11 January 2020

Early War German Colour Guide

Having not done any new colour guides for quite a while (and having been prompted to do one specifically for early war Germans by a good friend) I thought I'd use the opportunity and take a few shots while painting my latest unit of Germans.

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: Helmet and trousers
This one is rather straight forward as I use basically the same colours for both items only in different mixes. Actually the helmet should be in a very dark greyish green, almost similar to field grey, but  I liked the stark contrast more so went with a dark grey. This and it also looks more teutonic ;-)
Also I went deliberately a little too dark on the trousers, so you may very well start with a lighter shade depending on the look you're after.

A: VMC 70.995 German Grey
B: VMC 70.995 German Grey + VMC 70.900 French Mirage Blue (7/3)
C: VMC 70.995 German Grey + VMC 70.900 French Mirage Blue (5/5)

A: VMC 70.995 German Grey + VMC 70.900 French Mirage Blue (5/5)
B: VMC 70.900 French Mirage Blue
C: VMC 70.900 French Mirage Blue + VMC 70.907 Pale Grey Blue (3/7)

Step 2: M36 Fieldgrey tunic
I've elaborated this particular recipe before but for the sake of simplicity it's included below. What paints to use for the bottle-green collars and shoulder tabs you'll find further below.

A: VMC 70.830 German Fieldgrey + VMC 70.950 Black  (8/2)
B: VMC 70.830 German Fieldgrey
C: VMC 70.884 Green Grey + VMC 70.830 German Fieldgrey (7/3)

Step 3: M36 Reed-Green tunic
There were a myriad of different shades of Fieldgrey, especially in the late war period, but one I find especially fitting for early war is the so called reed-green. While there was a specific reed-green summer uniform later in the war it's just as appropriate for the M36 field tunic. This is especially the case when considering the early uniforms generally having been on the greener side of the spectrum while later uniforms often were more brownish.
What paints to use for the bottle-green collars and shoulder tabs you'll find further below.

A: VMC 70.920 German Uniform + VMC 70.995 German Grey (2/8)
B: VMC 70.920 German Uniform
C: VMC 70.920 German Uniform + VMC 70.919 Iraqui Sand (7/2)

Step 4: Bottle-Green collar and shoulder tabs
Specific to the early M36 field tunic were the collar and shoulder tabs in so called bottle-green.

A: VMC 70.823 Luftwaffe Camo Green + VMC 70.995 German Grey (8/2)
B: VMC 70.823 Luftwaffe Camo Green
C: VMC 70.895 Gunship Green + VMC 70.823 Luftwaffe Camo Green (7/3)

Step 5: Litzen and other insignia
For the so called Litzen, i.e. the collar patches, and other insignia like the National Emblem or the NCO's collar braid I went with just 

VMC 70.907 Pale Grey Blue

Straight White or Off-White is too stark in my oppinion. Should you choose to hand paint rank chevrons onto the sleeves of your toy soldiers I'd personally first paint on a triangle of 

VMC 70.887 Olive Drab

and then paint over the chevrons in Pale Grey Blue.

Step 6: A new recipe for Caucasian Flesh
Regular readers of my blog may have noticed a change to the way I paint Caucasian Flesh, especially compared to earlier guides like *here*. This is mainly due to my switch away from Foundry paints and firmly towards Vallejo. 
Thus I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to let you know the paints I use nowadays.

A: VMC 70.818 Red Leather + VMC 70.804 Beige Red (6/4)
B: VMC 70.804 Beige Red
C: VGC 72.003 Pale Flesh

I use roughly around seven layers to get the result I'm after, so a fair bit of mixing is required to get the smooth transitions I prefer today.

I hope this short guide was of use to some of you. As ever, should there be any questions or you'd want me to do a specific Colour Guide just let me know in the comments below.


  1. Thanks Nick for sharing your colour scheme and advice, very helpful and as I have mentioned before your painting skills are extraordinary.
    cheers John

  2. Great stuff nick,

    Great information, in 20mm I add some bone or buff to my highlights, the smaller scale needs it sometimes.


  3. Great painting guide Nick :)

  4. Thanks Nick, super useful painting guide.

  5. Excellent now I know what to use when I tackle my early war Germans!:-)


  6. Another spiffing guide, most useful Nick.

  7. Great guide Nick. I wish my figures came out like yours.

  8. This is terrific, Nick! I will count my efforts successful if they come out 1/10th as good as yours.

  9. Wow Nick, great to see the process broken down so well. Thank you very much.

  10. Awesome post Moiterei ... thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope this works at 1/35 scale minis too. Worth a try I guess :)

  11. Great tutorial, Nick. I do appreciate the early war uniform - the contrasting colors of the trousers and tunics.

  12. Many thanks! very good and useful tutorial, with your usual top quality.

  13. That is superb and very helpful indeed. Your painting guides are fab!

  14. Very helpful. I will give these a try. Your stuff is as good as gets so thanks for sharing your secrets!

  15. Excellent guide, thank you. What company made this model?

  16. Thanks for the colour guide and painting tutorial masterclass for early war Germans - gives me some good ideas to improve my own technique!