A Matter of Color
USN WW2 Colors
In this first installment, we will take a look at a frequently overlooked area by paint manufacturers - USN WW2 ship colors. I won't bore you with a load of color theory, scale perception and/or color accuracy. There have been some great articles published on these topics by folks far more knowledgeable in the art and science of color.
My quest is far more practical. As a modeler, I want to replicate the look and feel of my subject as close as possible with the least amount of hassle. You see, I have one editorial rule here - avoid mixing paints at all costs. I want to pick up any bottle marked FS35049 and get the same exact color time and again. Does this always work? No, but the market is getting better.
With the release of Trumpeter's 1/350 Hornet and Essex class carriers, a whole new range of paint and camouflage possibilities just opened up. If you surf the web, you'll find astounding resources on how to mix different paints to achieve a certain color. The USN paint chips published by Snyder & Short finally give us the equivalent of Federal Standard or RAL paint chips from which to work from. In the great world of modeling, much of the color mixes have been based on the Humbrol standard, which is in large measure thanks to their own published Humbrol Paint System.
For those of us who live in the colonies, access to Humbrol paints is not readily available. In addition, many of us have begun to move away from paints that would otherwise dry-clean our lungs unless they have some unique advantages. Acrylics are the way of the future and I am finding that I prefer acrylics over enamels or lacquers in most applications. The notable exceptions to this rule are of course the Alclad II metalizer lacquers that have not been replicated successfully in enamel nor acrylic to date. The other exceptions are those enamels that are spot-on in a given color that is not otherwise available in acrylic.
So for this first crack at color matching, I set out to see what colors are available using our own color standard - the FS595 series. First I compared the Snyder & Short paint chips with the FS595 chip deck to identify as many equivalents as possible. As you would expect, some of the colors matched up nicely, others came close enough for modeling purposes.
Next, using the magic of database technologies, I cross-linked a number of product lines to see what matched up. Below is the first run at these color equivalents. Interestingly enough, with the release of the White Ensign Models line of USN colors (reviewed elsewhere in the issue) there are now a number of colors that are exactly matched. Let's take a look:
|Period||Color||595a List||Testors MM||Tamiya||Gunze||Mr Color||Vallejo MC||Vallejo MA||WEM|
|1939||#2 Standard Deck Grey||x6099||867||054||US02|
|1939||#5 Standard Navy Grey||x6473||1731||XF19||907||046||US01|
|1939||Mahogany Flight Deck Stain||x0108||XF64||984||US15|
|1941 Early ||5-D Dark Grey||x5042||1717||898||US04|
|1941 Early ||5-L Light Grey||x5526||973||US03|
|1941 Late||5-B Thayer Blue||x5526||973||US09|
|1941 Late||5-H Haze Grey||x6375||1728||H308||050||US05|
|1941 Late||5-N Navy Blue||x5045||US08|
|1941 Late||5-O Ocean Grey||x6176||2036||964||048||US06|
|1941 Late||5-S Sea Blue A||x5177||XF18||943||US07|
|1941 Late||5-S Sea Blue B||x5177||XF18||963||US07|
|1941 Late||Deck Blue 20B||x6099||867||054||US02|
|1942||Flight Deck Stain 21||x5164||1720||903||005||US11|
|1942||Revised Deck Blue 20B||x6076||2034||XF63||US10|
|1943||5-L Light Grey||x6375*||1728||H308||050||US13|
|1943||5-NG Navy Green||x4108*||970||US20|
|1943||5-P Pale Grey||x6515||2039||US12|
|1943 Revised||5-LG Light Green||x4424||XF20||885||US18|
|1943 Revised||5-OG Ocean Green||x4226*||US19|
As you can see, unless you switch over to the WEM line of enamels, you'll still be mixing and matching colors to get some colors, however the number of acrylics available for any given color is much better than I had hoped.
In the coming issues, we'll look at other subject areas for color availability - next month - Modern USAF/USN colors. We'll also periodically update these tables for you as we obtain more information. Happy modeling!