15 January 2020

British Paratroopers Colour Guide

Hot on the heels of last weeks Colour Guide on how I paint my Early War Germans I felt suitably inspired to write another one. But this time I'll not tackle some obscure German unit but British Paratroopers. The world famous Red Devils. I'm beavering away on this force for several years now but as of yet there's not nearly enough for a game. Another particularly useful list of colours for British Airborne Troops by Tamsin can be found over on her blog: wargaminggirl.blogspot.com
She has probably done way more research for her British Airborne Project (which by the way is also actually finished) than me. So if in doubt I'd go for her paint suggestions.

Model painted earlier

My painting style is based on the so-called Triad-System or Foundry System in which you use a Shade as the darkest colour. Then you paint over it using what is called a Base Colour (in general the actual colour you want to achieve for the piece you're just painting) leaving the Shade show only in the folds and recesses, followed by a Highlight on the points which will catch the most light. However, I'm using intermediate steps to make the transitions between the different colours much smoother.
Thus typically the steps I use would look somewhat like:

Shade - 50/50 mix Shade/Base - Base - 50/50 mix Base/Highlight - Highlight

In general what I'll give you in this tutorial is the three colours as if used as simple triads. If you prefer the more elaborate approach just add in the intermediate steps mentioned above, or start from an even darker Shade or end with a lighter Highlight.

If fractions in brackets are given these are just approximations. Just try what looks best to you.

Note: I haven't documented every single step for this Colour Guide, so you might want to refer to some of the guides I wrote earlier. To do so just go to the top of the page where you'll find a link to a page containing direct links to all the Colour Guides I wrote to date.

Step 1: Battledress
Most commercially available Paratrooper figures out there will probably all sport the famous Denison smock. So this step will basically only ever concern us for the trousers of the battledress.

A: VMC 70.941 Burnt Umber
B: VMC 70.983 Flat Earth
C: VMC 70.983 Flat Earth + VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand (1/1)

Step 2: Denison Smock Base
As usual I went a little lighter on the base colour than is historically accurate. This will help the figures to stand out a little more on the gaming table. And you can always blame fading.

A: VMC 70.873 US Field Drab
B: VMC 70.873 US Field Drab + VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand (7/3)
C: VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand +  VMC 70.873 US Field Drab (7/3)

 Step 3: Webbing
I used to use different colours for ruckscks, gaiters and other webbing but found the overall effect wasn't worth it. After all the webbing worn by British troops in WW2 (and well after) was blankoed by the soldiers themselves. Thus I think it's highly unlikely for a soldier to carry equipment in such different hues that it'd really stand out on a 28mm figure.

A: VMC 70.924 Russian Uniform
B: VMC 70.924 Russian Uniform + VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand (8/2)
C: VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand + VMC 70.924 Russian Uniform (7/3)

Step 4: Camouflage Patches
In order to recreate the faded look to the camouflage patches that is so emblematic of the Denison Smock I use glazes. A glaze is paint highly diluted with a medium (e.g. water or even better a Glaze Medium) to a point where it gets semi-translucent. One drop paint to about four drops of medium should be sufficient. Then the wet brush is dragged over a piece of kitchen paper until it's almost dry.

Now draw the moist brush in random strokes all over the smock. In fact it actually makes sense to do this step before painting the webbing equipment. Should the paint be too translucent for your liking just go over it again when the first layer has dried sufficiently. After this use the other colour and repeat the process. Make sure to let the colours overlap in some places. The nice thing about glazes is similar to washes the shading will happen automatically.

Glaze A: VMC 70.975 Military Green
Glaze B: VMC 70.982 Cavalry Brown

Step 5: The Red Beret
In fact the Beret should be more maroon than a bright Ferrari red, something Tamsin let me know back when I did my first Paratroopers all those moons ago.

A: VMC 70.814 Burnt Red
B: VGC 72.012 Scarlet Red
C: VMC 70.946 Dark Red

Step 6: Helmet Cover
Unlike the German Wehrmacht which often used helmet covers with printed on camouflage patterns the British used netting to disrupt the shape of their helmets.

A: Wetbrush VMC 70.975 Military Green
B: Drybrush VMC 70.924 Russian Uniform

The scrim (?) came in many different colours ranging from a dark green over a deep, reddish brown to almost beige. For sake of contrast I decided on a light, almost beige brown.

A: Wetbrush VGC 72.062 Earth (VMC 70.983 Flat Earth works just as well)
B: Drybrush VMC 70.819 Iraqui Sand + VGC 72.062 Earth ( 7/3)

 Step 7: Rifle stock
As I changed over from Foundry to Vallejo paints I also had to look for a replacement to my trusty Spearshaft triade which I previously had used for almost anything wooden. So that's the closest I came up with to date (Don't know why there's Flat Earth instead of Beige Brown in the picture).

A: VMC 70.940 Saddle Brown
B: VMC 70.875 Beige Brown + VMC 70.843 Cork (8/2)
C: VMC 70.843 Cork

So another Colour Guide done and just a few hundred left before I've finally covered any uniform variation worn during WW2. If you found this guide useful, have a question or remark concerning this or earlier colour guides or you'd like me to do a particular colour guide in the future just let me know in the comments below.


  1. Thanks for the mentions Nick! :)

    Just as a sidenote, for later in the war (post Sicily/Italy) the Denison smocks would be a mix of 1st and 2nd patterns. The difference between the two was the colour of the base cloth - yellowish for 1st, pale grey-greenish for 2nd.

    1. Oh, and the webbing colours...any item which was issued to a soldier as personal kit would be Blancoed, for post Sicily/Italy that would be Khaki Green No3 in almost all cases. Other webbing (eg Bren spares valises) would generally be left in their basic colour, which was a buff/yellow.

    2. All very good points! Thanks for your input Tamsin.

  2. Excellent Nick, between you and Tamsin these are really useful guides. It’s tricky to get the denison to pop at this scale but that does the trick nicely.

  3. Another amazing guide Nick, thank you so much.

  4. Thank you Nick for taking the time to post this great tutorial, very helpful.
    cheers John

  5. An excellent tutorial Nick...
    There is indeed a certain irony in that you are painting the ‘camouflage’ to stand out on the table... rather than blend in or be disruptive again the background.

    All the best. Aly

    1. It's funny isn’t it? Originally (back in the days so to speak)I tried working with very close approximations to the real thing but it simply didn't look right on the table. Just a drab and blurry mess.

  6. Great now I have my guide when I do my British Airborne which I will do at some point! Fantastic tutorial like the others!


  7. Awesome :) - I would love to see your WWII Soviet painting guide. Models you posted on "5 August 2018" in my opinion are the best painted models I've ever seen. Cheers!

  8. Fantastic! Really useful guide, thanks.
    I'd definitely like to see a WW2 Soviet painting guide! ;o)

  9. Thanks Nick, this will come in useful if I ever break my rule and paint more WWII British Paratroopers ;)

  10. Another superb tutorial, Nick. British para camo looks cool.

  11. Yay! More tutorial goodness. Again thanks for sharing sir!