Camouflage Pattern Marking

Painting a camouflage pattern to a military vehicle, like any vehicle painting, requires good surface preparation for top quality results. Then, the proper camouflage pattern can be marked on the vehicle, followed by the camouflage paint in multiple colors to fill out the pattern. Finally, unit identification and other authorized markings can be applied to the vehicle over the finished camouflage pattern.

an olive drab m-113 is having its white stars and numbers  sanded off to prepare for camouflage pattern painting. from tc 5-200 dated 28 august 1975
An olive drab M-113 is having its white stars and numbers sanded off to prepare for camouflage pattern painting. From TC 5-200 dated 28 August 1975.

Today in WW II: 19 Jan 1942 Japanese troops seize control of North Borneo.   

Recommended Steps for Military Vehicle Preparation

The first step in pattern painting a vehicle is to thoroughly clean the surfaces to be painted. A clean vehicle is a must. Applying paint to anything less than a totally clean surface will result in rapid peeling, cracking and scaling of the new coating.

The vehicle must be cleaned with detergent or with solvent and rinsed thoroughly or team cleaned to ensure a totally clean surface suitable for a durable coating. Grease, oil, dirt, plastic letters and stars, all loose and scaling paint, and any paint other than the original enamel (such as latex paints, etc. which may have been used to retouch as an expedient) must be removed.

Sanding of rough areas to remove the oxidized surface from he old paint will also make the new paint job look better and last longer. If bare metal is exposed following sanding and cleaning, a primer shall be applied to the bare metal before the camouflage enamel is applied. The primer should be allowed to dry hard before the enamel is applied.

All glass, grease fittings, hydraulic gear, and items which can be damaged by paint must be masked by masking tape and/or paper.

Marking the Pattern on the Vehicle

marking the camouflage painting pattern on a vehicle to guide painting

After the vehicle has been prepared, it is ready for pattern application. Use a paper pattern or viewgraph transparency projected onto the vehicle. The pattern is outlined on the vehicle in chalk, using reference points on the vehicle and making a conscious effort to maintain the relative shape of the different color areas. High precision is not required in marking if the shape and size of the patterns are kept within reasonable tolerances (plus or minus 2 inches). Care must be taken, however, to avoid straight, vertical, and horizontal lines wherever possible. The pattern is marked with an abbreviation or number of the color to be used in each area (paint-by-the-numbers) to guide the painter. After the pattern has been chalked in, it may be replaced by magic marker as the chalk must be removed prior to painting.

All white vehicle markings from the old olive drab paint scheme must be removed from the vehicle. This includes the stars, unit identification, instruction signs, and administrative markings. When the vehicle is pattern painted, only the following markings are applied:

  • Unit identification. Type and location remain the same. Color is changed to lusterless camouflage black. Click here for an Army pub on how to put Unit Markings over camo patterns.
  • National symbol (star). All stars will be removed and replaced by a 3-inch black lusterless star front and rear. Placement should be centered on vehicle, on line with unit ID markings. On the rear of wheeled vehicles, star may be placed on tailgate.
  • Agency and registration number. Both US Army and registration numbers will be removed from vehicle exterior. Registration number may be placed on a data plate or other suitable interior location.
  • Safety and instructional markings. Markings such as tire pressure and fuel type and fuel level may be retained in lusterless black letters no larger than 1-inch. Markings directly related to troop safety, such as wrecker boom capacity and danger zones, must be evaluated by safety personnel.

transfers for vehicle marking of military lettering and symbols

Pressure sensitive adhesive vinyl markers (decals) are available as die-cut letters, numerals, and legends in various sizes as standard issue in the military. A civilian source of full size markings of all types (transfers, stencils) are available from Rick Larsen and a few other dealers. Ike's Surplus sells military-issue slide-together brass letter/number/punctuation stencil sets in the 1/2" to 3" sizes used by the U.S. military. Marking symbols and lettering for models are available in model transfer sets by Archer. These are intended for scale models but will provide a template for you to mark a vehicle on your own.

Click on this link for information on the U.S. Army system of lettering and marking of vehicles (hood number, bumper numbers and more).

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: military markings or camouflage. Then click the Search button.

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