The RLM system is probably the most widely known system of all paint systems in the 2nd world war, and a lot of modellers are known with it’s nomenclature. Still there is interesting information to be told about this system, and while other websites also do a very good job of accurately describing the colours with their matching modelling paints, they often lack the more rarer colours, and context.

As with all pages of this type, the colours shown are an approximation. Monitors can change the colour displayed and don’t account for shading and glossiness.
In reality these colours would also fade over time, and different batches had slightly different tones.
The accuracy of the paints can be off. They’re mostly taken from the manufacturer, from painting manuals and bits on the internet. They should resemble the actual colour closely, but use at your own discretion.

To go to the colour table, click here.

Beginnings

The RLM, abbreviation of Reichsluftfahrtministerium, was the German Ministry of Aviation. It was in charge of all matters concerning German aviation, such as aircraft development and standardization within the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. Here I will focus on the German paint systems. The purpose of these systems was mostly cost reduction by standardization and minimizing dependence on raw material import by promoting use of pigments that could be obtained nationally.

In 1936, the RLM introduced it’s first standardized colour system, with RLM 61/62/63 on the upper surface and RLM 65 on the underside

The RLM regulations for color shade, production and application were applied via a serie of service regulations, Luftwaffen Dienstvorschriften L.Dv. 521. The earliest known surviving revision, L.Dv. 521/1, was issued in march 1938 and specified the aircraft colours as RLM 61, 62 and 63. During the war these regulation changed a lot, mostly due to material shortages. Due to this the same RLM colour may have changed over the course of time. The German RLM system is probably the most well known and documented painting system of all nation of the 2nd world war,

Original RLM Colour table from the L.Dv. 521/1, March 1938.

Colour Table

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka
0 Wasserhell RAL-9000   X-35 71.058  
Clear gloss protection coating
Primer
1 Silver FS-17178
RAL-9006
       
Undercarriage
The first aircraft of the luftwaffer were in this color
2 RLM-Grau FS-34159
RAL-7003
H-070
C-060
33%XF-2
33%XF-49
33%XF-22
71.044 *023
Extensively used as cockpit colour before 1943.
Interior colour; wheel wells, engine compartment, ect.
Overall colour of prototype, trainer and liason aircraft
Early camouflage upper side
Sometimes used as a replacement for RLM 76 in the late war night fighter camouflage scheme
3 Silbergrau          
mostly used before the war
4 Gelb FS-37200
RAL-9004
H-413
C-113
     
ID markings, bands, underside of the wingtips and cowlings
underside of captured aircraft
5 Elfenbein FS-13618     71.106  
early gliders
9 Gelbgrün          
 
11 Edelbein          
general use
21 Weiß RAL-9001        
markings, fusulage bands, numbers.
winter camo, by applying the paint dissolved in patrol on the plane, easily worn
22 Schwarz RAL-9004        
markings and fuselage codes
Overall night camouflage untill 1942
23 Rot RAL-3001 H-414
C-114
  71.102  
Identification markings
24 Dunkelblau RAL-5000     71.266  
Identification markings
Oxygen systems
25 Hellgrün RAL-6000     71.267  
Identification markings
26 Braun RAL-8004     71.105  
electric systems
General usage
27 Gelb RAL-1003        
Same as RLM 04, but used less
28 Weinrot RAL-3008        
stepping zone area’s on the wings
Identification markings
41 Grau          
Interior of some early planes, seldom used
42 Grau          
general usage
61 Dunkelbraun RAL-8019       *168
Pre war camouflage schemes, spanish civil war
62 Grün RAL-6002     71.114 *169
Pre war camouflage schemes, spanish civil war
63 Hellgrau RAL-7004     71.260 *167
Pre war camouflage schemes, spanish civil war
64 Dunkelgrün          
 
65 Hellblau   H-067
C-115
N-067
S-115
XF-23 71.255 *029
general undersurface for all aircraft, after 1941 no longer for fighters
66 Schwarzgrau   H-416
C-116
  71.055 *040
Interior colour from 1941 onward, but only area’s visible from the outside, other area’s stayed RLM 02
Some use in identification markings
67 Weiß          
 
68 Schwarzgrün          
 
69 Dunkelgrün          
 
70 Schartzgrün   H-065
C-018
90%XF-11
10%XF-1
  *015
bomber camouflage, early fighters
propellor blades
71 Dunkelgrün   H-064
C-017
70%XF-11
25%XF-60
5%XF-10
71.015 *017
bomber camouflage
72 Grün       71.263 *311
post november 1941 splinter scheme for naval aircraft (reconnaissance, torpedo bombers, floatplanes)
73 Grün       71.256 *312
post november 1941 splinter scheme for naval aircraft (reconnaissance, torpedo bombers, floatplanes)
74 Graugrün   H-068
C-036
N-068
  71.258 *313
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
75 Mittelgrau   H-069
C-037
70%XF-2
25%XF-24
5%XF-27
71.259 *007
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
76 Weißblau   H-417
C-117
S-117
55%XF-19
30%XF-23
15%XF-2
71.257 *038
Bottom side on fighter aircraft from nov 1941
night fighter topside
overall colour of some high altitude fighters
Due to shortages towards the end of the war, wide variations in this colour started to appear towards the end of the war
77 Hellgrau         *264
Sometimes used instead of RLM 76
Identification markings on dark backgrounds
78 Himmelblau   H-418
C-118
  71.101 *029
Bottom side of the mediterranean scheme
79 Sandgelb   H-066
C-119
N-066
  71.278 *014 (early)
*172 (late)
basis colour in the Mediterraean scheme, some pictures also show FW 190’s with an overall darker version of this colour
80 Olivgrün   H-420
C-120
  71.265 *053
Blotches in the mediterranean scheme
81 Braunviolett   H-421
C-121
60%XF-61
30%XF-64
10%XF-1
71.264 *008
from 1944 top side
82 Lichtgrün
Hellgrün
  H-422
C-122
80%XF-26
10%XF-61
10%XF-1
  *020
from 1944 top side
83 Dunkelgrün   H-423
C-123
    *022
Late-war top side
84 Gelbgrau
Graublau
      71.103  
RLM designation is speculatory, they could be RLM 76 due to shortages
91            
Lufthansa?
99 Grün          
Primer, fasteners

Tropical colours

Luftwaffe units started to be deployed in North Africa somewhere between late January and March 1941. At the time, no suitable camouflage colours for the sandy, Saharan desert were available. The first mention of the tropical scheme comes from an inspection document to a depot in Erling, Germany, which describes the three lacquers.
Curiously, only colour chips for RLM 78 and 79 were added to the L.DV. 521/1 of 1941. Somewhere after November 1941, RLM 78 was changed to a slightly lighter shade, while RLM 79 was changed to a darker, browner shade.

RLM 80 wasn’t always used, especially on later fighters such as Bf 109’s and FW 190’s

Ever after the retreat from africa, the colour scheme was still used to some extend in Italy untill 1944 and the eastern front after units were send there.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka
78 Himmelblau          
Underside of the tropical scheme (1941)
78 Himmelblau          
Underside of the tropical scheme (1942-1944)
79 Sandgelb          
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1942 onward)
79 Sandgelb          
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1942-1944 onward)
80 Olivgrün          
optional upper surface details (lines, blotches) of the Mediterranean scheme (1941-1944)

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