Painting 1980s NATO Camouflage


081102german16bThe three colour camouflage scheme used by NATO in the 1980s is very striking on 6mm models. This article shows the steps in painting this colour scheme on your micro armour.


Click on any photo below to see a larger version of the photo.

First Colours

The models used here are West German Leopard II tanks and an Iltis staff car from GHQ, but any micro armour can be painted the same way. I normally start with a black sprayed on undercoat.

The NATO colour scheme consists of charcoal grey, dark green and brown. When painting small miniatures, use a lighter shade than the real colour. The smaller the scale, the lighter you should go. Otherwise the shadows have a greater effect and make the figure appear too dark to differentiate any detail. For example, a 15mm figure should have colours one shade lighter than 25mm figures. For a 6mm figure you should normally go 2 to 3 shades lighter than a 25mm figure.

The colours I have used on these models are even lighter than normal. This was to utilise paint colours I already had and to ensure the models were not actually camouflaged too well against the wargaming table!


When you look at the NATO colour scheme, the largest areas are dark grey. So using some photographs of actual tanks as a guide, I painted the grey areas first. Make sure that there is enough space around these areas so that the next colours are not just thin lines.

I painted about 20 models at the same time. I find that cleaning the paint brush and stirring the paint takes longer than painting a few extra models, so it is a balance between efficiency and boredom. I get bored if I have to paint too many of the same thing.

Next I painted the brown. The colour I used looks a little too pink in the photographs, but it actually looks less pink in real life. This is because the photographs were taken using flash. Be careful to leave a narrow line of black between the brown and grey. Again make sure that there is enough black space left so that the third colour is not just thin lines.

Final Colour and Basing

Now I did the green. The first colours are easy as the areas are not straight lines. The third colour is slightly harder as you are trying to paint most of the remaining black space and just leave a thin black line between all colours. However, you soon find that you can do this quickly. The secret is in the consistency of the paint. If it is too thin, it just spreads everywhere and you lose control. If it is too thick, it is difficult to spread and takes too long.

I make lots of bases for my 6mm in one go. I glue sand on with PVA (white glue). I then spray paint black to undercoat. I paint the bases by dry brushing lighter and lighter shades of brown then yellow and a final highlight of white. I use student acrylic paints for scenery and basing as they are cheaper when covering large areas.

I stick infantry to the base before covering in sand, which helps hide the metal base of the infantry. Vehicles I add afterwards. This saves getting the basing paint on the lower part or underneath of the vehicles and means I can use a large brush to paint many bases at once.

I add the grass after sticking the vehicle on the base. The grass I have used here is a mixture of short and long and also a mixture of sveral slightly different shades. This gives it a more natural look. Where the grass is too long, I usually trim it with a small pair of scissors. The photos here are prior to trimming.


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