A Matter of Color

Part 1

USN WW2 Colors

By Michael Benolkin

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:

PeriodColor595a ListTestors MMTamiyaGunzeMr ColorVallejo MCVallejo MAWEM
1939#2 Standard Deck Greyx6099867054US02
1939#5 Standard Navy Greyx64731731XF19907046US01
1939Mahogany Flight Deck Stainx0108XF64984US15
1941 Early 5-D Dark Greyx50421717898US04
1941 Early 5-L Light Greyx5526973US03
1941 Late5-B Thayer Bluex5526973US09
1941 Late5-H Haze Greyx63751728H308050US05
1941 Late5-N Navy Bluex5045US08
1941 Late5-O Ocean Greyx61762036964048US06
1941 Late5-S Sea Blue Ax5177XF18943US07
1941 Late5-S Sea Blue Bx5177XF18963US07
1941 LateDeck Blue 20Bx6099867054US02
1942Flight Deck Stain 21x51641720903005US11
1942Green 3Ax4108970US20
1942Revised Deck Blue 20Bx60762034XF63US10
19435-L Light Greyx6375*1728H308050US13
19435-NG Navy Greenx4108*970US20
19435-P Pale Greyx65152039US12
1943 Revised5-LG Light Greenx4424XF20885US18
1943 Revised5-OG Ocean Greenx4226*US19
1944#1 Greenx4257*US22
1944#2 Greenx41591793US23
1944#3 Greenx40921764H302302895014US24
1944#4 Brownx02191742XF52H310310874026US25

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!

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