The paints used during the second world war are a vast, but relatively unknown subject of the war. They’re not as flashy as German luft ’46, and not as maybe not as tank cannons,but I think they deserve spotlight nonetheless.

Of all the paint systems used, the German RLM system and the American ANA system are probably the most well known ones. Relatively good documentation of these exists, with good descriptions, colour samples and paint approximations. When you start to look at Russian for example, the outlines are known. The classic Russian early war overall green and the late war NKAP template are well documented. Nonetheless information outside the mainstream aircraft is difficult to find, as is a comprehensive list of the actual nomenclature. The Japanese system was a complete rabbit hole. Dead links, poor google translations and neigh unfindable leads made research a difficult, but fun undertaking.

Over the years, I’ve always noted that there isn’t a good, comprehensive list of all these paint systems. Most websites only focus on one nation, and a lot more information is scattered around internet fora. The fact that a lot if this information is quite difficult to find again, if it the site it was on wasn’t purged off the internet in 2003.
That is if the information is even available on the internet. A lot of older research is only published in books.

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

Because of this I decided to create my own list. This way I know it would never be removed, I could always find it and it would be clearly presented. I’ve also posted it on my website here, for everyone to enjoy.

Ongoing research

Research towards ww2 era paints, coatings and primers is still ongoing. Especially in Russia and Japan. Old archives are still being discovered, indexed and new information is being published.

My own archive here isn’t complete either. I try to build it up as I go along with my own model making, and add information if I find I something interesting. Paint approximations will probably be added sometime, but I include it only for the most widely used paints for now. These are mostly taken from different internet fora and instruction manuals, as I don’t have the time nor money to research these myself. If you have something interesting, don’t hesitate to give me a link.

The 海軍航空機用塗料識別標準 假規117 別冊, or ” Color identification Standard for Naval airplane –Temporary Specification No.117 Additional Volume”. The colour system used by the IJNAAF from 1938 onward


All the research shown here isn’t done by me. While I would love to go digging around in old archives, it’s not really feasible for me. After all I’m just a student with limited time and money. With the actual system nomenclature and colouring this isn’t really an issue. Most information is published by multiple trusted sources, and pictures of the first hand sources provide a lot of credibility as well. The actual paint approximations are a different story. Most of them are plucked from random places, and are , beyond the general colour, untested by me and should be taken with a care. For the regular hobbyist this won’t be a problem, but care should be taken if one wants the exact shade.

I’ve also tried to generate swatches of each colour to give a general impression of the shade. This however is rather inaccurate, mostly because most monitors can’t really show colour that well. I have two monitors, and the colours show up quite distinct over both. There are more factors that should be taken into account, such as model scale, bad spectrography and fading of existing samples.