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In-Box Review
Pre-1945 French Colourcoats
  • WEM_French_Colourcoats_1

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

It's been a good time recently for enthusiasts of French WW2 aircraft, with some exciting semi short-run kits appearing and even HobbyBoss taking the refreshing decision to include the MS.406 and D.520 among the Easy Build range.

While it's great to see such subjects appearing, it's equally important to have some accurate modelling paints available to go with them, so it's very welcome to see that White Ensign Models have included a specialist set of French paints among their impressive range of Colourcoats enamels.

Colourcoats are sold in 14ml tinlets. The paint is produced with a particularly fine pigment, and they show less sign of settling-out when left standing and, generally, require a little less thinning for airbrushing than some comparable enamels. The paints are semi-gloss (except where noted below) and the shine increases with the number of coats. Once dry, they are extremely robust and can be polished to a high gloss. As with all gloss enamels, drying time is longer than with matte paints. Using cellulose thinners speeds things up for airbrushing (it's unsafe for brush painting on styrene), but for the quickest results a drop of Rustin's Driers accelerates the drying time drastically with no apparent ill-effects on the paints.

I've found Colourcoats produce excellent results when airbrushed, flowing beautifully and with little tendency to cause head clogging (even with Driers added). While I generally use them with an airbrush, I've found them equally suitable detail brush painting.

The Colourcoats French Range comprises:

AC F 01 Vert Moyen - Medium green.

AC F 02 Vert Fonce - Ivy green.

AC F 03 Terre D'Ombe Nat - Raw earth.

AC F 04 Chocolat - Burnt sienna.

AC F 05 Gris Fonce -Dark grey-blue.

AC F 06 Ombre Calcinee - Dark earth.

AC F 07 Kaki - Dark olive drab.

AC F 08 Vert - Green.

AC F 09 Gris Bleu Clair Sky Grey. (Supplied in matt finish)

AC F 10 Gris Bleu Ciel - Sky Blue.

AC F 11 Chamois - Interior protective coating (undercarriages etc.). Supplied in matt finish.

AC F 12 Bleu Fonce - Cockpit interior dark blue.

The range covers all the major colours needed - but a couple of additions which I'd like to see are Rouge and Azur Cocardes - particularly the latter, to make life easier when painting rudder stripes.

The price is £1.32 per pot, or the paints are available as a set of 12 for £14.25, which marks a saving of over 10%. (Prices are exclusive of VAT.)

Accurate Armée de L'Air paints have been among the most elusive colours for modellers. In what has almost come to be regarded as something of a modellers' "bible" - the "IPMS Color Cross-Reference" - David H. Klaus bemoaned the chaotic state of French references.

With French references in the UK about as rare as hens' teeth, I was quick to snap up a little paint chart that I spotted selling for a giveaway price when Foyles cleared out and re-stocked their aviation department some years ago. The chart contains 36 paint chips and was produced by Vitochart, titled "Armée de L'Air Aéronavale, Nuancier des Coluleurs de L'Aviation Francaise 1900-1945". Written all in French, it's proved very handy over the years and has long been out of print, apparently being quite rare these days - so you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the primary source for WEM's set of French Colourcoats!

Comparing WEM's paints against the chart is very encouraging, with most of the colours matching very closely. WEM's Gris Bleu Clair is a tad more saturated than the paint chip in my Vitocharts set, while Vert Moyen is rather darker. The one real difference concerns Vert - WEM's paint is a rich dark green that matches what I've seen in published artwork well. On the chart, Vert is a brilliant light green and, although it's described as a camouflage colour that appeared in September 1938, Vitochart's version seems almost too vivid to be credible. Perhaps WEM's colour guru John Snyder can shed some light on this apparent mystery.

Vert aside, the comparison not only shows how well the Colourcoats match up, but also proves just how distinctive the Armée de L'Air colours were. The Vitochart gives nearest F.S. equivalents and, in most cases, the "match" is very poor - and in the case of Kaki, the authors are reduced to suggesting no less than 6 FS colours - most of which aren't within a million miles of their paint chip! The value of WEM's Colourcoats being taken directly from the French source is very clear.

We're probably yet to hear the last word on the elusive colours in which the Armée de L'Air went to war, but with the growing number of French aircraft kits appearing, WEM's Colourcoats are highly recommended as among the most accurate modelling paints available. I've got several French builds on the modelling bench at the moment, so I'll add pics of the results with these Colourcoats soon.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

Verdict: Excellent quality equality paints, matched to one of the few available recognised modelling references.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: See text
  Suggested Retail: See text
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Dec 05, 2007

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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Uhhh.... flypaper, I prefer to see you the other way! Jean-Luc
DEC 12, 2007 - 03:46 AM
Thanks, and very useful but the info I'm looking for is the size of roundels, do any of these books contain the info? I have information on British Roundels but none at all on French. British roundels went through phases, sizes ratios etc, did the French ones? Were the sizes set in stone or were they applied to "fit"? Are just a couple of the million and one questions I will need answers too, if I'm to make accurate masks Mal
DEC 12, 2007 - 07:45 AM
Just a quick reply to let you know I've read your question. At the start of the war the FAF was instructed to use a mini-sized cockade on the top of the wing, this was done for camouflage reasons, the cockade was supposed to vanish into the wing when viewed from a predetermined distance, clever, but the problem was it was so good that in the heat of air to air combat French aircraft were brought down or fired at by there own country men. FAF HQ then went to a larger cockade. I have only seen photos of the mini cockade on 4 FAF front line aircraft, the MS-406, H-75, Caudron C714, and Potez 63/631, of course these were the A/C that were available at the outbreak of the war. When the new order was given to go to the larger cockade some CO's weren't sure if that meant that the smaller cockade should be removed as well, so to play it safe they kept the smaller cockade after adding the larger one, This seemed to be more prevalent in the Potez units, so now you have some French A/C flying with 4 cockades on the upper wings. As far as sizes go I will look that up and get back to you. Flypaper.
DEC 12, 2007 - 11:15 AM
Thanks, and very useful but the info I'm looking for is the size of roundels, do any of these books contain the info? I have information on British Roundels but none at all on French. British roundels went through phases, sizes ratios etc, did the French ones? Were the sizes set in stone or were they applied to "fit"? Are just a couple of the million and one questions I will need answers too, if I'm to make accurate masks Mal [/quote] Hello Mal The mini-cockade iused from 38 to 39 was 30cm. top of wing only The cockade adopted August 39 was 120cm. top and bottom of the wing. The proportions were blue 2--whie 4--red 6 on all. You must remember that early in the war the FAF did NOT use cockades on the fuselauge, the 120 cm. cockade was for the wing only at that point of time. The FAF went through several marking changes right up to the end of the Vichy Air Force. Hope that helps. Flypaper.
DEC 13, 2007 - 03:43 AM
Thank you Very Much, most informative Is there a book or a web site that you know of where I might obtain any further info? Thanks again. Mal
DEC 16, 2007 - 07:20 AM
Hello Mal Just check back to a post I addressed to Jean-Luc, I gave him the titles of 2 recent publications that will cover most of what is needed about the Camo and colors, and other tid-bits. Cheers Flypaper
DEC 16, 2007 - 04:51 PM
..I'm going to chip in here since none of the refs mentioned by flypaper include my friends at LeLa Presse - they have a great (English speaking) mail order service aside from publishing Avions magazine and their own book series. Shortly about to go to print is a superlative 450 page volume (800 photos- detailed English-language captions) on the Curtiss H-75 in French service. Their (English) catalogue is here LINK
DEC 17, 2007 - 10:17 PM
Hello Niel, "Avions", I think its a fantastic magazine, along with "Air Magazine", "Air Fan" "Wing Masters" and "Replic", I didnt mention it (them) because the question was which would I suggest for information on French camouflage. The "DTU" and "Aero Publication" mags I mentioned have what is needed all in one shot. Thats all. Gheers Flypaper.
DEC 18, 2007 - 04:23 AM
Thanks again, I will look out for copies Mal
DEC 18, 2007 - 07:53 AM

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