German-Helmets.com  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Questions & Answers:  Paint and Camouflage

Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding paint and camouflage are described in this section.  Additional topics can be explored by linking to one of the subject areas listed below.

 

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What color is the German helmet?

 

German helmets were painted a range of colors too numerous to describe in great detail.  In fact, no two German helmets will ever bear the same color when compared side-to-side.  The factory applied paint varied to some degree as did the service branch color.  Helmets of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) were factory painted a medium to dark 'blue grey' color.  German Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), and Waffen-SS (Armed-SS) helmets generally bore various shades of medium to dark field green.  This color is often referred to as "field grey" or "feldgrau."  The paint variations and textures found on wartime German helmets is a comprehensive subject too extensive to describe in this format.  Suffice to say that standard combat helmets were typically painted medium to dark 'field grey'.  In addition, some helmets were also painted a "slate grey" color.  Early helmets were sometimes painted a light 'field grey' color referred to as 'apple green' by modern collectors.

What is a RAL code and how do I use them to mix paint for my German helmet?

 

The RAL system is a German industrial code matrix developed before World War II to standardize paint finishes used in the manufacturing industry.  The RAL codes produced prior to World War II are still available and could be used to mix a color that approximates the actual color used on German helmets.  Mixing paint from RAL codes is most often done only in Europe where the standard is still used today.  This system is not widely used in North America.  Sample RAL code numbers for paint finishes can be found in the Paint section of German-Helmets.com.

Why do some helmets have texture and others not?

 

Textured paint for use on German helmets was introduced in 1940 prior to the invasion of France.  The texture was intended to reduce the glare commonly associated with smooth finished helmets.  Helmets that retain their pre-1940 paint finishes are always smooth inside and out.  Factory produced helmets starting in 1940 are textured on the outside  and smooth on the inside.  Field or depot repainted helmets can often have textured paint applied both inside and outside.  The degree of texture can vary from ultra-fine to very course.

What is 'zimmerit' and why was it applied to helmets?

 

The word "zimmerit" refers to an anti-magnetic cement-like paste that was applied to armored fighting vehicles.  The German's invented this material to prevent infantry troops from attacking vehicles with explosive magnetic devices.  The material was occasionally used on helmets for added camouflage.  When used, zimmerit was generally applied by brush but could also be sprayed using large pneumatic guns.  The material was then painted with camouflage colors.

What camouflage colors were used on German helmets?

 

A wide spectrum of colors were used to camouflage World War II German helmets.  The most common colors were tan, brown, and green in various shades from very dark to very light in overall appearance.  In rare circumstances, German Naval (Kriegsmarine) helmets were sometimes over painted in 'battleship grey' color.  The nature and appearance of German camouflage colors is too numerous to describe in great detail in this format.  For additional information on German camouflage technique, please visit the Camouflage section of German-Helmets.com.

What is a "Normandie" camouflage scheme?

 

Helmets worn by German forces fighting in France during the summer of 1944 (after the Allied invasion) were often camouflaged with various paint colors.  Helmets bearing tan, brown, and green paint are sometimes referred to as "Normandie" in overall scheme because they are typical of those associated with this time period in World War II history.  However, it is nearly impossible to associate any given camouflage scheme with a particular theater of combat.

Were helmets ever camouflaged using spray paint?

 

Contrary to what some collectors believe, German helmets were often camouflaged using spray paint applied by the use of large pneumatic spray guns found on vehicles and tanks.  This type of equipment was also used in military depots and storage warehouses.  However, a large number of helmets were also painted by hand in the field.  This involved applying paint by way of brush or rag.  Camouflaged helmets will exhibit either hand applied or spray painted finishes, but never the kind of finish that results from the use of hand held spray cans or air brushes.  Paint in the form of spray cans was not invented until after World War II.

Do camouflaged helmets ever have brush applied paint as a base with spray painted colors on top?

 

Yes.  Unfortunately many helmet collectors have lead others to believe a combination of hand applied camouflage paint with spray painted overlays is a sign of a counterfeit helmet.  However this is not true and is yet another example of a "collectors' myth" that continues to abound in helmet collecting circles.  Many camouflage helmets were given a brush applied coating of thick tan paint (as the base) prior to having red-brown or green paint spray painted on top.  This is not unusual when one considers that in a depot setting, where many helmets are being camouflaged at once, time would necessitate that the process be sped up by accomplishing many steps simultaneously.  For example, several men are engaged in hand applying the base coat of paint while others are spray painting the additional colors on those that are ready to be finished.  This is a common and logical sequence of events that is often overlooked.  There are many, many original camouflaged helmets that bear this point out.

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