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How to Paint Realistic Waffen SS Camouflage Uniforms

Matt Black

Due to the number of vehicle models on the market that were used by the German Waffen-SS in World War Two, the ability to paint realistic Waffen-SS uniforms for figures to accompany these vehicles is needed. The SS were feared during World War Two and now it seems that many modelers fear the camoflauge that was used by the SS.   Waffen-SS uniforms are hard to paint.  They require a steady hand, good brushes, and a general knowledge of the subject, as well as a step by step plan
of action for painting.  I would like to give several tips and techniques for painting these hard uniforms.

Before good painting comes good equipment.  Good paint, brushes, figures, and accessories all come into play.  For SS camoflauge you will need several colors of paint.  These should all be acrylic as this dries faster.  The colors you'll need are a medium brown or redish brown, a dark brown, a light brown, black, white, light green, dark green, medium green, a pink (yes, pink), and tan.  Don't worry about shades of colors becuase uniforms are subject to fading and sometimes didn't even have a standard color dye to begin with.  In fact, some photographs show varying colors between members of the same unit.

Brushes are very important to successful painting.  I have nearly 20 brushes in my figure painting collection alone.  Although you might not pay top dollar for each brush, you're looking for quality.  I buy my brushes from a cheap art store for less than one dollar a piece, and they've lasted me longer than expensive ones.  What you are looking for is three major things.  First of all, the brush should be round, not flat.  Secondly, the brush should have a fine tip.  Thirdly, the brush hairs should be no longer than 3/4-1 inch.  If longer than 3/4 or 1 inch, they will tend do bend rather than put on a firm coat of paint. You will want 10 or so fine tipped brushes, with assorted other brushes.  Take care of your brushes, too.  Never let them sit in thinner or water.  Always clean them in clean thinner immediately after use and store them upright with their protective shields in place.  This will
help to make a longer life for your brush.

The choice of figure also adds alot to the finished subject.  I prefer DML (Dragon Models Limited) or resin figures over Italeri or Tamiya. This is due not only to historical accuracy but ease of assembly and conversion.  Make sure that all parts are trimmed of excess flash and all parts fit correctly.  Use glue or putty to fill seams. Figures should be throughly dry before any painting attempt is tried.   Mount your figure onto a small temporary wooden base with super-glue for painting. When the paint on your figure is dried, the figure is easily snapped off and ready to mount on the subject.  Some modelers suggest using a pin in the figure's foot to help maintain balance, but modelers glue is enough for me.

Accesories that are needed can be many.  First of all, good reference photographs.   The internet is a good place to look.  German reenactors buy their equipment and uniforms from web-sites, and many times these web-sites have good, high quality photos of realistic SS uniforms and, more importantly, camoflauge.  While there are many black and white photographs of camoflauge, a modeler needs high quality COLOR pictures. Many books are also available for accurate reference of SS uniforms. Other accesories are good lighting and a clear table-top.  These two alone will make working on detailed SS uniforms alot more enjoyable.

There were many patterns of camoflauge in use by the SS during the war. Many of these patterns don't have official names.  Instead, they've been named by modelers and historians.  It is important to know these different patterns, however, the names are not official.  Several different names are 'pea pattern', 'oak-leaf pattern', and 'palm-tree pattern'.  I will go into the modeling process of these in more detail later.  For now, 'pea pattern' is the pattern commonly known with lots of dots.  'Oak-leaf pattern' is a weird pattern of light green or light brown being surrounded by a small ribbon of dark green or dark brown. 'Palm-tree pattern' is similar to the 'oak-leaf pattern' but it has a series of lines and dashes through it.   'Palm-tree pattern' is one of the more rare of all patterns.  It is important to know that the 'palm-tree' and 'oak-leaf' patterns were commonly reversible with a winter brown on one side, and a summer green on the other.

Occasionally, and on some more rare uniforms, they were reversible from summer green to white.  Everything but 'pea pattern' was on smocks and heavy parkas only.  These were normally worn over the field-grey uniforms and had draw strings at the neck and wrists.  Only the 'pea pattern' should be used in place of field grey on a normal uniform. Some uniforms look like those of a Panzer crew.  These can be painted with any pattern.

'Pea pattern' is probably the most evident of all patterns.  As already stated, it was only used on uniforms themselves, not on the smocks.  To duplicate 'pea pattern', start with a base coat of medium brown. Remember, no particular color as uniforms fade etc etc.  Let this dry. Then go back with dark green and tan (or pink, believe it or not) to add irregular sized and shaped blotches around the uniform.  These should be really akward looking and have no pattern what-so-ever.   Then, with light green, dark green, and tan (or pink), dot dot dot!!  Dot's should be everywhere.  While it's not vitally important how small the dots are, they should all be the same size and should be fairily small.  The smaller the better is a good rule, too.  Once I sat down and counted dots on one of my figures' uniforms, and I counted nearly 400 on a jacket alone.

'Oak-leaf pattern' is slightly different.  First you must decide what time of year your subject is in.  If it is winter, than you will use
pattern *1*, if summer then use pattern *2*. For pattern 1, start out with a dark brown coat.  Then do medium to rather large blotches of medium brown.  Inside these blotches, do a series of smaller blotches with a tan color that comes almost to the
edge of the large blotches.  There should be a small ribbon of dark around the edge of the smaller blotches.  Then go back with all three colors and dot dot dot.   These dots should not be as many as on the 'pea pattern' and they can be slightly larger.   For pattern 2, do the same as pattern 1 but use a medium brown in place of dark brown, use a dark green in place medium brown, and use a light green in place the tan. Then go back and dot away.

Last but not least is the 'palm-tree pattern'.  As I said, this has a weird array of lines and dashes.  These are not to be too big, but also not too small.  In real life, they should have a maximum length of 1 1/2 feet.  To duplicate this you will also have to determine the time of year.  Again, for winter use pattern *1*, summer use pattern *2*.  For pattern one, lay a base coat of dark brown.  Go back in some areas with a dotting of tan and medium brown, or even a small 'oak-leaf pattern' like pattern, while leaving other areas totally clear.  Then use a both these colors and, in the areas left clear, do dashes in one direction, with possibly a few at a 1-90 degree angle to these.

For pattern two, lay a base coat of medium brown.  Go back in some areas with a dotting of light and dark green, or even a small 'oak-leaf pattern' like pattern, while leaving other areas totally clear.  Then use both these colors and, in the areas left clear, do dashes in one direction, with possibly a few at a 1-90 degree angle to these. Weathering is very important to finish camoflauge.  When finished painting and your paint has throughly dried, give the camoflauge a black or brown wash or two.  This helps to dull the colors.  Dry-brushing is a technique used to add wear to something as well as bring out highlights.  It is done with a brush that is just barely wet with paint.  You may wish to dry-brush lightly with a tanish color to show some fading and wear.  You may also want to go back with oil paints and blend these in to make a few dirty areas.  Good colors for this would include tan, red-brown, black, and dark brown. Remember, if your figure is to be displayed on groundwork of any kind, work the color of the ground up into the clothing to help establish a bond between your figure and the groundwork.

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