Wednesday 27 August 2008

Japanese Army I-Shiki

From aviation artist Jerry Boucher comes his latest stunning artwork depicting a JAAF Fiat Br.20 of the 1st Chutai, 12th Sentai in action over China and under attack by Chinese fighters. The artwork is for the forthcoming 1/48th scale Classic Airframes kit.

Image credit: © Jerry Boucher & Classic Airframes 2008

Monday 25 August 2008

Zero Interior Colours II ~ Nakajima

Here are the rendered values for the Nakajima-built Zero interior colours as reported at by Ryan Toews.

Please also refer to my previous posts on this subject on 22 June 2008 and 25 August 2008.

Image credit: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008

Zero Interior Colours II ~ Mitsubishi

Ryan Toews has posted some very useful additional information about specific Zero interior colours over at

Following on from my earlier post about Zero interior colours on 22nd June, I have rendered the colours reported by Ryan, beginning with the Mitsubishi aircraft. These are mainly given in FS 595b values but without the prefix for matt, gloss or semi-gloss. That can make a difference with the sRGB representation, so please bear with me if there are any future corrective tweaks. The closest Munsell/FS 595b value is shown to the right, together with the DE2000 difference calculation where 2.0 or less = a close match. 

Nakajima colours have been posted in a separate blog above.

PS I can't do anything about the inconsistent sizing of the images above. Blogger automatically sizes the image dependent upon the size and shape of the original.

Image credit: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008 

Tony's Business End

Apropos a recent interesting discussion over at about the colour of the licence built DB601 engine in the 'San shiki sen' (Kawasaki Type 3 Fighter Hien 'Tony').

Some suggested gloss black and the Fine Molds 1/72nd scale kits call out flat black (GSI C-33/H-12) but whatever the colour is in these photographs it does not appear to be black.

The remnants of paint on the extant Atsuta built example are a mid-toned slightly metallic looking bronze green, a colour I have seen associated with Ki-44 wheel wells and undercarriage covers. Could the Kawasaki engine have been painted the same greenish tan as the interiors of some Ki-61 aircraft, believed to be JAAF # 30 Karekusa iro (Dried or Parched Grass Colour)?

Image credit: © Bulletins Techniques de l'Aviation Japonaise 1925-1945 - Tetsuya Takeda & Junko Takamori 

Saturday 23 August 2008

78th Sentai "Chrysanthemum" or "Cherry Blossom" Marking

In January, 1984 Japanese aviation writer Shigeru Nohara illustrated and described this Type 3 fighter model I Ko 'San Shiki Sen' (Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "Tony") of the 78th Sentai as seen at Akeno airbase in Mie, Japan in May or June, 1943. This was part of an article in Model Art # 225 illustrating 30 specific JAAF fighter aircraft with detailed and very useful notes on their camouflage and markings, particularly the origin and form of the distinctive Sentai markings, which I had translated into English at the time.

The 78th moved to Akeno in April 1943, prior to advancing into the maelstrom of New Guinea, to re-equip with and work up on the Japanese Army's only operational inline engined fighter. According to Mr Nohara the marking illustrated, consisting of a circular design of 8 "petals" of stylised 7's was in use for a brief two month period at Akeno until the unit moved south in June 1943. The marking was not painted on all aircraft and only appeared on uncamouflaged aircraft still in their natural metal finish. When the aircraft were camouflaged prior to embarking on operations the "chrysanthemum" or "cherry blossom" marking was obliterated.

According to Mr Nohara's original article the Chutai colour distinctions for this marking were 1st Red, 2nd Yellow and 3rd Green. 

Mr Nohara repeated this information in his 2007 monograph on the 'San Shiki Sen' (Model Art 733, pages 128 & 142), but suggesting only a different Chutai colour sequence, as follows:-

"When the Sentai first re-equipped with Ki-61s it adopted a marking with eight cherry petals, each being a symbolized '7', arranged to represent a single cherry flower. But this beautiful marking was deleted when the aircraft were camouflaged before the Sentai's deployment to New Guinea. It is said that marking was coloured for each Chutai, being white for 1st Chutai, red for 2nd Chutai and yellow for 3rd respectively. But there have been no evidences found for that."

The reason for the deletion of this marking, according to various Japanese sources, was because it appeared too similar to an Allied roundel and/or that it did not show up sufficiently clearly against the mottle camouflage applied to the aircraft.

Without a photograph showing the marking in situ on an aircraft those "doubting Thomas's" for whom an absence of photographic evidence is evidence that the marking did not exist will no doubt scoff, as they did for the 9th and 29th Sentai insignia before photographs of aircraft wearing those particular markings appeared.

For those other more generously spirited and open minded souls who may wish to model an aircraft wearing this unusual tail marking, they were included in a free decal sheet with the Kagero Miniatury Lotnicze No. 23 on the 68th and 78th Sentais, published in 2003 (ISBN 83-89088-01-0). The decal sheet, printed by Techmod, provided the marking in Red, Yellow and Green, in both 1/48th and 1/72nd scales.

Image credit: © Shigeru Nohara, Model Art, 1984

Most Wanted Colour Info ~ Unscientific Poll

Our unscientific poll on the most wanted colour information was inconclusive. Precisely even voting of 22% each for Zeke, Oscar, Tony (inc.Ki-100) and "Others" with only 9% for poor old George. Not much I can do with that!

Hmm. Representative of the votes or was a mischievous hand at work?  Mr Punch puzzled but not perplexed. Advice to anonymous gremlin (we know who you are): Contribute something positive or nothing at all. 

(And our dear old Britannia is scheduled to disappear from the British coinage, probably forever. Now Mr Punch is perplexed by that)

Royal Thai Air Force Documents

Aviation artist Skyraider3D has kindly tipped me off that the Royal Thai Air Force Museum have now made available a series of RTAF history documents in downloadable pdf.  Although the text is in Thai the documents contain several interesting photographs and paintings showing many different aircraft types in Thai service.

The combination of colour scheme and markings depicted in the 'Oscar' painting above is new to me but I don't know how reliable it is. None of the paintings appear to show the White Elephant insignia.

I am grateful to Skyraider3D and the RTAF Museum.

Image credit: © RTAF Museum 2008

Monday 18 August 2008

Sakagawa's Bright Exhausts

Further to the discussion of the bright appearance of the exhausts on 25th Sentai commander Sakagawa's Ki-43 Hayabusa (13th August), Jonathan Gough has kindly sent me these images of the A6M5 in the Harada Collection. The aircraft has bright, unstained exhausts and in the black & white version they do appear very similar to those in the photograph of Sakagawa's aircraft.

The appearance of the exhausts in the colour image provide assistance to understanding how the exhausts might be represented on a model of Sakagawa's aircraft.

Image credit: j-model works via Jonathan Gough

Revised Thorpe Colour Table

I have now completed the revision of the Thorpe Colour Table which corrects a previous error, revises the format of the table for ease of reference and includes some additional notes. Please see the sidebar to request a copy. 

Because of continuing confusion over whether late-war Army aircraft were green or brown (they were both!) I will be preparing a separate short post or pdf guide to Army colour # 7 and related information. This is essentially an extract from a much larger treatise on Army colours but seems to be needed now. The situation has been much confused by artwork, chips, kit manufacturers instructions and colour descriptions which have all tended to confuse the characteristics of this important colour. 

BTW Donald W Thorpe's original books are essential to a full understanding and use of the table. Although long out of print they can still be obtained from second-hand sources and are highly recommended.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Zero Colours - Again!

David Aiken recently posted information about hobby paints in response to a question about A6M3 colours over at Hyperscale. David cited Tamiya XF-76, Sweet and Gaia paints as all being versions of the 'Hairyokushoku' (Grey Green Colour) paint used on the Zero.

This kind of unequivocal response is rather misleading if not mischievous. Firstly the three paints are not at all similar to each other, as I have demonstrated several times in the past and as the images above show. The Tamiya paint is not a 'traditional' grey green but is actually closest to the current appearance of the paint on surviving examples from Pearl Harbor era Zeros. It is between Munsell 10 Y 5/2 and 10 Y 6/2 in dry, applied form. 

The Gaia paint is based on the grey green 'M' series in Kariki 117 which some researchers have suggested are cockpit interior colours. It is a light to mid-toned green between Munsell 7.5 GY 5/2 and 7.5 GY 6/2. It is nothing like Tamiya XF-76 or Sweet #1, saturated or un-saturated!

The Sweet colour matches Pantone 5783U, cited in the instructions for Sweet's diminutive 1/144th scale Zero models and supposed to represent a 'scaled' version of the Zero colour. It is very similar to the RAF colour Sky. A brushed out sample of this paint is darker than the RAF Museum chip for Sky but lighter than the current BS 381C chip for 210 Sky. It is nothing like the Tamiya or Gaia paints, saturated or un-saturated!

Unfortunately David sees fit to either ignore or to disbelieve this evidence, which has been obtained by actually testing the paints, but instead to rely on printed images of paint charts and/or of paint bottles! 

Secondly, there is no formal documentary evidence that the production Zero was actually painted grey green - at least not the grey green that David is suggesting. There are only two, known, official descriptions of Zero colour. The first is from the maintenance manual published by the Kaigun Kokuu Honbu (Naval Air Headquarters)  which at section 3.1 under 'airframe structure' states that:-

Toryou wa kouzou naibu ni toumei toryou (tan ao iro) wo mochii gaimen wa keikinzokuyou tokusho toryou (hai nezumi iro) wo hodokoshi hyoumen wa migaki shiage nari.

(The paints to be used are transparent paint (light blue colour) for the interior and special paint for light metals (grey rat colour) for the exterior, and the surface is to have a polished finish.) 

2,000 copies of this manual were distributed to the commands of all air related units for use by pilots and ground crew.

The second reference is in the YoKu No.0266 report dated February 1942 which states that the current colour of Zero fighters is J3 Hai iro (ash or grey colour) (but) slightly towards ame iro (amber or caramel colour).

Both descriptions suggest a warm, slightly brownish or olive grey (exactly similar to the extant paint samples) rather than the pale grey green suggested by David's post. 

A check through earlier posts here in the 'Zero Colour Conundrum' series will provide more details and examples of the actual colours found on the Zero and has many more.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

The Many Splendoured Plumage of Hayabusa

I have spent a little time with a large magnifying glass and original prints of the photographs from Mr Hiroshi Umemoto's splendid book about the 25th and 48th Sentais over China (sad, I know). These are quite revealing as to the truly varied and haphazard nature of the camouflage schemes and really do repay careful study. It is easy to get a fairly fixed mental impression of the schemes and then to transfer that to a model or painting without actually capturing the reality of the schemes being depicted. It is very difficult to reproduce the looseness and evolutionary nature of some of the mottles without a rather stylised caricature resulting. This is especially true of some of the more densely applied camouflage, such as on 25th Sentai commander Sakagawa's well known Ki-43 (above, top & middle), which would prove exceptionally difficult to reproduce in 1/72nd scale other than painstakingly with a very fine paintbrush!

Examining pictures of Sakagawa's aircraft, whether of models or profiles, it is clear that different interpretations have been made, but none so far appear to accurately replicate the true appearance of the mottle, even leaving aside the question of the colours! Note also the very light appearance of the exhaust outlets, most often depicted in dark or rust tones. For many years the tail stripes on Sakagawa's Hayabusa were depicted as blue and white - more recently as three stripes of yellow, red and white. Re-interpretation of the photographs or something else?

One other 25th Sentai aircraft in the book has a solid, mid-toned uppersurface colour over which the sparsest of darker mottles has been applied. The blotches are so random and so far apart that replicating this on a model would probably look ridiculous and attract the scornful disbelief of viewers. Another detail I noticed was the application of an apparent mottle over the fuselage but a denser, almost solid colour on the wings. Closer examination revealed that the "mottle" on the fuselage was in fact a very worn solid finish which appeared to have been touched up here and there with the odd blotch of a completely different colour. Fascinating.

Another mid war, mid-production Hayabusa in mottled scheme revealed a complete absence of yellow leading edge IFF strips. Omit that from a model or profile and the nit-pickers would have a field day - but there she was, plain as day, in a very clear photograph.

Hopefully food for thought when planning that Hayabusa scheme you think you know so well!

Image credits: © Model Art 2006; Author's Collection; © Hiroshi Umemoto, Dai Nippon kaiga 2007.

Wasting Our Time?

A post over at Hyperscale drew my attention. The poster was asking for Japanese cockpit interior colour references in the form of pictures of painted model cockpits so he could mix his own colours by eyeball. He expressed his dissatisfaction with on-screen colour chips, bemoaned a lack of explanation about the colours in English and complained that he was unable to understand Munsell values. This blog was not referenced, thank goodness, as that would have perplexed me even more, but our good friends over at were and there was also a pop at Japanese sites that also share colour data. One would think this poster was having to pay for the information, the way he complained about it. 

Well, it did give me pause for thought. Clearly the poster really believes (?) that the way to see and understand Japanese interior colours is by looking at on-screen pictures of painted model cockpits. That would be OK if the colours were right to begin with - which sometimes they are not - and if the screen shots show the colours as they are - which often they don't. I did wonder why the poster, having studied Japanese flying machines most of his modelling days, had not provided this kind of reference himself, but then I realised that as he had waited 30 years to see the kind of interior colour coverage that he wants finally demonstrated by the painted interior of a Tamiya Zero he may not have actually completed any Japanese models yet!

I spend time and effort compiling this blog and its associated documents to assist modellers and others to make informed decisions about Japanese colours. As with j-aircraft the site is free and open to anyone who wishes to use it as a resource. There is very little feedback, except from a few stalwart supporters, but I know from the traffic stats that there are a lot of visitors here. I get a lot of requests for the pdf documents but unfortunately not as many thanks when I send them out!  The lack of expressed appreciation is no big deal but to complain about the format of free information, that is another thing entirely. 

I was going to provide some pdf updates this week. Thanks to that HS post I'm now re-considering whether to go ahead - and even considering whether it is worth keeping this blog open.

Friday 8 August 2008

Sack Cloth & Ashes Department ~ Thorpe Colour Table Addendum

Thanks to a correspondent for kindly drawing my attention to a transcription error in the Thorpe Colour Table pdf. The Munsell & sRGB values for Navy medium brown N11 had been incorrectly duplicated as those for Army medium brown A12! The correct Munsell value for A12 should be 10 R 3/4 (sRGB 105/60/52) as shown above, together with the closest FS 10075 (but not very close @ 4.73) and N11 for comparison.

The colour is a slightly more reddish brown. Sincere apologies to those who already have the table and may have been puzzled that N11 and A12 appeared identical - or even worse, those who have already used the colour on that 1st Sentai Hayabusa model (and don't forget that those elevators are blue too)! 

Please amend your records accordingly, thanks!

Image credit: Rendered colour chips © Straggler 2008