Real Colors of WWII book

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Review Author(s)
Other Publication Information
Limited edition, 8 1/2 x 12” high, 208 pages, color & B&W photos, color samples, color profiles
Company: AK Interactive - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: AK Interactive - Website: Visit Site
Real Colors book cover

AK’s Real Colors of WWII is a beautiful publication packed with historical information and photos documenting actual colors and camouflage patterns used on WWII military vehicles.

AK describes the book as a detailed study of documents and original vehicle material from each respective army, plus the synthesis of other publications which are recognized as benchmarks in vehicle color. The intention of the book is to share all this information and provide a guide to the colors that can be used to produce an accurate camouflaged vehicle in a specific theater of operations. The goal to provide a standard guide of colors is a noble one, and will surely generate lots of discussions.

Using the study of preserved military equipment, and scientific analysis, AK has developed the colors used in these paints. AK-Interactive also used the advice of four experts who have years of experience in the inception, development, production, and use of military colors:

  • German armor colors and camouflage - Jürgen Kiroff
  • Soviet armor camouflage - Przemyslaw Skulski
  • British armor camouflage - Mike Starmer
  • US army armor camouflage - Steven Zaloga

The focus of each of the sections is on the vehicle colors and camouflage schemes for each of those armies during World War II.

The graphic design of the book is stunning, with great content, reproductions of actual WWII documents, illustrative photos of actual vehicles, parts, & accessories to illustrate historic paint colors. The book is a limited edition, hardcover, 8 1/2 x 12” high, 208 pages on glossy paper. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs of actual equipment, parts of vehicles, many photographs of vehicles in action, and many, many color profiles of camouflage schemes.

The color samples in the book are not actual paint, but rather a part of the printing process. AK says the tolerance of colors in the book is plus ±4%, although I found significant variations between the book and painted samples as shown in the photos. The book also includes a separate loose color chart of the current available colors.


  1. Prologue
  2. German Colors & Camouflage.
    • RAL system & color cards.
    • OKH regulations
    • Pre-war
    • Early war
    • Russia
    • Africa
    • The Tricolor system
    • The beginning of the end
    • The end
    • Dunkelgelb and Rotbraun color comparison
    • Original color parts and analysis
    • WWII color photographs
  3. Soviet Armor Camouflage.
    • Camouflage of the Red Army vehicles
    • Description of paints
    • Original color parts
    • WWII color photographs
  4. British Armor Camouflage.
    • The color standards
    • Pre-war, B.E.F. & Home Forces
    • New colors & changes
    • U.S. supplied vehicles
    • Middle East Colors: The Caunter Scheme. Other areas
    • Caunter canceled
    • October 1942 & post-Alamein
    • Tunisia, Sicily & Italy colors
    • Change of color
    • The Far East
  5. U.S. Army Camouflage
    • Olive Drab
    • Camouflage paints.
    • Camouflage manuals
    • Field camouflage
    • Camouflage in the Pacific

Content Details

  1. Prologue
  2. German Armor Colors and Camouflage
    • RAL system and RAL Color Cards
      • Provides a description of the history of the RAL color system and includes reproductions of original RAL color cards with color samples. The time period and use of the RAL colors are described with each of the color cards.
    • OKH regulations
      • A section on the OKH (Oberkommando Des Heeres) Regulations describes the colors vehicles were to be painted and how to apply the camouflage. More reproductions of WWII documents are included along with descriptive text and more photographs. This section will be extremely helpful for modelers to re-create accurate German WWII colors and camouflage patterns. A great deal of reference material is provided in this section.
    • Chronology of the Colors Used by the German Army
      • This section describes the colors used during different periods of World War II in different theaters of operation from the prewar, Russia and Africa campaigns, through to the end of the war. Different camouflage schemes are also described here using colored profile drawings. I counted 20 color profiles of different vehicles in this section alone plus many photos showing the camouflage patterns.
    • Original Color Parts
      • This section includes 34 pages of color photographs of vehicle parts and accessories showing original paint colors. There are photos of gas cans, ammo containers, Notek lamps, helmets, canteens, radios, gas mask canisters, various vehicle body parts, etc., showing original paint and wear and tear on the parts to assist with weathering. This section is a great photo reference
    • Analysis and Study of Colors Using Original Paint Samples
      • This section describes the scientific process used to match the colors of the original WWII paint colors. The colors vary depending upon the type of light illuminating the object. This describes how the same color can look different from different light sources such as daylight, tungsten, or fluorescent. The information is very technical but provided in an understandable manner to help explain how the colors were matched and the effect of lighting conditions.
  3. Soviet Armor Camouflage
    • The main painting scheme of the Red Army vehicles was an overall green (Protective 4BO, ZK, ZO).
    • Camouflage of the Red Army Military Vehicles
      • This section describes the chronology of development and use of camouflage on Soviet vehicles
    • Description of the Particular Paints
      • This section describes and provides color samples of the primary paint colors plus paint colors used for camouflage. Reproductions of official Soviet documentation of the colors is included, along with color profiles of the camouflage schemes
  4. British Armor Camouflage
    • British color standards are described by era or theater of conflict:
      • The British expeditionary force 19 34–19 41
      • Middle East colors
      • G.O. 1650 October 1942 and post-Alamein Period.
      • Tunisia Sicily and Italy colors
    • Each of these sections provides color samples of the various paints, wartime photos of camouflage vehicles, and diagrams for how to apply the camouflage. This section alone includes more than 18 color profiles of camouflaged vehicles.
  5. US Army Armor Camouflage
    • Painting of US vehicles during World War II was simplified as there was only one color used: Olive Drab. This section describes the history of olive drab colors from pre-World War I through World War II.
    • US Army Disruptive Camouflage Paint for Tanks
      • The U.S. Army did not have a systematic approach to camouflage, but this section lists 13 camouflage colors that could be used at the discretion of local commanders. This section uses many period photographs and color profiles to illustrate US camouflage patterns.
    • 1944 Field Manual FM5-20B Camouflage of Vehicles
      • This manual provided a series of regulations for applying camouflage to vehicles. In addition to paint, the manual provided methods to hide from the aerial and terrestrial visibility of vehicles, consisting of making use of sites, natural or artificial methods, in addition, to paint. This section goes beyond paint to describe methods to conceal vehicle tracks, dispersing vehicles, hiding in shadows, use of artificial materials like tarps, and natural materials to camouflage or conceal vehicles. This section uses lots of wartime photos to illustrate concealment of vehicles.
    • The last US section describes camouflage painting of US Army and Marine vehicles in the Pacific using wartime photos and color profiles.


This book is a phenomenal resource for modelers interested in World War II vehicle colors and camouflage techniques. The book uses extensive historical documentation, World War II photos, photos of actual vehicle parts, and scientific analysis of paint colors. There is extensive background information on the colors and extensive use of color samples. The book is a fantastic read with all the historical information and would be interesting to history buffs and a must-have for WWII vehicle modelers. The colors developed with this research establish a benchmark for all modelers to use.

Thanks to AK-Interactive for researching and developing the Real Colors for modelers.


Submitted by T Smith (not verified) on Sun, 2019-01-27 07:58


Very pretty, looks impressive and has that "wow" factor, BUT, this was posted on Track48 by Mike Starmer, about his section on British colours

"Regarding the AK book. To be honest I am livid and disgusted at the way they published the British section. My submitted original text was requested to be shortened, which I did. They then edited that without my knowledge.

I sent complete sets of camouflage diagrams with copies of the official orders. These orders were totally ignored. Then redrew some of the disruptive diagrams in their own style and colours transposed onto mostly American vehicles, apparently the British didn't have any of their own.

To cap it they then applied a disruptive pattern from one tank type onto another type, it doesn't fit of course.

The ultimate was putting the pattern for the Greek based A10s onto a Crusader which never carried the design nor deployed to Greece.

Samples of their paint were sent to me for assessment. None were accurate, not even close, which I reported back with larger samples.

New samples then arrived for testing, still not right. In discussion I discovered that they were matching under 'daylight' lighting! FGS are they not sharp or what? I gave them up as a waste of my time, I told them that too. Rant over."


As the AK paint range is based on the colors in the book, so treat them with caution, (the Caunter scheme set is particularly bad) , and this means the book is basically USELESS as a stand alone work, as you to use it, you need to know what is wrong in the book, and if you know that, you don't need the book!

If the much vaunted color accuracy has been done under 'daylight' lighting then that means it cannot be relied upon for any useful level of color accuracy, which rather defeats the claims of +/- 3% tolerance, if the starting colors are wrong anyway!!

I has some useful material, and plenty of colour photos, but if they get the reproduction of these wrong, then you may as well just use google and use what you can find on the net...

Another forum poster has put up photos of original German RAL chip cards over the printed reproductions, and they do not match.

Note, it is possible to buy a fan deck of RAL paint chips from epaint for £15 in the UK, which is paint on card, as I asked them. Many of the RAL colours from WW2 are still RAL colours now, as documented in a youtube video "painting Tiger tanks" where Bovington tank musuem discuss how they repainted tanks for their 2018 Tiger tank family exhibit.

I have not seen critiques of the Soviet section or the US section as yet, but since the German section takes up half the book, and the British section is a joke, these failings do not inspire confidence in the rest.

For those wishing to find out accurate information on WW2 British armour colours, Mike Starmer has published 4 booklets on this, with I think paint chips.

The basic information by Mr Starmer is available on various armour sites if you search.

What could have been a really useful book has been botched,

nearly al the reviews of this have been very positive,  so when this was being discussed on Britmodeller I did some searching, and to find that AK have hacked up the work of a noted researcher Britidh colours really needs wider publicity.

If they color/colour matchig was done under daylight simulation then the whole thing is worthless.... very pretty, very expensive but still worthless as an accurate guide.


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