Jake's Virtual Tabletop
Painting Camouflage on Miniatures


Most camouflage patterns I've done use a generally similar method. I pick the predominant color I want for the pattern and paint that as the base coat, washing it with a darker shade for shadows (don't worry too much if the shadows added at this stage get obscured by the complex camo pattern later). Then I paint the camo pattern starting with the lightest color, applying it sparsely and leaving lots of room in between spots of color, then adding the darker colors. I touch up the uniform by outlining any pockets or deep creases with a darker shade to make them stand out against the camo (otherwise the camo pattern has the realistic effect of hiding these details).

It helps to have some example of camo patterns in front of you the first time you do this -- any book with modern military uniform photos or a sporting goods catalog will do. You don't have to copy an authentic pattern exactly because at this scale a little suggestion goes a long way. You can suggest jungle camo by using finer stripes, or variant forest and desert camos with rounder splotches. Just add 3 or 4 different colors over the base coat and it will all come together in the end.

Urban camouflage: urban camo

Gamers don't use urban camo as much as forest or desert camo but it looks sharp. It's also quite appropriate for the industrial complexes and ruins where many sci-fi skirmish battles are fought.

For my Star Wars Rebel commandos in urban camo I chose a medium grey as the base coat, lightly washed with a darker grey. (A black base coat might also work, especially on Warhammer 40K Imperial Guard stormtroopers who usually wear all black.) I painted on ash colored streaks (very light grey, almost white), using a 000 brush to make thin irregular lines 1mm or less wide and only a few mm long. I made some of the lines a little thicker or painted a forked pattern. I put 3 or 4 small stripes of this first color on each side of a pant leg or sleeve, leaving lots of blank space in between.

Then I added darker grey stripes. For consistency I placed most of them immediately adjacent to the ash colored stripes, sometimes partly overlapping the lighter color with the darker to give the original ash stripe a forked appearance. Then I added black stripes, filling up more of the blank areas but also partly overlapping the other colors slightly. I finished by blacklining the pockets; I also should have washed the whole figure lightly with medium grey to shade some of the bright ash colors in the folds of the clothes. I'll do that on the next squad of figures I paint with this pattern.


The half-finished figures may look strange, but they look better as the pattern starts to fill in the gaps. During each stage of striping I touched up the size and shape of the earlier stripes. That's why I started with the lighter colors first, so I could go back over them and tone them down where they looked too broad or too long. If too much of the original medium grey base coat was covered up along the way, it was easily reapplied.

I always orient the camo pattern the same direction on a unit of figures, such as from my upper left to lower right. I assume the uniforms are sewn so that a man standing at attention would have the camo pattern oriented the same way across his entire uniform. If a figure's arm is raised at an odd angle, the easiest way to get the pattern right is to turn the figure so the arm is pointing down then simply paint the pattern in the correct direction.

Desert camouflage: desert camo

I used a slightly different pattern with my Rebel commandos in desert camo, applying the color in overlapping spots instead of squiggly lines. I started with a medium tan base coat, first adding dark brown spots then overlapping those with smaller spots of a light yellowish sand color (leaving crescents of darker brown showing). I added tiny red-brown dots, then overlapped most of those with very tiny yellow spots. I added darker brown lines around pockets and belts to make them stand out again.

Forest camouflage: forest camo

I painted forest camo on a group of 40K Imperial Guards. I started with a medium green base which I washed with darker green. I added irregular streaks of light tan, then medium brown, dark brown, and black. Despite adding no green details to the pattern, the final results look like the green forest camo I wanted because a lot of the original green base coat still shows in between the streaks.

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Last updated 10-16-99.