Sunday, October 6, 2013

NATO colors and an study paintings on military vehicles.

After a lot of discussions with friends, customers and paint manufacturers for modelers. We decided to make an article about the colors of NATO, and all that revolves around these paintings, that it is the other colors used by the armies, how they are manufactured, how they are applied ....

Helped by a regiment of equipment that opened these doors for us to work with these colors, we will try to show you how our forces paint and mark French military vehicles.

First here is the general color chart that will be detailed later in the article:
  1. Colors.
    In France, the army uses mainly on these vehicles what is called the "3 ton NATO" (also called "Center Europe", French-French appellation, however, only)These colors are modeled on the paint references applied to the other NATO member countries. Only the paint manufacturers are different for each country, and even for one country there can be several manufacturers (which explains the difference in color variants after a while of a French vehicle, to another French machine by example.)However, there are no official variations between the French, German, Turkish or American colors initially, the paint manufacturers based on the color codes provided by NATO, but each adapting it differently according to its suppliers and with different baths.Thus we can find as well very important differences between the German green (mostly dark), Italian (almost olive), French (very "green meadow"),or on the contrary almost no differences as in this example in a photo of two French and German machines that seem to have been painted with the same painting:
    German Man photographed at Camp Bruschaal and Leclerc French taken at 501st of Mourmelon with similar climatic conditions and the same camera settings.

    A report on the way French military vehicles are painted in paint booths is visible here :

    In addition to this 3-tone, each country uses different complementary hues to achieve different camouflages.
    In France there is a united green (which we call the "army green") which is much less used today if it is not on specific gear.
    There is also a sand color that is often completed on vehicles by the color brown (chocolate) from the "3 ton NATO" to give a desert camouflage
    VAB who has been out of the painting workshop for a few days (time for the painting to take its final shade)
    Two examples of a truck cab that have been in the open for years
    and whose paintings suffered a lot.
    The one on the left is 3 ton NATO and the one on the right is the old French green.
    Vehicle in paint booth ready to be painted.
    It has been sanded and has the covers on

  2. Reflections (black or beige stripes) between colors.
    There is a strange phenomenon on vehicles that have several colors. Between each color can be observed that track forms spots bands.
    These bands of color often black or sand, is a phenomenon that can be explained by the process of painting vehicles:
    To delineate different areas to paint, painters are a first line with a paint gun. this trait is often with thicker paint and causes a reaction of micro holes. These millions of pinholes cause shade in each hole so that when you look at the vehicle at an angle with the sun, it seems that they are black belts. And if we look from another angle with another toward the sun, we see bands of beige reflections of the sun in the millions of smooth holes.
Variations of printing highlighting on the same door but several angles of view.
You can see the black or beige hues depending on the angle of light.
The millions of small holes between black and green band. The holes of a first coat of paint to spray thick enough.
Example of printing on a UAV  "Crécerelle"
  1. Markings.
    There are two kinds of markings on military vehicles: those that are painted (with magnetic pochoire for example, or painted with Rubber stamps) and marking stickers.
    Bumper Sticker it's just vinyl printed paper in a special way for the recognition and duration in time.
    For paints stencils simply apply the appropriate stencil on the vehicle and paint with desired color.
    But for license plates for example, there is another technique that is the stamps.
    Contrary to what you think the numbers of plates are applied with a silver paint (not white) and rubber stamps.
    Rubber stamps used to make license plates
    Silver paint tube
    Bottom of a rear license plate of a VAB
    Vinyl marking on VAB
  2. Fading colors (discolouration).
    Over time, military vehicles are exposed to rain, cold, extreme heat, the sun, and a lot of things that make the paintings eventually change color. Can be seen on vehicles that have their paint for several years color variations very important. Black can turn into blue, yellow sand in gray, green in very pale green, ........

    Example on trailers with different colors and faded colors.
    Example fading of colors on an old truck that has suffered sun and Pluit for several years.
    We see the "NATO black" that turned blue for example.

  3. Color change depending on the angle and the light on an image.
    On the same vehicle (this also works for any object) it is possible that depending on the light, depending on the quality of the camera, the angle of view relative to the sun, it is possible that the pictures the same object have several colors on many different pictures taken yet on the same subject on the same day.
    This is why it is very difficult to judge the real color of vehicle on a simple pics.

    The same VAB but take with the sun in front and the other side with the sun in the back.
  4. Paints for modelers.
    By comparing several brands of paints that produce color "NATO" on outgoing vehicles painting workshop and after drying (as well as samples of paint pot used by the military)
    We determined that the most accurate colors were:
    • Green : Tamiya XF-67
    • Brown : Lifecolor UA-302
    • Black : Lifecolor UA-301

    NATO Brown : LIFECOLOR UA-302

    NATO black : LIFECOLOR UA-301
    NATO green : TAMIYA XF-67

    This article in french language :


  1. Hello

    I think the French colour doesn't match the NATO colours, for sometime ago.
    The French brown is very different from the German one.
    The Black the german is with a green tone (tamiya) than the others.
    Well and MERDC is another history, too
    That's my personal opinion, since colour analyses is not easy.

  2. As a former French Armor platoon Leader and having worked with german vehicules, you are totally right!
    French colors are NOT OTAN colors, hence the name Centre Europe.
    just compare a French and a German AFV, right after factory painting, and you will see that german colors are darker

  3. I'm sorry but the word "central europe" is not a reference for military paint.
    The French Army is making this painting in two paint manufacturers with as reference published by NATO is called "Publishing interraliée on ingéniererie"
    as well as the document "NORMDEF" where is it written anywhere that the colors are not included in NATO colors, on the contrary they cite in their references to "interraliée Publication on ingéniererie NATO "as a support.

    When the German colors, I visited and saw many German vehicles and if they have different colors, it's wear.
    But the output of the paint shop, they are like the others.
    Moreover, on a single vehicle there may be many different colors, look at these pics:

  4. here are 2 fresh painted factory trucks, one with french colors, and one with italian (true NATO paints)
    As you can see, with exactely the same angle and lighting... they are not the same!
    So, french colors are not the NATO ones.

    1. This photo was taken on the Eurosatory show (or other)
      Attention, the paintings on this show are not realized by the army (in general) but by the companies (IVECO, REnault, NEXTER, ....)
      but I agree, there are differences in reality.

  5. Sebastien,
    On this photo, the car is painted the colors of the plant, not the army. these are not the NATO colors.
    We can see a lot of "false NATO paintings" for shows like Eurosatory.
    Vehicle manufacturers paint their vehicles without NATO standards.
    But these vehicles are not in the military, it is on exibition only. For the army, they will be repainted.

    To the contrary, here is a picture of German truck and French tank with the same day:

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  7. Hello!
    Well, I do think Sebastien Feve is right. Judging from all the photos and videos that I could find, the french colors (NATO camouflage) are different from the german and american ones. Both the green and the brown from the french vehicles seem much warmer. The colors of the german MAN truck compared with a Leclerc from the french version of this article are atypical... It is as if at some point in the past the Germans and the French had the same colors but the Germans changed them. I saw german and american vehicles side by side some five years ago and the only (marginal) difference was in brown. The german brown seemed just a tiny bit reddisher. The french green amd brown seem far away from that.