Book Review
Japanese Armour Color Primer
Japanese Armour Colours, A Primer, 1937-1945
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Author: Nick Millman
Images: Color
Published: January 2012
Format: PDF

Notice: Straggler
is has changed the name of the website to Aviation of Japan 日本の航空史. For a list of these reviews please see "Click here for additional images for this review.", below.

Wanna start a debate? Ask another modeler about ”the true color of… .”

Wanna start an argument? Debate the colors and markings of Imperial Japan.

Unfamiliarity with Japanese language and culture lead to misidentification of Japanese companies and weapons systems, which lead to subsequent assignment of westernized code names; so today modelers and historians struggle with common definitions and translations. This is exacerbated by a dearth of archival material. Fortunately, survivors of the era are emerging with a growing amount of surviving original documents and relics. An increasing cadre of modelers and researchers educated in Japanese language and culture, and privy to these resources are establishing a more homogenous agreement of the subject.

Nick Millman, researcher, author and website webmaster of Imperial Japanese subjects, has created a detailed e-publication addressing the paint of Japanese armor camouflage. The book is available from Mr. Millman’s website, and arrives password protected for the buyer. Registered purchasers will be entitled to all revisions and updates at no extra cost.

JAPANESE ARMOUR COLOURS, A Primer, 1937-1945 is a 20 page colour e-guide in PDF. Mr. Millman explains:
    This complex subject has not been eased by the various English language commentaries that have appeared. The original Japanese names and descriptions for specific colours are not consistent between these references and have often been both romantised and translated using various formats and terms. Researchers disagree on both the appearance of some of the colours described and the way in which they were applied in camouflage schemes.

    It is important to appreciate that the rendered colour chips represent the paint colour standards and not the applied paint colours which could and did vary, in some cases quite significantly.

    This title is intended as a basic primer and as an accessible resource for modellers and artists to better understand the subject and to be able to make informed choices about paint colours … .

Clearly written and well organized, it is organized into eight sections:
    1. Introduction

    2. The Official Camouflage Instructions

    3. Camouflage Schematics
      a - Official camouflage up to 1942
      b - Suggested 1942 camouflage for the Southern front and spring/summer seasons
      c - 1942 variant and common four colour ʻBʼ scheme
      d - Standard post 1942 pattern
      e - Variant of post 1942 pattern
      f - In some cases a fourth colour
      g - The bright yellow stripe
    4. Camouflage Styles
      Early style - segments and ribbons outlined with black lines
      Mid style - large irregular cloud shapes
      Late style - irregular sweeping areas
    5. The GSI Creos Tank Colour Paint Sets

    6. Japanese Army Khaki

    7. Colour Photo Section

    8. Hobby Paints

Colors are discussed and identified in English and Japanese, with Kanji characters. Official and common names are used, a descriptive narrative, and the reflective quality, e.g.:
Tsuchi iro (土色) - literally “earth or soil colour”, said to be a dark brown, “the colour of a forest background or black soil” with reflectivity of 4.5%.

Colors analysis is determined using international standards: Munsell, FS 595B and RAL colour standards. Photo-spectrometric measurement of original paint chips rendered the facsimile schematics and chips in sRGB, with differences calculated using the DE2000 formula recommended by the Commission International de l’Éclairage (CIE). Furthermore, the author explains matching of a brand of hobby paints with the Methuen system of colors:
Methuen values have been included for the GSI Creos paint colours for those who may have the Methuen Handbook of Colour. These were matched visually and subjectively under north sky daylight illumination.

Effects of oxidization and chalking are mentioned as well. Mr. Millman cautions the following:
    Because of the way the Japanese colour descriptions have been variously attributed in their romanised versions and English meanings, and the probable mix of colloquial and official terms, the relationship between … remains problematic and it is perhaps best to refer to the original instructions and their descriptions in determining these colours rather than the vagaries of colour photographs and film.

Comparisons with common hobby paints plus commentary on weathering round out the work. While not attempting an exhaustive discussion of common hobby paints, those referenced are GSI Creos, Humbrol, Revell, Tamiya, and Xtracolor. Matching paint mixes with archival sources and artifacts is presented.

Photographs and Graphics
Colour photographs of actual paints were kindly provided by Steven J Zaloga. They illustrate paint swatches believed to have been made by the curator of the US Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) in the late 1940’s to use as working colour samples in the restoration of Japanese armoured vehicles.

Every image within is in color. Many are vintage colorized Imperial Japanese photos and postcards of the era. Photographs of actual artifacts are included. And color swatches – photographed and digitized – provide you with chips to match your colors to. Each of the six colors of GSI Creos Tank Colour set is demonstrated, clarified with technical data from FS 595B, Methuen, Munsell, and RAL.

I find JAPANESE ARMOUR COLOURS, A PRIMER, 1937-1945, to be an exceptional erudite exploration of Imperial Japanese army colors and camouflage. No doubt there will be critics who challenge some conclusions, and that can be expected. The organization of the book, the explanations, documentation, qualifiers, and illustrations are top-notch. My only nitpicky complaint is the main paint brand referenced is GSI Creos, which although available, is not always readily in stock at many hobby shops. Still, the effort the author went through to provide reference with other paint brands does, in my opinion, render that mute.

Students of Imperial Japanese military subjects should find this amazing work an essential addition to their modeling, artistic, and research archives. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

We greatly appreciate “Straggler” of Aviation of Japan 日本の航空史 for kindly providing this book for review here on Armorama!

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Detailed color analysis, comparisons and matches, 24 color images, and discussion of model paints.
Lows: My only nitpicky complaint is the main paint brand referenced is GSI Creos, which although available, is not always readily in stock at many hobby shops.
Verdict: This is an exceptional exploration of Imperial Japanese Army colors and camouflage. Imperial Japanese military students should appreciate this for essential modeling, artistic, and research archives.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Suggested Retail: £7.99
  Related Link: Japanese Armour Colours Primer
  PUBLISHED: Jul 02, 2012
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Straggler 脱走兵!
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.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Very nice review. It looks like an excellent reference.
JUL 02, 2012 - 08:32 AM
I agree, a definite for IJA fans! I don't think I've ever even heard of GSI Creos paints before.
JUL 02, 2012 - 01:33 PM
Thanks for the review Fred, looks like an excellent reference. More commonly referred to as Gunze-Sangyo. Tamiya's twin
JUL 02, 2012 - 01:52 PM
Ah yes, thanks for that James. I can't say I have a problem with that then
JUL 02, 2012 - 04:38 PM

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