Mix your own Mixed Gray… its the purpley one you used to see in the ’60s…


In the late spring of 1942, the RAF changed camouflage colors for planes flying in daylight. The Temperate Land scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth upper surfaces, Sky underneath, was good as ground camouflage for parked airplanes and under 10,000 feet.. The new scheme, better at medium altitudes where the air war was taking place, was blander- darker underneath (Sea Gray Medium aka Medium Sea Gray) and lighter above (Ocean Gray and Dark Green).

These three colors were such a good pick that NATO used them for years, although each nation in the alliance had its own version of the colors. See, for example, RAF camo for Europe, through the Falkland’s war (Harrier GR3, Avro Vulcan, BAe Hawk, English Electric Lightning and Canberra. Luftwafe F-86s, F-104s and F-4s. Hunters, F-104s and F-5s operated by the Netherlands, Denmark, etc. Italian F-104s and even Tornados. The original Hawker Harriers operated by the US Marines were painted in these colors. So far, so good.

But in 1942, Ocean Gray was in short supply and all airplanes were supposed to be wearing it as of sunrise on a day in the near future. So a “mixed” gray, 7 parts Sea Gray, Medium, and 1 part Night (Black), was approved as an improvisation until regular supplies of the official color arrived. Both the official color and the home-made version were refered to as “Ocean Gray” at the time. In later years, students of WWII RAF camo paint have distinguished between the two by refering to the home mixed version as “Mixed Gray” and reserved “Ocean Gray” for the official color, which differs slightly from Mixed Gray in hue and reflectivity (They look different in color and in black and white…)

I’ve neen making numbers of WWII RAF planes in 1/72 recently, and while the post-1942 scheme with the two grays and dark green doesn’t charm me the way Dark Earth, Dark Green and Sky do*, I’m a nice boy, I follow directions, and I paint most of the models I build to represent some real object, particularly airliners, RAF and USN airplanes. So the Academy Hawker Tempest V and Revell Hawker Hurricane IIb I finished in the last decade are Ocean Gray and Dark Green over Sea Gray, Medium. They look ‘right’.

I’m finishing a Westland Whirlwind (Airfix, second tooling) right now, and I applied the same Ocean Gray, Dark Green and Sea Gray, Medium, on the first go-round- applied the paints to the individual pieces before I assembled them. But that’s a lot of uniformity, three planes in the cabinent in exactly the same colors… so I mixed up some “Mixed Gray” aka home-made “Ocean Gray”, and applied that to the Whirlwind. The early-delivery Whirlwinds were Dark Green and Dark Earth as built, the later ones were the two grays and green. Surviving, early examples, were repainted when the colors changed, and so I felt that Mixed Gray would be a good choice for a Whirlwind.

Now comes the interesting part: The mixed color (1/2 dropper of black, 3 1/2 droppers of Sea Gray, Medium, mixed well before being measured and the result mixed well again to make it uniform, is just a bit darker in the jar, perhaps a bit ‘plainer’, ie less tone or hue, than Ocean Gray. But when it dried, the result had a definite, bluish-purple, cast. A familiar one- My 1970 Airfix catalog has pictures of some built, RAF, kits and some of them show this same bluish-purple cast. Humbroil, or perhaps Airfix paints, or some one’s personal recollection, produced something not quite like the modern Ocean Gray back when.

I have no idea what the color the Brits painted on airplanes after Spring 1942 really looked like. Polly Scale claim their paints are good matches for the real thing and they’re generally right, when I can check them. Testors Model Master, Gunze Sangyo and Tamiya seem to agree. Of course, all paint has individual drying characteristics and following a 1:7 recipe is no guarantee of a match- even something as simple as Black can vary froim paint maker to paint maker. But I’m happy with the result and its just different enough from Ocean Gray that it adds interest. Not knowing the names or back story, I mixed all these colors from Terstors and Pactra paints back in the 1970s, and getting the right, blueish tint in Ocean Gray is far from easy. There’s just a *little* blue, Just a tiny bit. And I confess “Duck Egg Green” ie “Sky” completely elluded me, twce. First when I came up with a ligth green for an MPC packaging of the Airfix Mosqutio (original tooling? very crude), and second when I made a yellow-ish gray for the Frog Sea Fury that I build in 1975. It might be, sorta, fun to do some of that mixing again… Sometimes.

I’ll have to get pictures up here…


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