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 rarely used colours, and wider context and history.

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.

RAL 840 F, for office furniture stains

Beginnings: The RAL

The RAL, Reichsausschuss für Lieferbedingungen, (State Committee for Delivery Conditions) was a German institute formed on April 23 1925, just after the first world war. While it was under supervision of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs, it was an legally independent entity. In the beginning it was tasked with quality assurance by labelling goods and services.

In 1927, the RAL published with it’s first colour standard for general industrial usage, RAL 840. By creating a system of standardized colours the cost of paints could be reduced due to economy of scale. By prioritizing local pigments, imports could be reduced as foreign currencies were scarce and the Reichs mark was worthless in foreign countries. The system contained 40 colours most widely used. 13 Base shades and 27 more from mixing those. During the following decade the amount of colours increased to more than 100 shades as new government organizations, such as the posts and railways, needed new shades, split into multiple standards

RAL 840 B

On the 1st of November 1927 this was extended with a new range of 40 colours for vehicle usage, the RAL 840 B:

RAL 840 B2

On April 30 1932 an updated version of RAL 840 B was published, which was designated RAL 840 B2 in June to avoid confusion. Over time, these colours proved insufficient and new colours were added via supplementary sheets, or Ergänzungsblätter.

RAL 840 R

In 1939-1940 this wild growth of colours led to a new numbering system under influence of the Wehrmacht, the RAL 840 R (=revisited). Under this system every colour was given a four number code and a name. The first digit indicated the main group or shade. This chart remained in use to today as RAL 840 HR and also forms the basis of the RLM system.

RAL 1xxxYellowRAL 6xxxGreen
RAL 2xxxOrangeRAL 7xxxGrey
RAL 3xxxRedRAL 8xxxBrown
RAL 4xxxVioletRAL 9xxxWhite and Black
RAL 5xxxBlue

RLM and the L.Dv. 521

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. The ministry was founded in 1933 starting early 1936 the RLM took over the standardization of aircraft paints and camouflage patterns. 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.

Luftwaffen Dienstvorschriften L.Dv. 521

The RLM regulations for colour shade, production and application were proclaimed by Luftwaffen Dienstvorschriften L.Dv. 521 (=airforce regulations L.Dv. 521) starting early 1936. It was split in three parts:

  • L.Dv. 521/1 Behandlungs- und Anwendungsvorschrift für Flugzeuglacke, Teil 1: Motorfleugzeuge.
    Handling and application instructions for aircraft paints, Part 1: powered aircraft
  • L.Dv. 521/2 Behandlungs- und Anwendungsvorschrift für Flugzeuglacke, Teil 2: Segelflugzeuge.
    Handling and application instructions for aircraft paints, Part 2: gliders
  • L.Dv. 521/3 Einer Vorschrift zum ausbessern von Fleugzeuglackierungen
    specification for touching up aircraft paintwork

The earliest known surviving version, a revision of L.Dv. 521/1, was issued in march 1938. Some colours, including the RLM 61, 62 and 63, were still correlated to the RAL 840 R system. (RAL 8019, 6002 and 7004 respectively.)

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

In November 1941 the L.Dv. 521/1 was revisited, although it was still marked as Ausgabe 1938 (= edition 1938). The L.Dv. 521/1 (1941) contained three new colours: RLM 74,75 and 76. RLM 61, 62 and 63 were no longer used for aircraft and done away with. Strangely RLM 02 and RLM 66 were changed. RLM 66 was changed from RAL 7019 to RAL 7021. RLM 02 was made more intense and darker.
RLM 78 and 79 were not ready at the time of printing and were attached by loose paint chips stuck to a blank page in the manual.

Revisited L.Dv. 521/1 Colour table from November 1941. Note that the title still notes 1938.

Full Colour Table

RLM number Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
0 Wasserhell RAL-9000   X-35 71.058  
Clear gloss protection coating
Primer
1 Silver RAL-9006
FS-17178
             
Undercarriage
The first aircraft of the luftwaffer were in this color
2 RLM-Grau RAL-7003
FS-34159
H070
C060
33%XF-2
33%XF-49
33%XF-22
71044 HTK-*023 MRP-050 AK11811
AK11812
RC265
RC266
217
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 RAL-1004
FS-37200
H413
C113
XF-03 71078 HTK-*066 MRP-051 AK11813
RC267
 
ID markings, bands, underside of the wingtips and cowlings
underside of captured aircraft
5 Elfenbein
Gelb Lasur
FS-13618
RAL 1001
    71106     RC046  
early gliders
21 Weiß RAL-9001         MRP-004    
markings, fusulage bands, numbers.
winter camo, by applying the paint dissolved in patrol on the plane, easily worn
22 Schwarz RAL-9004         MRP-005    
markings and fuselage codes
Overall night camouflage untill 1942
23 Rot RAL-3001 H414
C114
XF-07 71102 HTK-103 MRP-052    
Identification markings
24 Dunkelblau RAL-5000 H015   71266 HTK-*102 MRP-053 RC010  
Identification markings
Oxygen systems
25 Hellgrün RAL-6000 H094   71267 HTK-*270 MRP-054    
Identification markings
26 Braun RAL-8004     71105        
electric systems
General usage
27 Gelb RAL-1003              
Usage is same as RLM 04, but a different recipe and used less. Slightly different colour, but often not differentiated.
28 Weinrot RAL-3008              
stepping zone area’s on the wings
Identification markings
61 Dunkelbraun RAL-8019       *168 MRP-055 AK11814
RC268
 
Pre war camouflage scheme, spanish civil war with RLM 62 and RLM 63
62 Grün RAL-6002     71.114 *169 MRP-056 AK11815
RC269
 
Pre war camouflage scheme, spanish civil war with RLM 61 and RLM 63
63 Hellgrau RAL-7004     71.260 *167 MRP-057 AK11816
RC270
266
Pre war camouflage scheme, spanish civil war with RLM 61 and RLM 62
65 Hellblau   H-067
C-115
N-067
S-115
XF-23 71.255 *029 MRP-058 AK11817
AK11818
RC271
RC272
231
general undersurface for all aircraft, after 1941 no longer for fighters
66 Schwarzgrau RAL 7019 H-416
C-116
  71.055 *040 MRP-059 AK11819
AK11820
RC273
RC339
218
Interior colour from 1941 onward, but only area’s visible from the outside, other area’s stayed RLM 02
Some use in identification markings.
Had a more lighter and greener touch before it was changed in the 1941 revision of the L.Dv. 521/1. It is unknown why the colour was changed, but if might have to do with it use as cockpit colour.
68 Schwarzgrün                
 
69 Dunkelgrün                
 
70 Schartzgrün   H-065
C-018
90%XF-11
10%XF-1
  *015 MPR-060 AK11821
RC274
232
bomber camouflage, early fighters
propeller blades
71 Dunkelgrün   H-064
C-017
70%XF-11
25%XF-60
5%XF-10
71015 *017 MRP-061 AK11822
RC275
233
bomber camouflage
72 Grün       71263 *311 MRP-062 AK11823
RC276
 
post november 1941 splinter scheme for naval aircraft (reconnaissance, torpedo bombers, float planes)
73 Grün       71256 *312 MRP-063 AK11824
RC277
 
post november 1941 splinter scheme for naval aircraft (reconnaissance, torpedo bombers, float planes)
74 Graugrün   H-068
C-036
N-068
  71258 *313 MRP-064 AK11825
RC278
253
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
75 Mittelgrau   H-069
C-037
70%XF-2
25%XF-24
5%XF-27
71259 *007 MRP-065 AK11826
RC279
254
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
76
(version 1)
Lichtblau           MRP-181 AK11827
RC320
 
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
76
(version 2)
Blaugrün       71257 *038 MRP-066 AK11828
RC321
 
 
76
(late)
Grünblau       71103   MRP-182 AK11829
RC322
256
No official recipe has been found, but this shade of RLM 76 is encountered on a number of surviving airframes.
Sometimes faultily designated RLM 84.
77 Hellgrau         *264      
Identification markings (Balkenkreuz, ID codes) on dark backgrounds such as RLM 22 on night bombers
No official swatch or recipe has been found as of yet, colour derived from field samples
78
(1941)
Himmelblau         *029   AK11830
RC280
 
Underside of the tropical scheme (1941)
78
(1942)
Himmelblau   H418
C118
XF-23 71101 *314 MRP-067 AK11832
RC281
247
Underside of the tropical scheme (1942-1944)
79
(1941)
Sandgelb         *014   AK11832
RC282
 
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1941-1942)
79
(1942)
Sandgelb   H066, N066,
C119
  71278 *172 MRP-068 AK11833
RC283
222
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1942-1944)
80 Olivgrün   H420
C120
XF-26 71265 *053 MRP-069 AK11834
RC284
284
optional upper surface details (lines, blotches) of the Mediterranean scheme (1941-1944)
81
variant 1
Braunviolett     XF-51 71264 *008 MRP-070 AK11835
RC323
 
 
81
variant 2
Braunviolett   H421
C121
XF-74 71011 *022   AK11836
RC324
 
 
81
variant 3
Braunviolett             AK11837
RC325
255
 
82 Hellgrün   H422
C122
  71022 *020 MRP-071 AK11838
RC326
230
 
83 dunkelblau   H328   71266 HTK-*274   AK11839
RC327
 
Experimental colour for usage in the Mediterranean theatre. It was to be used with RLM 72 for seaplanes and RLM 70 for land based aircraft. Widespread usage is debated, but there are accounts of Junkers Ju 88 bombers being painted in a dark blue camouflage.
The colour first appears in a monthly rapport, E-stelle Travermünde, in November 1943. It’s official recipe, Flieglack 7121.83, also gives a dark blue colour when recreated. It was experimented with, but no information about widespread usage exist and documentation regarding official implementation is still missing, however eye witnesses indicate that blue painted aircraft did fly around at from 1943 onward.
RLM 83 is often depicted as a dark green colour which was widely used later in the war. However no official documentation exists referring RLM 83 as being a green shade. These colours where however likely misidentified shades of RLM 81, but possibly also RLM 70, 71 and 82. This mistake likely comes from the knowledge of an RLM 83 existing, combined with unknown shades of green found on surviving samples. This then leading to the incorrect conclusion that RLM 83 must be that green colour. Later research has however shown these samples to be RLM 81 variants.
  • Real colors of WWII aircraft, p88-89.
  • M. Ullmann, Hornets’Nest RLM 83 Dark Blue
  • Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1935-1945, Volume One, p89-91

pre 1936 Early Monotone camouflages

Initially German aircraft wore overall silver and grey finishes. These were standardized in 1936 with the L.Dv. 521. RLM 02 and RLM 63 differed visually little from each other. Trainers also used the silver livery as the colour provided better visibility in the air.

Designation Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK MIG
DKH L40/52
hellgrau
hellgrau             RC285  
DKH L40/52 was a line of paints developed for Lufthansa, sometimes the light grey shade was used on early military aircraft.
RLM 01 Silber RAL-9000   X-35 71.058        
Overall colour of early aircraft
Overall colour of trainer aircraft up to early 1940’s, after which it was phased out for a grey overall camouflage
RLM 02
(1938)
RLM-Grau RAL-7003
FS-34159
H070
C060
  71.044 *023      
Overall colour of early aircraft
RLM 63 Hellgrau RAL 7004     71.260 *167      
Overall colour of early aircraft

1936-1938 Early three colour splinter scheme

The introduction of standardized colours in 1936 also saw the introduction of the first camouflage pattern, intended for land based bombers. It was comprised of RLM 61,62 and 63 in a three tone splinter scheme over a RLM 65 underside. The scheme was first used on Junkers Ju 88 bombers. The scheme was used officially until mid 1936 for dive bombers, and September 1938 for other aircraft, although application on reconnaissance aircraft remain unclear. The camouflage is most famously used on Dornier Do 17 and Henschel Hs 123 aircraft during the Spanish civil war, but was used well into the Polish and French campaigns.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
61 dunkelbraun RAL-8019   X-9 70822 HTK-*168 MRP-055 AK11814
RC268
 
top side splinter scheme
62 grün RAL-6002   XF-65 71114 HTK-*169 MRP-056 AK11815
RC269
 
top side splinter scheme
63 hellgrau RAL-7004   XF-25 71260 HTK-*167 MRP-057 AK11816
RC270
266
top side splinter scheme, faded to a more grey colour
65
(1938)
hellblau   H067, C115,
N067, S115
XF-23 71255 HTK-*029 MRP-058 AK11817
RC271
 
underside

1937-1944 Early two tone green splinter scheme

In February 1937 a new camouflage was introduced with the introduction of the Messerschmitt Bf 109B. It consisted of two green tints in a splinter pattern with a blue underside, the same as the earlier style. While the border may appear as a hard edge, they blended into each other with a 5 cm overlay.

The pattern became standard on all new fighters, heavy fighters, bombers, low to medium altitude reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
70 Schwarzgrün             AK11821
RC274
 
top side splinter scheme
71 dunkelgrün             AK11822
RC275
 
top side splinter scheme
65
(1938)
hellblau             AK11817
RC271
 
underside

1938-1944 Maritime scheme

In november 1938 a new scheme was introduced for naval aircraft, with the issuing of the L. Dv. 521/1. It was very simular to the RLM 70/71 pattern, with the underside also RLM 65 for day operations and RLM 22 black for night fighters.

This scheme was found on naval reconnaissance aircraft such as the Do 24, Fw 200, Ju 290 and Bv 138, seaplanes such as the Ar 196 and He 115 and torpedo bombers such as some variants of the He 111 and Ju 88.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
22 Schwarz             AK11817
RC271
 
underside for night
72 Schwarzgrün             AK11821
RC274
 
top side splinter scheme
73 dunkelgrün             AK11822
RC275
 
top side splinter scheme
65
(1938)
hellblau             AK11817
RC271
 
underside

1940-1945 Night camouflage

Fighters

In the beginnin, night fighters would use regular camouflage schemes, as this would allow them to be used as day fighters if neccessary. When the dangers of the RAF bombing raids became apparent in June 1940, a dedicated night fighter scheme was adopted. This scheme was overall RLM 22 black and was in use untill 1942, when it was replaced with RLM 74/75/76, with RLM 76 occasionally being replaced by RLM 02.

In early 1944 the night fighter scheme was simplified to RLM 75 over 76, with mottles or streaks of 76 on the upper surface. The lower starboard wing was to be painted in RLM 22, this however wasn’t always followed with a number of He 219’s being painted fully black on the bottom and on the sides.

Bombers

Bombers used in night operation were in July 1940 ordered to apply a black camouflage on their lower surfaces.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
22 Schwarz             AK11817
RC271
 
underside for night
74 Graugrün   H-068
C-036
N-068
  71258 *313 MRP-064 AK11825
RC278
253
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
75 Mittelgrau   H-069
C-037
70%XF-2
25%XF-24
5%XF-27
71259 *007 MRP-065 AK11826
RC279
254
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
76
(version 2)
Blaugrün       71257 *038 MRP-066 AK11828
RC321
 
 

1944-1945 Late war splinter Scheme

RLM 81 / RLM 82 over RLM 76

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
76
(version 1)
Lichtblau           MRP-181 AK11827
RC320
 
 
76
(version 2)
Blaugrün   H417   71257 HTK-*038 MRP-066 AK11828
RC321
 
 
76
(late)
Grünblau   H074   71103 HTK-*239 MRP-182 AK11829
RC322
 
No official recipe has been found, but this shade of RLM 76 is encountered on a number of surviving airframes.
This shade has sometimes errorously been designated as RLM 84
81
variant 1
Braunviolett   H421
C121
XF-51 71264 HTK-*008 MRP-070 AK11835
RC323
 
 
81
variant 2
Braunviolett     XF-74 71011 HTK-*022   AK11836
RC324
 
 
81
variant 3
Braunviolett   H423   71287     AK11837
RC325
255
 
82 Hellgrün   H422
C122
  71022 HTK-*020 MRP-071 AK11838
RC326
230
 

1941-1944 Tropical Camouflage

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 until 1944 and the eastern front after units were send there.

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK MIG
78
(1941)
Himmelblau         *029   AK11830
RC280
 
Underside of the tropical scheme (1941)
78
(1942)
Himmelblau   H418
C118
XF-23 71.101 *314 MRP-067 AK11832
RC281
247
Underside of the tropical scheme (1942-1944)
79
(1941)
Sandgelb         *014   AK11832
RC282
 
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1941-1942)
79
(1942)
Sandgelb   H066, N066,
C119
  71.278 *172 MRP-068 AK11833
RC283
222
basis upper surface colour in the Mediterranean scheme (1942-1944)
80 Olivgrün   H420
C120
XF-26 71.265 *053 MRP-069 AK11834
RC284
284
optional upper surface details (lines, blotches) of the Mediterranean scheme (1941-1944)

Unsure and wrong colours

These designations I’m not sure about, if they even exist. Especially the colours 64 and 67 are suspiously missing from the range, implying that they might exist, or at least have been considered to the point of getting an RLM number reserved. However as of yet no official documents about their existence have surfaced.

RLM number Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka MRP AK Ammo MIG
9 Gelbgrün                
 
11 Edelbein RAL 7039 ?              
 
41 Grau RAL 7011 ?              
Interior of some early planes, seldom used (?)
42 Grau RAL 7012 ?     71123        
Vallejo has a color in their range labeled as RLM 42, however no further official information can be found
64                  
sometimes depicted as a light blue colour, sometimes as an olive green, supposedly it was on colour charts before the 1936 revision of the L.Dv. 521, however no original evidence of it’s existence or usage has surfaced as of yet.
export colour ?
67 Weiß                
 
84                  
RLM designation is erroneous and this colour was most likely the late variant of RLM 76.
91                  
Described by Ullmann as used by Lufthansa
99                  
Sometimes appears in some literature, however there doesn’t seem to be a consensus of what this colour is.
1. Clear protective interior varnish, used where the manufacturer stamp on the duraluminmust be visible.
2. Placeholder paint where the actual shade isn’t relevant. (Luftwaffen-Verordnungsblatt, 1943)

Sources

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mark athon

    I have one of the 512/1 1941 books with color charts. How best to sell it?

    1. Emma Hoekstra

      I guess Ebay? I personally don’t have the money to buy it, however if you could make a scan I would greatly appreciate it!

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