is still a matter of some debate as to how widely this two-colour scheme was employed. The
two colours, when seen in black and white, are of a very close shade and tone, and when partially
masked by the inevitable dust and mud that covered the vehicles in the field are extremely hard to
discern. Not all vehicles painted with this scheme adhered to the letter of the order, as there is also
some evidence that the pattern was employed with a hard edge to the Signalbraun camouflage
paint; obviously some vehicles were painted in the field, without the aid of spraying equipment.
There is little if any evidence showing the use of this paint scheme in the Polish campaign, and it
seems that the two colour scheme was applied mainly by units operating in the west. It may also
have been limited to combat vehicles such as tanks, tank destroyers, armoured cars and assault
guns, as again there is little if any evidence to show its use on support or logistical vehicles.
The next issued order, order Nr.864 came on the 31st June 1940. It sought to unify the colours of all
vehicles in the field, replacing the two colour scheme with a single overall coat of RAL7021
Schwarzgrau, also known as Panzergrau, which was to be applied at the factories before the vehicles
were issued. This colour became the standard colour of all Wehrmacht vehicles until early in 1943.
However, whilst in the field of operations, local commanders and individual vehicle crews sought to
camouflage their vehicles with the use of improvisation. Vehicles were sometimes daubed with mud,
and particularly on the Eastern front, use was made of captured stocks of the standard olive green
paint used by the Red Army on its own vehicles. Also, stocks of paint could be had from depots that
serviced the Luftwaffe, and in the Balkans campaigns stocks of paint could also be obtained from the
Italians, as well as captured stocks from the British.
During the first winter campaign in the Soviet Union, there were attempts to supply vehicles with a
white camouflage paint which was to be applied over the Panzergrau. This was also applied to
vehicles that were serving in Norway and in Finland, and the winter camouflage was made official
under order Nr.1128 which was issued on the 18th November 1941. However, on the Russian front,
the supply system had become so overstretched that this unified winter paint scheme had become
almost impossible to implement, and once again individual units and vehicles were left to improvise
whilst in the field. There are accounts of vehicles being camouflaged with lime wash, with ordinary
stocks of whitewash paint, and even with applications of chalk, or white sheets being laid on
sections of some vehicles until they could finally receive the new camouflage paint at depots.
This rather haphazard method of vehicle camouflage persisted throughout 1942. The winter paint
scheme was removed in the spring, to be replaced with the overall Panzergrau scheme, and once
again the application of camouflage paint was left to the initiative of personnel at a local or
individual level, using whatever stocks of paint came to hand.
In 1941, German troops were committed to the campaign in North Africa. This introduced a new
battlefield environment, against which the standard RAL7021 Schwarzgrau was a huge contrast.
Under order Heeresmitteilung 1941, Nr. 281 a new set of camouflage colours became available for
use by the armoured troops of the Afrika Korps. The new colours were RAL8000 Grünbraun,
intended as a new base colour to be applied over the top of the Schwarzgrau, and RAL7008
Grüngrau, a disruptive colour which was to be applied at a ratio of 2:1 in favour of the base colour.
The order called for a soft edge pattern. To begin with, only limited supplies of the new paints were
available, so many non-combat vehicles initially retained their Panzergrau/Schwarzgrau colouring. In
addition to this, some combat vehicles bore a scheme in which the RAL8000 Grünbraun was applied
as a disruptive pattern over the Schwarzgrau, or made use of stocks of paint available from their
Italian allies. Later, as the new paints became more readily available, most vehicles bore the all over
RAL8000 scheme. The RAL7008 was applied as available, and some vehicles went without it for the
duration of the African campaign. There were also examples of the camouflage scheme being
applied with a hard edged pattern when spraying equipment was unavailable. This scheme also saw
use in Greece, Sicily, and the early stages of the Italian campaign.
The next change to vehicle colour schemes also occurred in the African campaign. Order HM 1942,
Nr. 315, issued on the 25th March 1942 stated that vehicles of the Afrika Korps were to be issued
with two new colours for their vehicles. RAL8020 Gelbbraun became the new base colour, and it was
to be given a disruptive pattern using RAL7027 Sandgrau, using the tried and tested one-third
coverage with a soft edge. In addition to the paints supplied, a temporary water soluble paste was
supplied for the purposes of painting on vehicle tarps. This scheme was also used in Crete. However,
its use was sporadic, as the supply situation in North Africa deteriorated, and many vehicles retained
the old 1941 colours.
In February of 1943, new orders were issued, primarily regarding vehicles serving in Europe. Orders
HM 1943, Nr. 181 and 322 decreed that vehicles leaving the factory were to receive a new base
colour which was to replace the RAL7021 Schwarzgrau scheme. The new colour was RAL7028
Dunkelgelb. Accompanying the new colour were two new camouflage colours, RAL6003 Olivgrün,
and RAL8017 Schokoladenbraun, also known as Rotbraun, which were supplied in a soluble paste
form, for application using spray equipment by the crews of vehicles. This scheme began to filter in
during the spring and summer of 1943. It created a non-uniform appearance to German vehicles in
the field, as individual crews were left to paint their vehicles using their own initiative. Spray
equipment was not always used, so some vehicles sported hard edged patterns. Additionally, and
most noticeably around the time of operation Zitadelle, the Kursk counteroffensive, some crews
opted not to use the brown camouflage, as the yellow and green colours matched the summer
landscape more accurately. Also, the soluble colours, intended to be diluted with petrol, were
sometimes thinned with water instead, or were diluted with a higher ratio of thinner than was
intended. This led to a translucent, weaker appearance of the camouflage colours, and in some cases
the camouflage effect was almost completely negated at a distance by the effects of the sun and
dust. However, these three colours became the standard for the Wehrmacht until the autumn of
1944. Initially, vehicles that had been painted in RAL7021 Schwarzgrau were only supplied with the
camouflage colours, but they were usually given a new coat of RAL7028 Dunkelgelb during their next
stop at a supply or repair depot.
During this period, there were two more developments that would affect the appearance of German
tanks, tank destroyers and assault guns; the application of spaced armour in the form of armoured
skirts or schurtzen on the side of the hull and turret of a tank, and which was intended to defeat
attacks by shaped-charge anti-tank weapons, and the application of zimmerit, a cement-like paste
that was applied at the factory before the base coat of paint. It was intended to counter the use of
magnetic anti-tank mines which were starting to make a more widespread appearance in the field.
Zimmerit was discontinued in the summer of 1944, but schurtzen became a common feature of
many German panzers until the end of the war.
In October of 1944, with the strain on logistics now becoming increasingly felt, attempts were made
to simplify the paint schemes on German vehicles. The RAL8012 Oxidrot primer paint, which had
been applied to all vehicles beneath their base colour, replaced the RAL8017 Schokoladenbraun, and
became the base coat colour, with the RAL7028 and RAL6003 being applied as disruptive camouflage
over the top. In addition to this, the RAL7028 Dunkelgelb paint changed in colour, becoming a
lighter, and slightly greyer hue. In light of the supply situation, it was also decided that when stocks
of RAL7028 were not available, the old RAL7021 Schwarzgrau could be used as a substitute.
However, at this stage of the war there is no evidence of this taking place.
Further to this, in November 1944 a second set of orders appeared, authorizing the use of RAL6003
Olivgrün as the base coat colour, with a camouflage scheme of RAL7028, and either RAL8017 or the
Oxidrot primer colour RAL8012, also named Rotbraun applied over the top as available. With
RAL6003 being used as a base coat colour, tanks that were still being produced in a base coat of
RAL7028 were given a new green shade as a disruptive camouflage colour. This was RAL6011
ResedaGrün, a slightly lighter shade of green.
This was the last official change to the colour scheme of German vehicles. As the war drew to its
conclusion, and with the supply chain in tatters, factories, depots, units, and individual crews were
forced to make do with whatever was available. Many vehicles left the factory in their primer colour
only, and were camouflaged with whatever stocks of paint were to hand. By the end of the war, the
surviving vehicles of the Wehrmacht bore a large array of colours, ranging from the plain to the
The final colour of note to find its way into the palette of the Wehrmacht vehicles was the colour
used to paint the interior surfaces of vehicles that were not open to the air. This colour was RAL1001
Elfenbein, although the RAL7008 Grüngrau was also employed. These colours were discontinued for
this purpose in 1944 as part of an economy measure, and henceforth, vehicle interiors were left in
their RAL8012 primer. It must also be noted that the interior colour was not used on the inward
faces of vehicle hatches, as these opened outward. These surfaces were painted in the base colour
of the vehicles exterior.
PART 2: The Camouflage of vehicles.
1. The Early Years; 1939 to 1940
Up until 1937, German tanks and armoured vehicles were finished in a three colour scheme
consisting of an earthy yellow, green, and brown. This scheme used colours that had begun to see
use at the end of the First World War, and which had been made official during the time of the
German Weimar Republic. This scheme continued to see use right up until the end of the Spanish
Civil War. But in 1937, new orders were issued which standardised the base coat colour of all
Wehrmacht vehicles upon leaving the factory. This new standard colour was RAL7016 Anthrazitgrau.
In addition to this, a single disruptive camouflage colour was issued: RAL8002 Signalbraun. This was
supplied in a powder/paste form, to be applied at depots or by units. The Signalbraun was seemingly
only issued to combat vehicles, rather than vehicles that were involved in transport and
supply/logistics. The order called for the Signalbraun to be applied in a soft edge pattern using spray
equipment, and for it to be applied to approximately one-third of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of colour photographs covering this period, and this has led to
problems in identifying this two-colour scheme; The Anthrazitgrau and Signalbraun are a similar
shade, with little contrast between them. Factor in the soft edge camouflage pattern, and the
weathering caused by exposure to the elements and the inevitable dust and mud, and the two
colours become almost completely indistinguishable in black and white photographs, as illustrated
RAL7016 & RAL8002 in colour
RAL7016 & RAL8002 in black and white
In fact, the only photographs in black and white that give a definite indication of this pattern are
those in which the camouflage scheme has a much harder edge to it. It appears that the soft edge
pattern as defined in the order of 1937 was not always adhered to. Units in the field would not
always have had access to the spraying equipment, so it is quite likely that the supplied camouflage
paint was applied using whatever method was to hand. The one quality that does seem to have been
universal was the amoeba-like blobs or thick bands that the RAL8002 was applied in.
It also appears from the few photographs that are available in colour that this colour scheme may
not have been universally applied. Whereas all vehicles left the factory in the overall RAL7016, the
RAL8002 would have been supplied subject to the logistical situation, and many units in the field
would have considered the paint as a low priority when compared to fuel, ammunition, rations, and
the seemingly endless list of necessities required by an army in the field. So it is quite likely that a
large number of combat vehicles would have remained solely in the RAL7016 Anthrazitgrau for the
duration. Illustrated below are the most common forms that this scheme seems to have been
RAL7016 & RAL8002, SOFT-EDGE PATTERN
RAL7016 & RAL8002, HARD-EDGE PATTERN
By the end of the campaign in France and the Low Countries, the armaments ministry and the
Oberkommandowehrmacht (OKW) had obviously decided that further standardisation was required,
along with a need for wartime economy measures. So the RAL8002 camouflage paint was
discontinued, and a new overall base coat colour was chosen: RAL7021 Schwarzgrau, also known as
Panzergrau. This had a more neutral tone than the Anthrazitgrau; indeed, it has even been described
as a warm colour tone. However, those claiming this may have been failing to take into account the
effects of strong sunlight, and the effects of aging and repeated exposure of stocks of colour film.
There are photographs in colour which, if they were taken at face value, would show RAL7021 as a
dark chocolate brown, liberally coated with salmon pink mud! Panzergrau was selected precisely
because it was a more neutral tone. RAL7021 was very dark, when studying colour swatches and
paint chip samples, especially when initially applied. But like most paints, it would have lightened
somewhat due to exposure to the elements.
RAL7021 remained as the base colour of the Wehrmacht’s vehicles until early in 1943, and it has
become synonymous with the German armed forces of World War Two. It lasted longer than any
other colour scheme sported by Wehrmacht vehicles, and in the case of non-combat vehicles, it
often remained until the end of the war.
As ubiquitous as Panzergrau was, it was not the perfect colour for vehicles wishing to remain
unobserved in all environments. And as the war began to spread beyond the Northern European
theatre, changes slowly began to occur in the appearance of the vehicles of the Wehrmacht.
2: New Environments; 1941 – 1942
In February 1941, German armed forces were committed to the campaign against the British in
North Africa, and against the sand and dust of the terrain there, the Panzergrau-painted vehicles
were worryingly conspicuous. Accordingly, under order Heeresmitteilung 1941, Nr. 281, German
vehicles were once more issued with disruptive camouflage colours. A new base coat colour was
supplied, to be painted over the top of the Panzergrau. This was RAL8000 Grünbraun, a greenish
ochre paint. Initially, as this new colour arrived, it was applied in a disruptive pattern over the
RAL7021 Panzergrau as a stop-gap measure. But as the Germans consolidated their position, more
time was taken to fully cover vehicles with the new scheme. The second colour to be supplied was
RAL7008 Grüngrau, A greyish shade of Khaki, which was supplied in the powder/paste form, to be
diluted with petrol or diesel, and which was intended to be applied in the same manner as the old
RAL8002 Signalbraun had been, providing a one-third coverage of the vehicle with a soft contour.
The scouring effects of the sand and heat of the African campaign caused a lot of wear and tear on
the camouflage paint, and many German vehicles in the field bore a slightly ragged appearance, with
the original Panzergrau paint showing through in places, lightened by the sun and dust.
RAL7021 & RAL8000
RAL8000 & RAL7008, SOFT & HARD-EDGE PATTERNS
RAL8000 & RAL7008, SHOWING WEATHERING-EXPOSED RAL7021
In April of 1941, Germany invaded Greece and Yugoslavia, in support of their Italian allies, and the
deposed Axis-sympathetic Yugoslavian government. The German vehicles that participated in these
campaigns were coloured in the original RAL7021 Panzergrau/Schwarzgrau, but the terrain, similar
in some ways to that of North Africa, led to some improvisation by German forces. Vehicles were
given disruptive camouflage schemes comprising of plastered-on mud, or captured or “borrowed”
supplies of paint taken from the British and Greek forces and their Italian allies respectively. The
thick coating of dust that the vehicles inevitably picked up whilst on the road also provided its own
form of camouflage, masking and obscuring the RAL7021 paint scheme. Following the invasion of
Crete in May 1941, German vehicles that were stationed there received stocks of the same colours
that were issued to units in North Africa, and these were quickly utilised at depots, especially for
vehicles that were to be committed to Africa as replacements or reinforcements.
In June 1941, The Wehrmacht commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Due to the huge differences in environment across the operational areas of the three Army Groups
involved, no attempt was made to issue camouflage paint, and initially the all-over colour scheme of
RAL7021 was the norm. However, the localised units and individual crews of vehicles soon began to
improvise, as the Panzergrau scheme once again began to prove conspicuous against the greens and
yellows of the terrain, particularly for vehicles operating with the central and southern Army Groups.
The Red Army was little inclined toward camouflage paint schemes, but some units bore a twocolour scheme of green and brown, similar in tone and colour to the RAL8002 Signalbraun and
RAL6003 Olivgrün, and captured stocks of these paints were used as the campaign in the Soviet
Union progressed. Improvised coatings of mud were also employed, especially as the autumn rains
turned the roads into thick swamps of liquid mud.
As the winter of 1941 drew in, it became necessary to provide some form of winter camouflage, not
only for the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union, but also for vehicles stationed in Norway, Denmark
and Finland. The German Army in Russia had been caught somewhat unprepared for the severe
winter of 1941, and with the supply chain at breaking point it was once again left to the initiative of
local commands and individual crews to camouflage their vehicles. Limited supplies of a whitewash
paint that could be removed using petrol in the spring reached some units, but most fell to using
whatever came to hand. Lime whitewash, supplies of white household paint, chalk mixed with any
kind of thinner, and even sheets of white material were employed by the hard-pressed crews at the
front, and with the lack of spraying equipment, anything from paintbrushes to brooms or mops, rags
on long poles, or even branches dipped into the paint mix were used to apply the winter
camouflage, leading to a huge variation of coverage and effectiveness. As the Soviets launched their