In-Box Review
German Pre-War Camo Paint
German Pre-War Camoflage Paint Set
  • move

by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Few modeling topics are more controversial than the color of German AFV camouflage.

Nothing quite gets everyone’s bowels in an uproar faster than debating what color to paint tanks, softskins and artillery during the Poland and France, 1940 campaigns. The regulations are very specific, but the surviving photographs are frequently ambiguous or even misleading. This is in part because vehicles on campaign get dirty and dusty, thereby inadvertently hiding their paint schemes. But mostly the surviving photographs are soldier snapshots taken with cameras whose lenses are nowhere as good as even today's cell phone cameras. The optics of the period don’t render the various colors accurately on Black & White film, so as a result, modelers for generations (and manufacturers, too) have defaulted to the “panzer gray” solution that many experts now agree is incorrect (the all-gray scheme was adopted after the Fall of France and prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union).

Fortunately, the three-color camouflage pattern used prior to the war is known, and tends to stand out in surviving photographs. Prior to July, 1937, new Wehrmacht vehicles were painted in a tricolor scheme known officially as feuersicherer Buntfarbenanstrich (“fireproof multi-color camouflage”). The three colors were officially listed as

Nr. 17 Erdgelb-matt (“matt earth yellow”)
Nr. 28 Grün-matt (“matt green”)
Nr. 18 Braun-matt (“matt brown”)

Even after that, it wasn't until November, 1938 that the army was ordered to repaint ALL vehicles in the new Dunkelbraun Nr.45 and Dunkelgrau color scheme. Prior to that date, older vehicles in the feuersicherer Buntfarbenanstrich pattern didn't have to be repainted.

While the colors were promulgated by THE Authorities in military paint schemes, the Reichsausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung ("State Commission for Delivery Terms & Quality Assurance"), or RAL, very little study seems to have been done on the actual color palette with the long, tongue-twisting name seems to have been done. Numerous armor books include pre-war camo illustrations, apparently Jentz and Doyle’s Panzer Tracts No.1-2, Panzerkampfwagen is the only widely-available source with researched paint chips.

Worse for kitmakers, previously no paint manufacturers offered these colors. If you wanted pre-war camo, you were on your own. Now, after some research and trial & error, Andrew Preston of “Devil Over the Atlantic” paints has filled that void with the release of a three-bottle set of the pre-war colors.

the contents

The set comes with three 2 oz. bottles.

the review

Preston has done a thorough job researching the paints from the few surviving sources. The result is a set that will allow model builders to embrace the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme.

(I should also reveal in the spirit of transparency that I worked with Andrew in vetting the early versions of these colors, and have encouraged him to fill this gap in the hobby's paint options).

Simply stated, this set is a watershed for German AFV builders.

With the war years thoroughly represented in kit form, the pre-war time period is now seeing a small boom as new kits like Bronco’s armored cars (e.g., the Panzerspähwagen Kfz.13) and Sd.Kfz. 221s make their way onto the market. These offerings cry out for the vivid, distinctive pre-war paint schemes, yet previously modelers either had to forgo the pre-war version or come up with the paint scheme through trial & error.

That's easier said than done, since those resource books I referenced above (at least the ones I've examined over my two years as a reviewer on Armorama tend to have widely-varying renditions of the pre-war scheme, veering from gaudy light greens for Nr. 28 Grün-matt to very dark tones, while the Nr. 17 Erdgelb-matt often looks like recycled Dunkelgelb.

The paints themselves are very easy to use and can be used in airbrushes straight from the bottle at 20 psi more or less. They go on nicely with ordinary brushes and dry to an even tone and look. For the purpose of this review, I have hand-brushed them onto some scrap white plastic to show the colors and differing opacities. The paints were applied either feathered or with 1-3cm. wide stripes of RAL Nr.5 Schwarz-matt (for more information go here).


While we're still trying to persuade some of you to give up all-Panzer Gray paint schemes for Fall Weiß ("Case White," the invasion of Poland in 1939) and Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow," the 1940 campaign in France), there is no argument about the pre-war camouflage color scheme up until 1938. Now at last there's a set that makes that scheme come to life.

Thanks to Andrew Preston of DOA Hobbies for providing the review samples. Be sure to mention Armorama when ordering this set.
Highs: The only pre-war camo paint on the market. Well-researched and well-rendered.
Lows: More expensive than some paint manufacturers, but this is a targeted set.
Verdict: Highly recommended for a subject that gets too little attention.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: N/A
  Suggested Retail: N/A
  Related Link: website
  PUBLISHED: Sep 24, 2010

Our Thanks to DOA Paints!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View This Item  |  View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2021 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. All rights reserved.


I'll still believe pure grey in this time period when a clean & clear photos show it-there are a few, but now I will give the benefit of the doubt to all the dusty stuff. Mark, there was a very long thread on this topic some months back (perhaps someone has the link or can look it up?). We examined a bunch of photographs, and the only convincing ones showed two-tone camo. The ones purporting to be solid gray were either covered in dust, back-lit or had such poor resolution that you could argue the point either way. So it comes down, to my thinking, that the Germans were more likely the follow the path of least resistance: conform to the regs and repaint only when required. That would seem to indicate tri-color gradually giving way to two-tone until the Summer after France when everyone was required to go over to sold gray. Your mileage may vary, but unless you can produce conclusive evidence, arguing that "it might have been" doesn't really get us anywhere.
SEP 30, 2010 - 04:02 AM
Bill, I am agreeing with you
OCT 01, 2010 - 06:38 AM
Hi Bill, here are some other things to mull over that show or support exceptions to the rule
OCT 01, 2010 - 08:50 AM
Thanks, Mark, let me have a look at the text. The color photos are certainly very interesting.
OCT 01, 2010 - 09:02 AM
Hi, Mark. I read this through rather quickly, and it's very interesting, especially as it talks about the various materials, both oil- and water-soluble, used in German paints, and how the new military colors would be useful in civilian life (it's 1942 and Germans at this point were only beginning to grasp the fact that the war would drag on to defeat). The writer talks about the quick adoption of these materials in the North Africa (Tropen) and on the Eastern Front where the "atmospheric conditions" require special qualities to resist wear. Also fascinating is the debate about the binding materials for the pigments (both alkyd and vinyl) and methyl cellulose or a derivative. My high school chemistry is waaaay out of date, so I can't comment on what the writer is saying, other than that the Army was looking for paints that would hold up under extreme weather conditions, including temperatures of -40 degrees. Without getting into the details, there is also concern for the application process and the way the paints will cooperate with the various ways the troops apply the paints (an indication, if we needed any, that most camo was applied in the field). The second section seems boilerplate about the importance of the paint industry to the national war effort, with some examples of how poorly-painted equipment went to crap from rust. Interestingly to our discussion, there is no mention I noticed of the importance of camouflage, and that paint was important to the author as a means of preserving valuable equipment, whether tanks, submarines, airplanes or even news apparatus. I may have missed something in my cursory reading, as the clarity of the reproduction made it hard on my eyes, but I appreciate your sharing this with us.
OCT 02, 2010 - 08:14 AM
Great news indeed - finally a set of paints suitable for the Reichswehr/Condor Legion period - excellent !
OCT 03, 2010 - 12:33 PM
Hi Bill, Great review, and a very useful set! It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for pre-1938 German vehicles. I recently found these two links over on ML - check out the boxes in real Reichswehr Buntfarbenanstrich - And -
OCT 04, 2010 - 08:35 AM
Stirling, thanks, I agree completely. The Reichswehr Period, I like that. Matt, thanks so much, your praise means a lot to me. I think this set could be the genesis of a lot of new pre-war German armor. Perhaps AMPS or "Mosquitocon" could take this up with a category? "Best Armor Between the Wars"? Probably already have, I should shut up until I find out.
OCT 04, 2010 - 09:45 AM

Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move