Camouflage of the German Armed Forces 1939 - 1945
Background, History and Painting Techniques by Jim Holt
Germany designed its first camouflaged pattern in 1929, for use on their quarter shelter poncho [zeltbahn]. The design
consisted of splinter patterns, the larger ones in brown and the smaller ones in green. The background was grey/green
with thin green streaks representing rain. This pattern was the most common throughout the German Wehrmacht. Some
of its uses include the triangular quarter shelters, forage caps, field blouses, heavy padded parka, trousers, gloves,
hoods, helmet covers, paratrooper Jump smocks and tents.
A second pattern appeared in 1941, often confused with Pattern A. In design it had smaller and more regular splinters.
In 1942 another design, known as Splinter C, was introduced, with the same design a Pattern A, but with rough edges to
the splinter patterns. This was mostly used for padded materials.
Another design which appeared was the "Tan Water" pattern. This design is the reverse of Splinter in that the larger
patterns are in green and the smaller in brown. This design was not used for quarter shelters, ponchos or forage caps,
but was often used for padded suits, gloves, hoods, and snipers field blouses with mask. The Wehrmacht camouflage
panorama demonstrates the complexity of the problem for the German Army during World War II and for other armies at
a later date.
Camouflaged Uniforms of the Waffen SS
Under the inspirations of Stein and Hausser, the Waffen SS troops experimented with special camouflaged patterns
during 1937. Initially research was conducted into patterns for helmet covers and poncho quarter shelters. The patterns
adopted by the Waffen SS were very different from those being developed by the Wehrmacht. Three principle designs
were developed. The first pattern is based on stylized oak leaves with the design pattern being repeated every 50 cm.
The second pattern is a softer design with the edges diffused as if a printing error. The third pattern is more complex
and needs a double printing -- one a background printing with the Basic design 50 cm's. apart , and one with special
black spots and spaces with the design repeating every 8 meters. All oak leaf patterns are reversible; summer on one
side, winter on the other. --Oak Leaf Pattern A, early and late, the small spots have a thick edge. Oak Leaf Pattern B,
early and late, the small spots have a thin edge. --Oak Leaf Pattern C, early and late, the autumn side is orange.
These are some of the items made up of camouflaged stock.quarter shelters, smocks [field blouses], heavy padded
suit, helmet covers, forage visor caps, winter gloves and hoods, panzer one piece suits, and panzer wrap around [the
standard tanker Jacket]. Non-regulation items made of camouflaged stock include...service jackets, trousers and aprons.
Two other patterns which were in use at this time were the "Burred Edge" and the "Palm Trees and Clumps". The names
given to these patterns, as well as the previously described Waffen SS patterns are not the official names. They are
reference names given by European experts, J. Borsarello and D. Lassus, authors of two excellent pictorials,
"Camouflaged Uniforms of the Waffen SS", Parts I & II. When the burred edge pattern was first seen, it was thought to
be a printing error, or a bad batch of dye due to the Jagged and uneven edge. But this was not a production error.
Three varieties of design pattern existed, even three types of bath dyeing and some designs were dense black, while
others were a woody brown. This design was much more efficient than preceding patterns and seems to have been
created for foggy seasons.
The "Palm Tree and Clumps" pattern is the only figured pattern with bunches, flowers, strokes and long leaves. This
pattern was only used to make field blouses [smocks]. The "Palm Trees" pattern contains three types of drawing and,
remember, all these patterns are reversible, green side for spring/summer and the brown side for autumn/winter; long
leaves, generally pointed, placed on the arms, stokes and flowers, generally in bunches, on the base, dental saw type
all over the front and back of the smock. The pattern being repeated every 50 cm's., it can be seen to have two
bunches and two types of leaves.
All types of SS camouflaged patterns were on a trial basis between 1939 and 1944. In 1944 the last SS issue pattern,
the "44 Peas" was introduced, and the older patterns were abandoned. The Peas pattern was extremely different from
all previous designs. This design was used for three types of clothing only.
1] Two piece suit; four pocket Jacket with trousers.
2] Two piece tanker suit; short blouse down to belt level, and trousers with flapped pockets.
3] Padded winter parka, trousers, gloves and hood.
The "44 Peas" was the only pattern authorized to wear the SS Eagle on the left sleeve, and the special badge of rank in
green on the right arm; one to five bars for NCOs, two oak leaves and one to three bars for commanders, four oak
leaves and one to four bars with two oak leaves for generals with white "pips".
To appreciate the value of camouflaged material; it is worth noting that some 92,000 soldiers of the Waffen SS [apart
from LSSAM and Totenkopf] wore camouflaged uniforms in May 1940, more than 200,000 by July 1941, and 300,000 by
August 1942. It is easy to see that the German military authorities were anxious to protect their troops to the best of
their ability. It had been estimated that good camouflage could reduce casualties by 155.
Painting German Camouflage (1939-1945)
OK, Folks, put away your enamels and bring out the oils. OIL PAINT? That's right! Oil Paint. The reasons being that
[from my observations] first, a camo pattern painted in enamels looks thick and layered, not like it is part of the material,
and, second, because it is material and you, the painter, are applying the pattern, you have got to shade it.
What? you say! No, I'm not kidding, every bunch, dot, stroke and leaf gets a highlight, midtone and shadow, and in
larger areas of the pattern, I'll even throw in my 1/4 tones and 3/4 tones. Painting a camouflage pattern in oils is a very
time consuming process. But the results are what counts. And everyone is after the best results of which they are
Before we get into the painting, I'd like to offer a few suggestions. First, familiarize yourself with a few of the patterns, or
just spend some time observing the particular pattern which you would like to paint.
Second, don't lose sight of the fact that you are painting a pattern, a pattern which repeats itself. Try to incorporate this
repetition of pattern into your painting. Third, try not to get frustrated. Further in this article I've included a few line
drawings of some patterns which indicate where the colors should lay. I'm going to describe what I feel is the easiest of
all the patterns to paint. It is the "Plane Tree #1" pattern. You'll have to further decide if you are going to paint the
autumn side, or spring side.
I'm going to describe the autumn side. I usually paint the autumn sides of the SS patterns because so much of the
soldier is dressed in field gray, and usually his equipment is also shades of green, that the autumn patterns just jump
right off and catch the eye. The summer patterns tend to get lost.
Next up, your pallet
These are the colors I lay out: Titanium White, Chrome Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Raw
Umber, Bright Red and Blue-Black. [The paints I use are Winsor-Newton Artists' Oils, as well as W-N brushes.] The
autumn side of "Plane Tree #1" will consist of the following hues: golden orange, a rusty brown, very dark brown [almost
black] and the base color of the smock, a pinkish mauve hue.
For the midtone color of the base I use a mix of Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Bright Red, and White. Your mix should
be a medium pink. For your 3/4 tone, add a bit of burnt sienna to darken it up, and for your 1/4 tone, use White with
Just enough Yellow Ochre in it to get away from the White, and blend this out from your midtone, or base color.
Apply your midtone color to the figure, usually in the sloped areas, the outer sides of the sleeves, front of the chest, and
the center of the back. Then apply your 1/4 tone hue to the tops of the shoulders, raised areas of wrinkles, and the top
of the chest [if the figure happens to be well-developed in the pectoral area] and blend. Using a stabbing motion, bring
your midtones unto your 1/4 tones.
Next lay in your 3/4 tones, usually around the belt line, under the collar of the tunic [which usually hangs out over the
smock], arm pit areas, the undersides of wrinkles, and along the areas where equipment webbing meets the smock.
Blend gently into your base color. Now add the highlights.
For this I use straight White, with a tad of my midtone color. I apply this to the tops of the shoulder,-chest, top of back,
and the top side of the wrinkles. I also blend this outwards, and into my base color. Now you'll have to let it dry over
night, preferably under some source of heat.
After your base color is completely dry, you're ready to apply the lighter part of the pattern. This will be your golden
orange. For this color I mix Chrome yellow, yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Orange. Keep this color somewhat neutral, not
too orange, but not too yellow. For your 3/4 tones add a bit of Burnt Sienna, and for your 1/4 tones add straight white.
This is where you actually begin the pattern, so get yourself comfortable with how it is to be represented. Apply your
midtones in the style of the pattern, which, in this case, will consist of dots and broken area's of the pattern itself.
Afterwards, add your 1/4 tone to the pattern, blend and then your 3/4 tones. Use a triple O brush for this and stab
lightly, try not to lose your main color. This takes a lot of patience and time. Next, I apply my rusty brown color. There is
no need to wait for the main pattern color to dry. This rusty brown color is the outline of the main pattern. This is what
gives it shape. For this color I mix Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Yellow.
For my 3/4 tones I mix in Raw Umber, and for my 1/4 tones I add a bit of yellow Ochre. As you apply this "outline" of the
pattern, blend the inner edges of your rusty brown into the main pattern "gently". Try not to "muddy" your main color of
pattern. Add your 1/4 tones and 3/4 tones where they apply.
Now, if you're not totally frustrated by this time, and your figure is completely dry, we add our dark brown. This is a mix
of Burnt Sienna and Blue/Black. Keep it a bit on the brown side. On this particular pattern the dark brown will be applied
in blocks of color, and dots, lots of them [again I stress, be familiar with the pattern you are painting].
Apply your dark brown in the proper representation. Within this dark brown, "circles" or "dots" of the main pattern will
have to show through, so keep it crisp in these areas. If you've used too much thinner in this mix and it appears
translucent, in which some areas of the golden orange are observed to show through, that's okay, in many actual
cases, it does appear this way, so no sweat. For shading this I use only a highlight and shadow. I add straight white to
my highlight areas and blue-black to my shadows, and blend. Since this is such a dark color, I feel there's no reason to
represent further gradations of tone. Once the figure is dry, completely, I apply a few coats of Testors' Dull Coat by
brush. I know most modelers spray their figure with dull coat, but I never seem to get brush strokes in my applications
and it makes it easier if anything has to be left with a sheen. In other words, less work, and who wants to do any more
work after painting one of these patterns.
That's my technique on camo patterns. Good Luck when you try yours...