AFV Colors and Camouflage, Wehrmacht & Bundeswehr


Introduction to German color standards for ground vehicles

The main color standard used in Germany was conceived in 1927 by the Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen (the National Committee for Delivery and Quality Assurance) and introduced as RAL 840. An initial revision took place in 1932 resulting in RAL 840 B 2, a 40 color palette which would include all the colors in use by the Wehrmacht at the start of the war. A further revision known as RAL 840 R was introduced in 1939-40 and replaced the original single- or double-digit numbering with the now standard four-color nomenclature where the first digit indicates the hue, these being yellow (1), orange (2), red (3), violet (4), blue (5), green (6), gray (7), brown (8), and white and black (9). The remaining digits represent each individual shade and are added chronologically. The RAL system was used by all of the Wehrmacht's ground forces which included the Heer (Army) as well as the Luftwaffe (Air Force) and SS (Schutzstaffel), with Luftwaffe aircraft adopting a separate color standard known RLM (named after the Ministry of Aviation or Reichsluftfahrtministerium). Responsibility for Wehrmacht camouflage rested on the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), the Army high command.

It was customary to add new colors to the palette, and these were eventually standardized in 1961 into a new palette known as RAL 840-HR with 210 colors and which is the current standard in use to this day. Notably, numerous wartime colors including widely used ones like RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb were not incorporated. The absence of different sheens in the standard palette (all colors in RAL 840-HR are matt) resulted in the introduction of RAL 841-GL in 1986 which was composed of 193 gloss colors. Around this time, numerous other complementary palettes for design purposes were introduced resulting in the RAL 840 palette now being often referred to as RAL Classic. Additionally, a mini-palette of nine colors for military use was consolidated into RAL F9 in 1984 and is currently the standard palette for all Bundesheer AFVs. These feature the same nomenclature as regular RAL colors with the prefix -F9 added to their numbers.



External Links:


Color guide basics:

All colors in this page include a color guide with matches or equivalences from 19 different model paint ranges. Paints are considered matches if they are labeled with the intended color (either uniquely or together with another color). Paints are considered equivalences if they are close to the intended color but not labeled as such. The accuracy of any paint is independent of whether it is a match or an equivalence and these are described in the text (there can be poor matches and highly accurate equivalences). The following nomenclature is used in the paint tables and is based on matches or equivalences to US Insignia Red FS 11136:

Paint Match or equivalence type (label)
MP01 Labeled to match one specific color (FS 11136)
MP02* Labeled to match more than one color of same-country standards (FS 11136 / ANA 509)*
MP03** Labeled to match more than one color of different-country standards (FS 11136 / BS 538)
MP04 (!) Questionable accuracy of label match (doesn't look like FS 11136)
MP05 (?) Questionable accuracy of label match, untested (doesn't look like FS 11136 in the bottle or photos)
(MP06) Known close equivalent to FS 11136 (BS 538)
(MP07) (?) Questionable equivalent to FS 11136 (Generic Gloss Red)

* A single asterisk also denotes implicit matches for same-country standards where there is an official succession between standards. For example, H327* would match ANA 509 even if the label only references FS 11136 since ANA 509 is its official predecessor. This does not apply when there are considerable differences between successive paints (ex: Olive Drab No. 41/ANA 613/FS 34087) and this will be described in the text. By and large, however, single asterisk matches should be considered close enough to unique matches as to not be seriously questioned.

The paint charts make no distinction between gloss, semi-gloss, and matt variants of a color if the correct sheen is unavailable (ex: gloss FS 11136 will be a specific match for matt FS 31136 if the latter does not exist in the same paint range). Exceptions are made where there is a known or suspected color difference (ex: FS 24087 and 34087).



Early war disruptive scheme (1939-40)

When World War II began, the color and camouflage of German AFVs was governed by OKH resolution H. M. 1937 Nr. 340 dated 12 July 1937. This specified a two-tone camouflage which consisted of RAL 7021 Dunkelgrau (Dark Gray) base and a disruptive pattern of RAL 7017 Dunkelbraun (Dark Brown) which was to cover one-third of the vehicle. This scheme had been specified in H. M. 1937 . RAL 7021 would become one of the most recognizable colors used by the Wehrmacht in World War II, one that is synonymous with the early war Blitzkrieg. It is a very dark gray with a subtle blue shade to it that became more apparent as the paint faded. It would seem that RAL 7021 was not a particularly good color for camouflaging under any conceivable environment although that does not appear to have been its purpose: it was actually designed to hide vehicles in the shade. It remains in the RAL palette to this day, although the current iteration is noticeably darker which has led to suggestions that RAL 7016 (Anthracite Gray) is actually the closest modern equivalent. Meanwhile, RAL 7017 is a very dark brown with nearly identical lightness as RAL 7021. This has had an unfortunate consequence for those seeking to identify it, namely that both colors are virtually indistinguishable from each other in black and white photos. Evidence of its use is therefore only possible with the handful of color photos from the early war years. To complicate matters, it was only applied on a discretionary basis meaning that many vehicles were left simply with an overall base coat of RAL 7021.

The early-war scheme was in use until July 1940 after which the Blitzkrieg campaign in the West was over. From that point on, it was decided to simply keep RAL 7021 as an overall coat. Nevertheless, it was customary to only repaint vehicles when needed which means many vehicles which had a RAL 7017 disruptive pattern likely retained it for longer, in some documented cases even after the invasion of the USSR in June 1941.

Paint guide:

Color Guide
  RAL 7021 RAL 7017
Dunkelgrau Dunkelbraun
Early Base Camo
Color matches
Gunze Mr. Hobby H401 -
Gunze Mr. Color C40 -
Humbrol 67 -
Model Master 2094 -
Revell 09 -
Tamiya XF-63 (XF-10) (?)
Vallejo Model Air 71.056 -
Vallejo Model Color 70.862 -
AKAN 61005 61201
AK Interactive AK704 AK754
AK Real Colors RC057 RC056
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-008 A.MIG-007
Colourcoats ARG10 -
Hataka HTK-164 HTK-168
Lifecolor UA 207 UA 210
Mission Models MMP-014 MMP-139
Mr. Paint MRP-034 -
Xtracolor X800 -
Xtracrylix X1800 -
Possibly the clearest shot of the two-color early war scheme, one of the many color photos taken by Hitler's personal photographer, Hugo Jaeger, and which were later published by Life magazine. Here you can see both colors on the L900 tank transporter and also (more subtle but still noticeable) from the Panzer IIs themselves.
Another Hugo Jaeger photo from the same parade, the RAL 7017 is very evident on the rears and sides of these cars. Nevertheless, most other color photos from this collection show all vehicles sporting only the RAL 7021 base which indeed suggests that disruptive camouflage was not universally applied.
A wrecked Panzer II in Warsaw following the German invasion. Although parts of the tank are clearly burned out, much of the RAL 7021 coat on the hull remains intact where one can appreciate its naturally dark and not-as-blue-as-often-believed shade. Note the absence of disruptive RAL 7017 which was very common.
A pair of Panzer Is guarding the Jørgensens Hotel in Horsens, Denmark shortly after the occupation of the country in April, 1940. There is no disruptive camouflage evident in either.
A very dramatic (probably staged for propaganda purposes) color shot of a Panzer III emerging from a river somewhere in Russia in the summer of 1941. The RAL 7017 is unmistakable and proves many vehicles retained the disruptive scheme over a year after it was officially rescinded.


Dunkelgrau scheme and variants (1940-43)

Shortly after the end of the 1940 campaign in France, it was decided to simplify the color scheme to a base coat of RAL 7021 Dunkelgrau with no disruptive camouflage in order to save paint. This order was specified in H. M. 1940 Nr. 864 from 31 July 1940. Aside from operations in the Balkans there was little activity on the ground in Europe until 22 June 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR (Operation Barbarossa), thus opening the largest land front of the war. Changes to the default color scheme eventually became necessary upon the arrival of the first snowfall in October, as the RAL 7021 became even more conspicuous against white terrain. The following month saw the introduction of a white emulsion that could be used as winter camouflage, and which would be applied on a discretionary basis. This paint likely matched RAL 9001 Weiß (White), a cream white that was used on insignia and markings. However, supply issues meant that it was common to use whatever form of white camouflage was available such as chalk or lime. This resulted in German winter camouflage appearing patchy and heavily worn particularly during the winter of 41/42 when the supply of RAL 9001 was still erratic.

It was also common to see vehicles during and after Barbarossa to have some form of brown camouflage. In some cases, particularly early in the campaign, dried mud was used but the use of earth-toned paint became gradually more established. There is considerable speculation over what color was used but it is likely that the desert colors of RAL 8000 Gelbbraun and later RAL 8020 Braun (from the spring/summer of 1942) were used given their availability as vehicle paints by the time the invasion of Russia had begun. These two colors are described in detail in the DAK section below. Vehicles destined for North Africa were frequently transferred to the Eastern Front due to chronic equipment shortages, which means many vehicles painted in the DAK scheme could be found in Europe too.

Paint guide:
Color Guide
  RAL 7021 RAL 9001 RAL 8000 RAL 8020
Dunkelgrau Weiß Gelbbraun Braun
Basic Overall      
Winter Base Camo    
Alternative Base   Camo (1) Camo (2)
Color matches        
Gunze Mr. Hobby H401 (H21) H402 -
Gunze Mr. Color C40 (C69) - -
Humbrol 67 - - -
Model Master 2094 - 2099 2102
Revell 09 05 - 17
Tamiya XF-63 - XF-92 XF-93
Vallejo Model Air 71.056 71.270 71.272 71.117
Vallejo Model Color 70.862 70.918 70.879 -
AKAN 61005 61089 61040 61079
AK Interactive AK 704 AK 092 AK 702 AK 700
AK Real Colors RC057 RC002 RC053 RC063
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-008 A.MIG-017 A.MIG-013 A.MIG-016
Colourcoats ARG10 - ARG07 ARG03
Hataka HTK-164 HTK-307 HTK-303 HTK-305
Lifecolor UA 207 - UA 203 UA 201
Mission Models MMP-014 - MMP-017 MMP-010
Mr. Paint MRP-034 MRP-A023 MRP-213 MRP-214
Xtracolor X800 - X803 X808
Xtracrylix X1800 - XA1803 XA1808
Aside from a few leftovers still wearing Dunkelbraun disruptive, most Wehrmacht vehicles were painted overall Dunkelgrau during Operation Barbarossa as seen in this column of tanks seen in the summer of 1941.
Initially, winter camouflage was applied haphazardly using material like lime before white paint began to be made available on a more regular basis after the 1941/42 winter.
It is likely that this SdKfz 251 half-track is having its temporary white camouflage removed as the mud season (most likely the spring of 1942) approaches.
The disruptive camouflage on these Panzer IVs is subtle but noticeable, particularly on the turret of the rear tank. Earthly colors would have been considerably helpful in the less verdant environment of the steppe, where much of the spring and summer combat of 1942 was fought in.
Color photos from this period are often poor making it hard to distinguish individual colors. This StuG assault gun could be wearing a DAK scheme or could just have a random ad hoc pattern using whatever earthly colors were available.


Deutsches Afrikakorps (1941-43)

The Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) arrived in North Africa on February 1941, initially using the same camouflage scheme used in Europe. This would quickly prove inconvenient in the desert terrain of Libya where much of the campaign was to be fought, which prompted units to improvise camouflage such as through the use of dry mud. It did not take long for the first official desert camouflage scheme, H. M. 1941 Nr. 281, to be issued on 17 March 1941 specifying a new base color of RAL 8000 Grünbraun (Yellow-Brown) and a disruptive pattern of RAL 7008 Graugrün (Gray-Green) which was to cover one-third of the vehicle. Interpretations of RAL 8000 vary between something of a brown ocher towards a more greenish brown. Interpretations of RAL 7008 vary even more between those who see it as grayer or greener than RAL 8000. RAL 7008 was slightly darker than RAL 8000 and could be distinguished in black and white photos although the disruptive effect is still subtle. Furthermore, the use of disruptive camo was discretionary in practice, meaning that many vehicles were only ever painted with a RAL 8000 base.

By 1942 it had become apparent that the RAL 8000/7008 was not ideal, this likely due to the fact that these colors were the best available ones in the existing RAL palette and therefore specifically adapted for the North African environment. As a result, two new colors were developed which were to become the standard DAK colors as ordered by H. M. 1942 Nr. 315 on 25 March 1942, although the earlier colors were ordered to remain in use until existing paint stocks ran out. The new base color was to be RAL 8020 Braun (Brown), whose interpretation varies even more than that of its predecessor, ranging for a light sand yellow to a desert pink. The disruptive color used in the new scheme was RAL 7027 Grün (Green) which, contrary to its very non-specific name, had a brown or green (depending on interpretation) shade. The two colors displayed more contrast between each other than the previous combination and although they could be differentiated in color photographs, the effect was still subtle all the more considering that many were still left in just the RAL 8020 base. DAK camouflage was not limited to Africa, as many vehicles in theater or assigned to it were ultimately transferred to the Eastern Front. Some vehicles may have also kept their DAK colors in the early stages of the Italian campaign as well. Lastly, the February 1943 three-color scheme (described below) was implemented before the North African campaign was over and some photos suggest that a handful of vehicles painted in these colors may have found their way to North Africa before the surrender of the Axis in Tunisia in May.

A final general comment on DAK colors is worth making. There is a wide variety of interpretations given by paint brands to these colors which is complicated by the fact that color photos also show various ranges in shade and hue (a recurring theme for all desert colors of all nations at all periods in history) due to differences in lighting, color balance, and fading. As such, it is arguably less important to get the colors right than it is for them to harmonize well with each other and capture the subtly of the DAK camouflage. It is often said that one should not be guided by museum restorations but it is clear that some of the better researched ones like the Bovington Tank Museum’s famous Tiger 131 (which was captured in Tunisia) look really damn good and might actually be closer to what an Tiger in the African sun actually looked like compared to a model painted with exact precision to the color chips. Also, given that many vehicles were only painted in the base color of RAL 8000/8020, there should be no compulsion to add the disruptive color if there is a suspicion that it will make the model look worse. Desert-painted vehicles have a peculiar beauty to them and a DAK model should not be ruined out of a pedantic obsession with getting the colors exactly right.

Paint guide:


Color Guide
  RAL 8000 RAL 7008 RAL 8020 RAL 7027
Gelbbraun Graugrün Braun Grün
Early (1941) Base Camo    
Late (1942-43)     Base Camo
Color matches
Gunze Mr. Hobby H402 H404 - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - -
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master 2099 2098 2102 2103
Revell - 86 17 -
Tamiya XF-92 - XF-93 -
Vallejo Model Air 71.272 71.116 71.117 71.118
Vallejo Model Color 70.879 - - -
AKAN 61040 61041 61079 61202
AK Interactive AK 702 AK 703 AK 700 AK 701
AK Real Colors RC053 RC058 RC063 RC069
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-013 A.MIG-005 A.MIG-016 A.MIG-009
Colourcoats ARG07 ARG06 ARG03 ARG02
Hataka HTK-303 HTK-304 HTK-305 HTK-306
Lifecolor UA 203 UA 212 UA 201 UA 202
Mission Models MMP-017 MMP-008 MMP-010 MMP-016
Mr. Paint MRP-213 MRP-211 MRP-214 MRP-212
Xtracolor X803 X804 X808 X809
Xtracrylix XA1803 - XA1808 XA1809
When the Deutsches Afrikakorps arrived in Libya in February 1941, its vehicle were painted Dunkelgrau like those in Europe. Here a Panzerjäger I in Tripoli in 1941.
An abandoned Panzer II on the shore showing what appears to be the ad hoc dried mud/sand camouflage over Dunkelgrau used before the implementation of RAL 8000/7008. Note the color is identical to that of the sand.
There is a dearth of early DAK camo photos but thankfully we have one of the most famous color photos of Barbarossa. This, one of the most famous color photos of a Panzer in the East, ironically has the tank in RAL 8000/7008.
There is a large series of color photos taken for Life Magazine following the Battle of El Guettar in April 1943. Unfortunately the color balance and lighting are poor, and most of the vehicles are significantly battle damaged which make these a missed opportunity for some good close-up photos of RAL 8020/7027.
This photo of captured German artillery shows two different base colors. It is unclear whether it is RAL 8020 and RAL 8000 or simply a sun faded version of the former.
This abandoned Kübelwagen shows the late war colors of RAL 8020/7027 with the disruptive colors very clearly defined.
A group of Marders in transit to North Africa showing how light RAL 8020 could appear in many photos, often resembling a sand yellow. The disruptive camouflage is also very subtle but noticeable on the turret and gun of the last vehicle.
This photo was taken by none other than Robert Capa during a visit to Tunisia late in the North African campaign, and shows a captured Panzer II as well as a SdKfz 233 in late DAK colors (sporting some decidedly un-DAK markings courtesy of their new owners).


Tricolor Scheme (1943-44)

A major revision to the Wehrmacht’s standard camouflage scheme was implemented with H. M. 1943 Nr. 181 on 18 February 1943, abandoning Dunkelgrau in favor of colors more suitable for camouflaging against terrain. This new scheme was based around a newly introduced color known as Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow) which went through numerous modifications over the remainder of the war, and is consequently a subject of continuous debate among color enthusiasts and experts. The initial version of this color as introduced in February was known as Dunkelgelb nach Muster which translates to “Dark Yellow according to sample”, and its quasi-experimental nature is evident by the fact that it was not initially given a RAL number. Unlike later variants, there is little disagreement over how this color looked: a mustard yellow with hints of green which is probably closest to the stereotypical interpretation of Dunkelgelb in media such as movies and videogames. Nevertheless, the color was criticized by troops for being too conspicuous and as a result, it was tweaked ahead of its official incorporation into the RAL palette (as RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb) in August 31st, by which time the 1943 summer battles around Kursk and Kharkiv had ended. By most accounts, this second version (or first official version) of Dunkelgelb was more of a light tan which undoubtedly made it better suited as a camouflage color in most European terrain.

Dunkelgelb was complemented by a disruptive camouflage pattern consisting of two colors, these being RAL 6003 Olivgrün (Olive Green) and RAL 8017 Rotbrown (Red-Brown). Unlike the controversies over Dunkelgelb, there is less disagreement over how either of these two colors looked and by and large did not deviate from what their names suggested: the former was olive green that was the RAL equivalent of the Luftwaffe's RLM 62, and the latter a reddish brown similar to the red oxide primer (RAL 8012) used on many Wehrmacht vehicles but darker and browner. It is believed that due to paint shortages, earlier greens such as the pre-war RAL 6007 were sometimes used instead of RAL 6003. This may explain why two versions of RAL 6003 are sometimes claimed to exist although there is no evidence that the wartime version ever changed. Some of the color variation often seen in both Olivgrün and Rotbrown may also be down to the use of different thinners as well as the how much the paste was thinned before application: thinner paste resulted in lighter and brighter colors compared to what would be expected from the color chips.

The patterns themselves as applied in the field followed a number of general styles but were applied discretionally, and it was not uncommon for only one of the two disruptive colors to be applied at all on the basis of operational requirements and paint availability; by 1943 German industry had begun to be severely disrupted by Allied bombing. In some environments with less dense foliage such as Sicily and southern Italy, many vehicles were simply left in a base coat of Dunkelgelb, as were some on the Eastern Front when there was little time to add Olivgrün or Rotbrown camouflage. For snowy terrain, winter camouflage remained unchanged from the previous scheme, this being washable white emulsion applied over existing colors and removed or repainted once winter was over. From 1943, RAL 9002 Weiß (White) became the new standard white used by the Wehrmacht and had a greyish shade compared to the previous cream white shade of RAL 9001. It is likely that the white emulsion paint attempted to match the new color from this date forward.

Paint Guide:


Color Guide
    RAL 7028 RAL 6003 RAL 8017 RAL 9002
Dunkelgelb nach Muster Dunkelgelb Olivgrün Rotbraun Weiß
Feb. 1943 Base   Camo Camo  
Aug. 1943   Base Camo Camo  
Winter   Base Camo Camo Camo
Color matches          
Gunze Mr. Hobby
H79 H405 H47
Gunze Mr. Color - C39 C70 C41 (C69)
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - 2095 2149 2096 -
Revell - - 61 - -
Tamiya -


XF-64 (!)
XF-90 (!)
Vallejo Model Air - 71.025 71.092 71.041 71.119
Vallejo Model Color - 70.978 70.890** 70.985 70.883**
AKAN 61080 61003 61001 61010 61090
AK Interactive - AK 713 AK 755 AK 718 -
AK Real Colors RC059 RC060 RC047 RC068 RC003
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-010 A.MIG-002 A.MIG-015 -
Colourcoats - ARG11 ARG05 ARG04 -
Hataka HTK-310 HTK-244 HTK-169 HTK-147 -
Lifecolor - UA 204 UA 206 UA 205 -
Mission Models - MMP-011 MMP-009 MMP-012 -
Mr. Paint   MRP-037 MRP-035 MRP-036 -
Xtracolor   X805 X806 X807 -
Xtracrylix   XA1805 XA1806 XA1807 -
There are precious few color photos of German vehicles sporting Dunkelgelb nach Muster. This is one of those few, a Panzer III Ausf J from the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (at the time a Panzergrenadier division) before the Battle of Kursk.
The fearsome '88' flak / anti-tank gun, showing off its kills somewhere near Salerno, Italy in September 1943. By this time the official RAL version of Dunkelgelb had been introduced but this could still be wearing DAK camo given the difference with the background color.
A Panther Ausf G tank undergoing trials. Given that the Ausf G entered service in March 1944, this photo is likely around that time which suggests this is the 1943 version of Dunkelgelb (albeit looking much unlike the color chips).
An abandoned or destroyed Marder tank destroyer during the drive towards Rome in 1944. The Olivgrün and Rotbraun appear very clear in this photo although any traces of Dunkelgelb are not shown well.
Thankfully this '88' does not have any disruptive camouflage so the Dunkelgelb can be fully appreciated in what is a very high quality photo, also shortly after the Allied liberation of Rome in June 1944.
Another great photo of an overturned Tiger tank from the same series. It is notable how Olivgrün seems to predominate although there are glimpses of what could be very faded Rotbrown.


Tricolor Scheme (1944)

In September 1944 there was a revision to the standard three-color scheme that was prompted due to difficulties in paint production and supply. The new scheme called for the RAL 8012 Rotbraun (Red-Brown) red oxide primer used on most German vehicles to be left as the base color, and with the existing RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb and RAL 6003 Olivgrün used as the disruptive colors. Additionally, it was ordered that vehicles were to be painted in the factory rather than in the field, with the standard camouflage pattern being the Hinterhalt-Tarnung or ‘Ambush’ pattern that had been introduced earlier in August. This pattern was designed to help conceal vehicles against aircraft at a time when the Luftwaffe had been all but swept away from the skies over Europe. It consisted of roughly even proportions of the three colors with speckled spots of a contrasting color (Dunkelgelb spots over the Olivgrün or Rotbraun, and vice versa). An alternative version of this pattern had the three main colors applied with circular borders akin to Mickey Mouse ears and also very similar to a camouflage pattern that was used by the British Army (sans the spots). Compared to RAL 8017, RAL 8012 was very similar although lighter and more red. It is likely that most people reading this have encountered it given the widespread use of red oxide primers (such as on the hulls of ships below the waterline or on the ceilings of buildings) due to their natural anti-corrosive properties.

Additionally, a variant of Dunkelgelb had been introduced in the summer of 1944. This (third) version of the color was described by some Allied troops who encountered it in Normandy as being similar to the colors used on vehicles in North Africa, which suggests a resemblance to RAL 8020. This color was to be short-lived as in October 1944 there was a revision of the RAL palette which resulted in yet another (fourth and final) change as RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944. According to the color chips, this version was slightly darker than the 1943 version although some sources suggest it was closer to Dunkelgelb nach Muster. Although there are few color photos that would allow us to accurately assess what this color looked like in the field, surviving Wehrmacht artifacts such as jerry cans (which often had the year of production etched on them) also suggest a version of Dunkelgelb that strongly resembled a desert tan. Many photos from the end of the war certainly show a lighter shade than would be expected from the color chips, which can be attributed to lighting, fading, as well as differences between paint manufacturers - the latter possibly explaining a lot of the overall confusion regarding all Dunkelgelb variants.

This scheme would last only a few months before a third and final tricolor scheme was introduced later in 1944. As such, the use of RAL 8012 as a base color was likely limited with many vehicles until the end of the war retaining a Dunkelgelb base. A good giveway to whether RAL 8012 was used as a base on any particular vehicle is whether the wheels were painted in this color, as even in black and photos they would appear noticeably darker than if Dunkelgelb was used as a base.

Paint guide:


Color Guide
  RAL 8012 RAL 6003 RAL 7028 RAL 7028
Rotbraun Olivgrün Dunkelgelb (Variant) Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944
Summer 1944 Base Camo Camo  
October 1944 Base Camo   Camo
Color matches
Gunze Mr. Hobby (H17) H405 - -
Gunze Mr. Color (C29) C70 - -
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master 2152 2149 - -
Revell - 61 - -
Tamiya (XF-9) XF-58
- -
Vallejo Model Air 71.271 71.092 - -
Vallejo Model Color 70.814 70.890** - -
AKAN 61017 61001 - -
AK Interactive AK 717 AK 752 AK 713 AK 714
AK Real Colors RC067 RC047 RC062 RC061
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-014 A.MIG-001 A.MIG-011 A.MIG-012
Colourcoats ARG12 ARG05 - -
Hataka HTK-175 HTK-169 - HTK-250
Lifecolor UA 211 UA 206 - -
Mission Models MMP-015 MMP-009 - MMP-019
Mr. Paint MRP-033 MRP-035 - -
Xtracolor - X806 - -
Xtracrylix - XA1806 - -
A US soldier stands proudly in front of his trophy, a massive Sturmtiger mortar which is painted in the ambush scheme. This is one of the few color photos showing this scheme.
This black and white photo of a Panther is much better at showing off the ambush scheme, which would have been a familiar (and fearsome) sight to Allied tankers in the summer of 1944. Note the darker color of the wheels which suggests a RAL 8012 base.
A Skoda truck on the side of the road near Avranches, France after D-Day. This could be particular variant of Dunkelgelb seen in Normandy around this time although it is far from certain.
A knocked out Panther tank at St. Gilles, France is inspected by US troops. The front is burned out but a very sand yellow-like Dunkelgelb is seen without disruptive camo.
This Panther was captured by US forces in Italy sometime in 1944/45. The look of its Dunkelgelb, however, may be affected by dust.
This Tiger from the PzAbt 508 rests menancingly in the shade somewhere in Italy. Note the tan-like Dunkelgelb on both the tank and the staff car, the latter which appears to be very hastily camouflaged and with a suspiciously bright Olivgrün that may very well not be RAL 6003 at all.
This SdKfz 7/1 SPAAG was abandoned in Fischhausen, East Prussia in March 1945 and shows the very light version of Dunkelgelb seen frequently in late-war vehicles.
There are a number of good quality color photos of surviving Wehrmacht equipment in Denmark (taken in 1946), like this SdKfz 9 half-track also showing a very cream-colored Dunkelgelb.
Another photo from this series is a destroyed Panzer III Ausf N although there's not much to make out given the state of the vehicle.
Survivors of the 11th Panzer Division after surrender. There appears to be no less than three different versions of Dunkelgelb and two versions of Olivgrün in this picture, proving just how much these colors varied (and consequently why trying to find the 'correct shade' is a fool's errand).


Tricolor Scheme (1945)

A final revision to the three-color scheme took place on 2 January 1945 (H.V. 1945 Nr. 52) which would be in place until the German surrender in May 1945. This time, RAL 6003 Olivgrün (Olive Green) was given the leading role as the base color of the vehicle with RAL 8017 Rotbraun (Red-Brown) and RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944 as the disruptive colors. The new camouflage pattern would consist of sharply defined edges and the use of the three colors in roughly similar proportions meant that vehicles looked darker than before. Unfortunately, this scheme was scheduled to be implemented fully only until 1 June 1945, by which time the war had been lost. This meant that only a small number of vehicles ended up using it and implementation was not always done by the book as evidenced by the fact that many factories stuck to using Dunkelgelb rather than Olivgrün as the base.

As mentioned in the previous sector, it is notable that many late-war color photos show a considerably lighter, paler version of Dunkelgelb this despite the fact that the 1944 version of this color was darker than the original. This could be because vehicles were likely repainted much more sporadically and thus the paint faded more than earlier in the war. Or that there were variations of Dunkelgelb that did not match the color chips due to the disruption of industry. Whatever the reason, it is up to the modeler to decide whether they prefer to stick with color chip accuracy and give late-war vehicles a darker version of Dunkelgelb, or follow the photo evidence and make them look lighter.

Paint Guide:

Color Guide
  RAL 6003 RAL 8017 RAL 7028
Olivgrün Rotbraun Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944
Dec. 1944 Base Camo Camo
Color matches      
Gunze Mr. Hobby H405 H406 -
Gunze Mr. Color C70 C41 -
Humbrol - - -
Model Master 2149 2096 -
Revell 61 - -
Tamiya XF-58
XF-64 (!)
XF-90 (!)
Vallejo Model Air 71.092 71.041 -
Vallejo Model Color 70.890** 70.985 -
AKAN 61001 61010 -
AK Interactive AK 752 AK 718 AK 715
AK Real Colors RC047 RC068 RC061
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-001 A.MIG-015 A.MIG-012
Colourcoats ARG05 ARG04 -
Hataka HTK-169 HTK-147 HTK-250
Lifecolor UA 206 UA 205 -
Mission Models MMP-009 MMP-012 MMP-019
Mr. Paint MRP-035 MRP-036 -
Xtracolor X806 X807 -
Xtracrylix XA1806 XA1807 -
A US soldier stands on top of a destroyed Jagdpanther which also is showing an Olivgrün base. Evidence of both Dunkelgelb and Rotbraun can be seen.
This knocked out specimen is often known as the 'Octopus Tiger' due to its tentacle-like camouflage that would have made H.P. Lovecraft proud. The base color is clearly Olivgrün and there does not appear to be evidence of Rotbraun used (possibly on the turret). The location and date are unknown but is likely post-war given the excessive rust on the turret.
The Jagdtiger was one of the most powerful AFVs in World War II but this one now serves as a photo prop, as well as a children's playground. It does not appear to have an Olivgrün base.
One of the most noticeable differences of late-war German camouflage was the harder demarcation lines on many vehicles, evident on this Hetzer tank destroyer, compared to the very evident overspray in previous versions.



Cold War (1955-1984)

Following its defeat in World War II, the Wehrmacht was disbanded and the country (now split into two) demilitarized for a full decade. The need to rearm what was now known as the Federal Republic of Germany (or West Germany) as a bulwark against a potential Soviet invasion resulted in the creation of the Bundeswehr on 12 November 1955, whose land component became known as the Bundesheer. With Germany’s arms industry recovering from wartime destruction, the Bundesheer was initially equipped with US equipment and given the general trend towards simpler, single-color camouflage in the initial post-war decades, the color chosen for Bundesheer vehicles was RAL 6014 Gelboliv (Yellow-Olive). In its original incarnation, Gelboliv was an olive brown that did not show many hints of green as is usually the case with olive camouflage colors. At some point in the 1960s or early 70s, however, the formulation was allegedly revised resulting in a color that was darker and greener than the original, making it closer to the US’s Olive Drab although still slightly lighter especially compared to the version of Olive Drab (FS X-24087) introduced around this time. Use of this color lasted until 1984 when the NATO scheme was introduced.

The exact date of the change in Gelboliv is unknown to this author but it is likely to have taken place at some point between 1961, when the RAL 840 R palette was replaced with RAL 840-HR, and 1972 when the RAL organization itself became independent. Even assuming the earlier date, it is possible that stocks of the initial version of Gelboliv were used up first and vehicles already painted in this color may not have necessitated a new paint job well into the 70s. This is only speculation, however, and there should be some degree of skepticism over the extent to which there was a noticeable difference in this color which could not be accounted for from lighting and fading. Assuming there is a change, a potential rule of thumb could be to use the initial version of Gelboliv on vehicles from the 1950s and 60s and vehicles from the 1970s onward the late version. The former would include the Bundesheer's US-supplied tanks (M47 and M48) as well as some early domestic designs like the Schützenpanzer HS.30 and the Kanonen/Raketenjagdpanzer and possibly the Leopard 1/1A1. The latter would include variants of the Leopard 1 from the 1A2 onward, the Marder IFV, and the Luchs ARV. Early versions of the Leopard 2 (2A4) and Fuchs would have also used late Gelboliv in the early 1980s.

Paint guide:

Color Guide
  RAL 6014 (1) RAL 6014 (2)
Gelboliv Gelboliv
Early Overall  
Late   Overall
Color matches
Gunze Mr. Hobby - -
Gunze Mr. Color - -
Humbrol - -
Model Master - 2175
Revell - 42
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air - -
Vallejo Model Color - -
AKAN - 61002
AK Interactive - AK 2172
AK Real Colors RC086 RC087
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-087
Colourcoats - ACLW23
Hataka - HTK-193
Lifecolor - -
Mission Models - MMP-177
Mr. Paint - MRP-208
Xtracolor - X251
Xtracrylix - -
A Kanonejagdpanzer at a Bundesheer base in 1965, possibly showing the lighter earlier version of Gelboliv.
Not a vehicle, but this howitzer about to give a salute following the death of Konrad Adenauer in 1967 shows Gelboliv (likely freshly painted given the occasion) in perfect lighting and color balance. (Source: Alfred Henning/PA)
The Jagdpanzer Rakete was West Germany's major ATGM tank-hunter of the Cold War. The year of this photo, however, is unknown but the color is suggestive of the later version of Gelboliv.
A great shot of a Marder IFV on maneuvers in Münster in 1978. This definitely shows a darker version of Gelboliv on the clean patch in the hull as well as the turret. (Source: Wolfgang Weihs/PA)
If this tank doesn't ring a bell it's because it never entered service. It's a prototype of the Leopard 2 with a turret very similar to that of the Leopard 1A3/4, eventually significantly redesigned in the production version.


NATO Scheme (1984-Today)

In 1984 a standardized camouflage scheme was developed for NATO countries. This scheme was a three-color pattern that would be suitable for a temperate woodland environment such as Central Europe, the main theater of operations in a war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The NATO scheme would also be the first to employ the RAL-F9 palette which incorporated colors exclusively for military use. For Germany vehicles, the NATO scheme consisted of a base of RAL 6031-F9 Bronzegrün (Bronze Green) along with a disruptive pattern of RAL 8027-F9 Lederbraun (Leather Brown) and RAL 9021-F9 Teerschwartz (Tar Black), the former being a mildly reddish brown while the latter being a black with a hint of gray, similar to rubber. Like the previous scheme, there was no specific winter or arctic patterns and instead, units reverted to the tried and tested method of using washable white paint/distemper when operating in such environments. The NATO three-color scheme remains, to this day, the standard camouflage pattern for all German AFVs operating in non-desert environments.

Implementation of the NATO scheme was voluntary, and of the main NATO armies it was adopted by the US, Germany, and France; Britain and Italy notably opted out. No exact specifications were applied across countries either, and each country matched them to the closest equivalents in their national palettes. By and large, German and US vehicles looked very similar given the close match between their RAL and FS equivalents (FS numbers are provided in the color guide below for cross-reference). French vehicles featured a noticeably brighter green and lighter brown and it is therefore not recommended to use the RAL and FS equivalents. Confusingly, the British Army and RAF used a paint known as NATO IRR Green during the 1980s yet this color is not an equivalent, having a more forest green appearance.

Paint guide:

Color Guide
  FS 34094 FS 30051 FS 37030
RAL 6031-F9 RAL 8027-F9 RAL 9021-F9
Bronzegrün Lederbraun Teerschwarz
NATO Base Camo Camo
Color matches      
Gunze Mr. Hobby - - -
Gunze Mr. Color C519 C520 C521
Humbrol - - -
Model Master 2173 2174 -
Revell 65 84 06
Tamiya XF-67 XF-68 XF-69
Vallejo Model Air 71.093 71.249 71.251
Vallejo Model Color - 70.871 -
AKAN - - -
AK Interactive AK-796 AK-797 AK-735
AK Real Colors RC080 RC081 RC082
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-084 A.MIG-085 -
Colourcoats - - -
Hataka HTK-152 HTK-188 HTK-125
Lifecolor UA 303 UA 302 UA 301
Mission Models MMP-034 MMP-033 MMP-035
Mr. Paint MRP-078 MRP-079 MRP-077
Xtracolor - - -
Xtracrylix - - -
An amazing shot of a trio of Leopard 2A5s during exercises. There is a very close similarity between the RAL and FS versions of these colors.
This TPz Fuchs shows the deeper Bronzegrün used in the German NATO scheme compared to the lighter US version (FS 34094). In the field, however, it could fade considerably resulting in the two colors being nearly indistinguishable (as in the previous photo).
Another very good photo of Bronzegrün as seen in this closeup of a MK30 autocannon on a Puma IFV prototype. In contrast, Lederbraun and Teerschwarz were not that much different to their US versions.
Washable white paint is added for operations in snowy terrain, as seen on these vehicles used by the 23rd Gebirgsjägerbrigade (Mountain Brigade) in training before deployment to Bosnia.
Although Bundesheer desert schemes exist (see next section), some vehicles operating in Afghanistan have used improvised camouflage like this PzH 2000 SPG which retains its NATO colors underneath.


Desert Schemes (2001-Today)

For decades, World War II clouded the Bundeswehr’s willingness to participate in military operations outside its borders but this gradually changed after the end of the Cold War with its involvement in peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. The Bundeswehr’s first major operation outside of Europe was in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) where it was among the main contributors. The inappropriateness of the NATO scheme in the terrain of Central Asia resulted in the creation of various two- and three-tone schemes which were gradually introduced to the country’s ISAF contingents. Given their striking appearance (certainly one of the most attractive desert schemes ever created), these schemes have also been used extensively on prototypes and display vehicles particularly at arms fairs, most likely for the purpose of attracting Middle Eastern clients.

There is a variety of desert schemes have been observed which feature a combination of five colors in the military-specific RAL-F9 palette. All of them consist of a base color of either RAL 1039-F9 Sandbeige (Sand Beige) or RAL 1040-F9 Lehmbeige (Clay Beige). Both are sand yellows with the former having a creamier hue and the latter being slightly darker and yellower (there is some passing resemblance to British Portland Stone and Light Stone respectively). This base is paired with a disruptive pattern of RAL 8031-F9 Sandbraun (Sand Brown) which is darker but tends to fade into a desert pink. The second disruptive color is known to vary and can either be RAL 7050-F9 Tarngrau (Camouflage Gray) or RAL 6040-F9 Helloliv (Light Olive). Tarngrau is a brownish Grey that combines very well with the other two colors while Helloliv is an olive green-brown which at least in the Afghan sun tends to look considerably greener. Simpler two-color schemes have also been observed, these consisting of the Sandbeige/Lehmbeige base and either Sandbraun or Helloliv as the disruptive color. A few vehicles also appear to only carry the Sandbeige/Lehmbeige base.

Paint guide:

Color Guide
  RAL 1039-F9 RAL 1040-F9 RAL 8031-F9 RAL 7050-F9 RAL 6040-F9
Sandbeige Lehmbeige Sandbraun Tarngrau Helloliv
Three-color (1) Base (1) Base (2) Camo Camo (1) Camo (2)
Two-color (1) Base (1) Base (2) Camo (1)   Camo (2)
Color matches          
Gunze Mr. Hobby - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - - - - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.244 71.245 71.246 71.248 71.247
Vallejo Model Color - - - - -
AKAN - - - - -
AK Interactive AK 727 - AK 728 AK 729 -
AK Real Colors RC088 RC089 RC092 RC091 RC090
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-027 - A.MIG-026 A.MIG-028 -
Colourcoats - - - - -
Hataka HTK-278 HTK-279 HTK-280 HTK-089 HTK-281
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - -
Mr. Paint - - - - -
Xtracolor - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -
A promo shot of a Leopard 2A7+, the most advanced version of one of the world's most advanced tanks. The colors are Sandbeige/Sandbraun/Tarngrau (looking rather faded), arguably the most attractive combination among these desert schemes.
A Boxer GTK in Afghanistan swapping the Sandbeige for the more mustard-like Lehmbeige with Sandbraun/Tarngrau.
Another Boxer GTK, although most like in Europe, using Sandbeige/Sandbraun/Helloliv which is a very popular three-color combination as it offers some verdant concealment (most deserts aren't just sand).
A column of Dingos in Afghanistan in 2011. It appears they are only wearing a two-color scheme of Sandbeige/Sandbraun.
All five colors in a single photo? You got it. This pair of Boxers and a TPz Fuchs have all the desert scheme, with the Boxers boasting Sandbeige/Sandbraun/Helloliv and the Fuchs sporting Lehmbeige/Sandbraun/Tarngrau. Interestingly, the Fuchs appears to have a patch of Sandbeige around the driver's door which is likely an improvised touch up. (Source: Maurizio Gambarini/PA)


Paint Charts

  RAL 1001 Elfenbein AFV interiors 20 m Beige
  RAL 1006 Gelb Markings 23 Maisgelb
  RAL 3000 Rot Markings 7 Feuerrot
  RAL 5001 Blue Markings 32 Grünblau
  RAL 6003 Olivgrün Tricolor scheme (1943-45) - Olivgrün
  RAL 6006 Feldgrau Uniforms, staff vehicles 3 Grauoliv
  RAL 6007 Grün Pre-war scheme (1933-37) 28 Flaschengrün
  RAL 7008 Graugrün DAK scheme (1941-42) - Khakigrau
  RAL 7017 Dunkelbraun Early war scheme (1937-40) 45 -
  RAL 7021 Dunkelgrau Early war scheme (1937-40) 46 Schwarzgrau
  RAL 7027 Grau DAK scheme (1942-43) - -
  RAL 7028 (1) Dunkelgelb Tricolor scheme (1943-44) - -
  RAL 7028 (2) Dunkelgelb 1944 Tricolor scheme (1944-45) - -
  RAL 8000 Gelbbraun DAK scheme (1941-42) 16 Grünbraun
  RAL 8002 Erdgelb Pre-war scheme (1933-37) 17 Signalbraun
  RAL 8010 Braun Pre-war scheme (1933-37) 18 -
  RAL 8012 Rotbraun Tricolor scheme (1944), Primer 13 a Rotbraun
  RAL 8017 Rotbraun Tricolor scheme (1943-45) 19 Schokoladenbraun
  RAL 8020 Braun DAK scheme (1942-43) - -
  RAL 9001 Weiß Markings, winter camo (1939-43) - Cremeweiß
  RAL 9002 Weiß Markings, winter camo (1943-45) 1 Grauweiß
  RAL 9005 Schwarz Markings 5 Tiefschwarz

* Only includes colors used officially on AFVs. RAL number retained in RAL-HR but name may have changed.

  RAL 1039-F9 Sandbeige Desert scheme FS 33531
  RAL 1040-F9 Lehmbeige Desert scheme FS 30257
  RAL 6031-F9* Bronzegrün NATO scheme FS 34094
  RAL 6040-F9 Helloliv Desert scheme FS 34087
  RAL 7050-F9 Tarngrau Desert scheme FS 36134
  RAL 8027-F9 Lederbraun NATO scheme FS 30051
  RAL 8031-F9 Sandbraun Desert scheme FS 30219
  RAL 9021-F9 Teerschwarz
NATO scheme FS 37030

* Exists in matt and semi-matt (RAL 6031-HR) versions.

Last modified: 18 June 2023