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Painting 3-color DBU

Painting 3-color Desert Pattern
A very important thing to do when painting camouflage uniforms is to gather as many references as possible on the pattern you're trying to recreate in scale. There is an enormous quantity of information on modern camo uniforms you can find just by searching the internet. Take your time studying the pictures... layout of the pattern, the colors and their variations... In the large scale you don't only have to catch the general "feel“ of the camouflage pattern, but you should get as close to the real thing as possible.

I exclusively paint using Humbrol enamels. I prefer using enamel colors as it is the medium I feel most comfortable working with.

The first thing I painted on the figure was the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA). The 101st Airborne unit was issued woodland camouflaged IBAs during Operation Iraqi Freedom; although I'm quite sure woodland camouflage is not something that blends in well with the desert environment, I somehow liked the idea of a contrasting IBA with the 3-color DCU on this figure. I will not go into the details on painting woodland camouflage pattern in this article; that is something to follow as a separate feature soon.

I started painting 3-color DCU by base coating the uniform using Pale Stone darkened a bit with Khaki Drill. You would like to know the exact ratio of colors I used? I honestly don't know. I always talk in terms of "a drop of this color“ or "just a touch of that color“ and this article is no exemption. I love mixing colors on my palette, checking the references and using the tones I think are the closest match.

There is no "secret recipe“ in painting modern camouflage uniforms; I would like to encourage you to open the paint jars and start mixing the colors. It is not as hard as it may seem at first and you'll soon be able to rely on your „gut feeling“. After all, this is not a chemistry class where something is about to explode if you don't follow the instructions; this hobby of ours is art, no matter what the other people think!

Next color in the pattern is similar to the base coat, but with a greenish tone; I mixed it using Pale Stone, Khaki Drill and a touch of French Artillery Green. You can clearly see the difference between the two khaki colors of the pattern on the new uniform; however the difference becomes less pronounced on uniforms that were exposed to the sun. I often see modelers using lots of green for this pattern color... I feel the greenish tone fades rather quickly on 3-color DCUs and I like to add just a small ammount of green color in my mix, making it blend better into the desert pattern.

Light brown color was mixed using Matt Orange and Flat Black. The brown color on the uniform is most prone to fading under the desert sun and the variations of brown tone are endless. Changing the ratio of Orange and Black on your palette can produce different shades of brown; try experimenting by adding Pale Stone to the mix as well, but don't get carried away or you'll soon end up with a greyish color.

It is very important to check your references in order to understand the placement of brown patches in regards to other colors of the uniform. Also, be careful not to overdo the brown; after all it is a desert pattern and the amount of dark color was kept to the minimum.

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  • 101st-3
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About the Author

About Mario Matijasic (Maki)

You wonder how did this addiction start? I was a kid when my dad broght home a 1/72 Concord airplane; we built it together as well as couple of other airplanes after that. This phase was just pure fun: glue, paint, decals in no particular order... everything was finished in a day or two. Then I disc...