Military Vehicle Camo: TC5-200

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.
M-113 APC painted in four color camouflage pattern. From TC 5-200 dated 28 August 1975.

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

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 The four color patterns described have been replaced by the NATO three color patterns or tan mono-color for desert operations.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 be obtained.

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 from tc5-200: training circular, camouflage pattern painting, august 1975
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 are:

No. Abbreviation Color
1 W White
2 DS Desert Sand
3 S Sand
4 EY Earth Yellow
5 ER Earth Red
6 FD Field Drab
No. Abbreviation Color
7 EB Earth Brown
8 OD Olive Drab
9 LG Light Green
10 DG Dark Green
11 FG Forest Green
12 BL Black

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.

Condition Color Distribution
45% 45% 5% 5%
Color Number
1 2 3 4
Winter US & Europe - verdant (1) FG FD S (3) BL
Snow - temprate w/trees & shrubs (2) FG W S (3) BL
Snow - temperate w/open terrain W FD S (3) BL
Summer US & Europe - verdant (1) FG LG S (3) BL
Tropics - verdant FG DG LG (3) BL
Gray desert S FD EY (3) BL
Red desert ER EY S (3) BL
Winter Arctic W W W W
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.

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