The information on this page has been adapted from TC 5-200 "Camouflage Pattern Painting" dated 28 August 1975. The chart of camouflage colors and pattern descriptions refer to the four color camouflage mandated for use at that time. The more recent three color camouflage is a similar system, but uses three color patterns and some different colors.
M-113 APC painted in four color camouflage pattern. From TC 5-200 dated 28 August 1975.
TC5-200: Training Circular, Camouflage Pattern Painting, August 1975
This training circular was written by the US Army Engineer School and published by the US Army Combat Arms Training Board. The four color patterns described have been replaced by the NATO three color patterns or tan mono-color for desert operations. However, they are still of considerable interest to vehicle restorers and other hobbyists. More modern instructions are contained in TM 43-0139, "Painting Instructions for Army Materiel" dated 27 July 1988 or later.
TC 5-200 "Camouflage Pattern Painting"
TC 5-200 has been edited down to essentials for inclusion here. You can
get your own copy of the relevant camouflage publications from Portrayal Press including TB 43-0209 which has all the vehicle patterns. Another publication that covers much of the same material is TB 43-0147 "Color, Marking, and Camouflage Patterns (December 1975)" available for download by clicking here (Adobe pdf format in black/while only, 2.4 MB.) Camo patterns (4 color) for many popular vehicles are in this manual. (Thanks to Ron Johanson for this contribution.)
Camouflage Pattern Painting
This circular describes an improved method of camouflaging military equipment
and how to apply it to existing equipment. This improved method is simple, and
field tests have proved that it works well in confusing the enemy observer and
enhancing battlefield survivability. It consists of painting newly developed
patterns on the equipment, using only four colors. The patterns (different
for each model of vehicle or item of equipment) have been carefully worked out
by a team of camouflage experts and scientists. Unlike older camouflage patterns,
this is a general all-purpose pattern. By changing only one of the four colors,
or at most, two, the same basic pattern can be made to work equally well in
different seasons of the year or on different types of terrain.
The theory behind this new pattern-painting design is to provide a system that
can be adapted to various geographical and seasonal changes by the changing
of one or, at most, two colors. For instance, the forest green can be changed
to sand for desert operations, or the field drab changed to dark green and the
sand to field drab for temperate climate terrain in summer. By using the appropriate
color from the standard camouflage color chart (below) in conjunction with the
pattern-painting design, a good color combination for almost every terrain can
These new designs also lend themsleves to touchup painting with better results
than are now obtainable from touchup of the curent OD vehicles. Slight mismatches
in color will not be as noticable as they are on a solid-colored vehicle except
from very close inspection. Likewise, minor abrasions and scaling of surfaces
will be equally inconspicuous.
Standard Camouflage Colors
(Note: Colors do not reproduce accurately on computer monitors.)
Camouflage Patterns and Colors
The camouflage pattern consists of wavy, irregular patches of color applied
to the vehicle. The colors used for the patterns have been selected from the
standard camouflage colors as shown in the chart above. The standard colors
The patterns use only four of these colors, for any geographic or climatic
conditions. The only exception is winter arctic, which is solid white. When
changing from one geographic or climatic condition to another, the shape of
the pattern itself does not change; only one or two of the colors that make
up the pattern change. The next table shows the combinations of colors to be
used for various seasons and climatic regions. The first and second colors each
cover about 45% of the vehicle; the third color covers 5% of the vehicle; and
the fourth color, normally black, covers the remaining 5%. The color numbers
1, 2, and 3 identify the first three colors, and are used in the pattern designs
to show what color goes where on the vehicle.
Winter US & Europe - verdant (1)
Snow - temprate w/trees & shrubs (2)
Snow - temperate w/open terrain
Summer US & Europe - verdant (1)
Tropics - verdant
Notes: 1. Verdant means generally green -- in summer due to trees,
shrubs, and grass; in winter due to evergreens.
2. This color combination is for use only in areas that occasionally have
snow which does not completely cover the terrain, thus leaving trees or
patches of soil bare.
3. This 5% color should be the camouflage color that matches most closely
the color of the soil in the local area. A typical color for such use
is sand, but earth red, earth yellow, or one of the others may be closer
to the predominant soil color and, in that case, should be used.
The color patterns in the above table were designed for world-wide application,
and cover a wide range of terrain conditions. It is possible that any given
color combination may not be an exact match for some specific local condition.
In such a case, the 12 colors available in camouflage paints give the local
commander wide latitude to modify the color combination and develop one that
more closely matches the local terrain and operating conditions. Note: Individual colors must not be mixed with one another as this will destroy the camouflage characteristics of the paint.
New items of tactical equipment will be painted lusterless forest green at
the factory. Since the base paint of forest green is usually one of the large
45% color areas, troops will have to pattern paint only three colors. The actual
paint to be added will then be one large 45% area and the two small 5% areas.
Note: Since the areas and climates in which newly manufactured vehicles will
operate cannot be predicted, it is not practical to pattern paint new vehicles
at the factory.
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: patterns camo or camouflage. Then click the Search button.