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 RAL

The RAL, Reichsausschuss für Lieferbedingungen, ( = Reichs-committee for delivery conditions) was a German institute formed in 1925, just after the first world war. While it was under supervision of the German government, it was an legally independent entity. In the beginning it was tasked with quality assurance by labelling goods and services.

In 1927, the RAL started with it’s colour system, 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 ’30 the amount of colours increased to more than 100 shades as new government organizations needed new shades, such as the posts and railways.

in 1939/1940 this wild growth of colours led to a new numbering system, the RAL 840R (=revisited). Under this system every colour was given a four number code, where the first digit indicated the main group or shade. This chart remained in use to the end of the war and forms the basis of the RLM system.

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


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. The earliest known surviving version, revision 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 end 1941 the L.Dv. 521/1 was revisited, although it was still marked as Ausgabe 1938 (= edition). 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.

Colour Table

RLM Colour equivalents Gunze Tamiya Vallejo Hataka
0 Wasserhell RAL-9000   X-35 71.058  
Clear gloss protection coating
1 Silver FS-17178
The first aircraft of the luftwaffer were in this color
2 RLM-Grau FS-34159
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
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
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
XF-23 71.255 *029
general undersurface for all aircraft, after 1941 no longer for fighters
66 Schwarzgrau RAL 7019
RAL 7021
  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.
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.
67 Weiß          
68 Schwarzgrün          
69 Dunkelgrün          
70 Schartzgrün   H-065
bomber camouflage, early fighters
propellor blades
71 Dunkelgrün   H-064
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
  71.258 *313
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
75 Mittelgrau   H-069
71.259 *007
Top camouflage on fighter airfcraft from nov 1941
76 Weißblau   H-417
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
  71.101 *029
Bottom side of the mediterranean scheme
79 Sandgelb   H-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
  71.265 *053
Blotches in the mediterranean scheme
81 Braunviolett   H-421
71.264 *008
from 1944 top side
82 Lichtgrün
from 1944 top side
83 Dunkelgrün   H-423
Late-war top side
84 Gelbgrau
RLM designation is erroneous, but included for completeness.
This colour is either a variant of RLM 76, deviating a lot due to shortages, or an unnamed new color
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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