A Note on Multi-Colored Camoflague:

Just a Note on Multi-Colored Camoflague:

This information/opinion/advice comes from “in the field” personal experience with real life WWII German vehicles (both Museum vehicles and privately owned) on the move as used at military reenactments held at the Patton Museum over an 8-10 year period.

We have all probably camouflage painted the road wheels of our model armor. At first it would appear as a cool idea to do split camo colors on the wheels. (Say half dark yellow and half green on the big road wheels of a Hetzer.) However, I assure you, in real life the negative visual affect is quite real. In practice when a vehicle is on the move, in the open, in daylight, these split camo wheels draw as much visual attention as would a large flashing searchlight to an aircraft passing overhead.

It is better/wiser to paint all rotating parts in solid colors and then vary the color used from one wheel to the next.

Sorry but back in the day I did not possess the video/film technology to capture this effect to show you here today. However the negative affect in real life, on a camouflaged object’s ability to disappear (break silhouette) while “on the march” is striking. The split camo wheels literally brings the success of the camouflage effect to ZERO and actually draws the eye to the vehicle as would a flashing light rather than making it disappear.

Since our models are mostly static perhaps this information is of no value. However we seem to favor realism here!

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All Photos Mike Koenig 2005-2008 ~ All Rights Reserved

My software seems to not be cooperating right at the moment!

For those others who might know how to do this please consider making a .gif animation of these four images as a possible proof of my point and posting the .gif here in this thread.

(If you should need additional intermediate image frames at 45 degree angles for a smoother animation I can provide)

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I believe the guidelines for applying camo in many cases stated not to paint the wheels varied to avoid what you are describing but crews didn’t always follow instructions properly in their hurry to get the paint on.

For vehicles that primarily wait in ambush or are relatively static (tank destroyers and mobile artillery) it likely was not as big a deal.


Any vehicle will still have to “travel” to reach a given ambush or combat location and believe me, to a enemy pilot those split camo wheels would be like waving a red flag at a bull!

If you consider this a “non-issue” then so be it ~ I am just sharing with you what sort of amounts to actual combat experience in the field but hey . . . . .

Sorry I don’t have any bad examples to show you. If I come across some I will most certainly share.

In real life, the running gear on tactical vehicles gets covered with mud, and/or dust pretty quickly in field environments. Even if a crew did pattern paint the running gear, any camo paint is usually covered up rapidly and will look like the local earth tones.
As far as spinning wheels attracting the eyes go, the movement of the vehicle itself does that. Long before you’re close enough to discern any contrasting colors moving. As will the dust and exhaust smoke from said moving vehicle.


To the remark regarding dust and grime I totally agree. However as to air recognition; those spinning half camo wheels will draw the eye from miles away, long before the camouflaged shape of the vehicle becomes recognizable even while moving.

Disagree if you will, but then enter a combat zone at your own risk.

Absolutely no way, i can’t believe that for one second.


A little background. At age 18 I was a TOW gunner, you saw vehicles moving at well over 3 km away when using binos or other optics, depending upon terrain and vegetation, when they are just tiny moving specks. No colors are truly discernible, even when covered with foliage. It’s all earth & natural tones. At age 28 I went into Long Range Surveillance. Again, using binos or the naked eye, at even longer ranges, again, it’s the movement of tiny specks that draws attention. If a vehicle is not concealed by vegetation such as forest canopy, it is quite visible when moving, even if it has enough foliage to look like a rolling hedge.
Your photos show pristine museum painted bright & fresh vehicles in parks or similar conditions. Not AFVs that have been in the field for days or weeks on end that have taken on a good coat of the surrounding landscape.
And regarding your comment of going to war at your own risk, please don’t think that re enacting compares to an actual term of enlistment, in peacetime or wartime. Troops, active and reserve, get killed in training all the time. There were more deaths in training or standard non combat operations over the past several years each year than there were in the last few years in theater in combat in Afghanistan. How many re enactors get killed in their performances?


Hey, I offer these comments “for what they’re worth”.

You even said yourself the official regs (German I presume) say not to do it.

So all this still ends up being worth very penny you paid for it!


p.s. As to the “going to war comment” I only refer to “my actually observing German camouflaged vehicles in the field”. I would NEVER attempt to usurp your honor or experience of having been in actual combat. This is/was in no way any form of an attempt at “stollen honor.”

Also THANK YOU for your service!

BUT . . .

Stik ~ the A-hole in me still has to give you some push-back.

Of all the vehicles you have seen in you time, how many of those were camouflaged “WW II German Style” beyond just being painted dark green or all-over sand color? **

And of those how many would have had the non-reg. split camo on their wheels?

So again the A$$-hole part of my brain forces me to point out that you MIGHT not have that much actual “on the job” experience regarding this one particular small point I am trying to make here about wheel related camoflague.

Said with all due respect and with no intention to insult!

** p.s. I don’t really consider the various post-war NATO and US camo patterns to really count here as I don’t feel most modern camo patterns to really be all that affective. (Not enough color contrast to really break up the silhouette shape.) It would seem the world hated anything “German” so much since the war that military designers refused to accept the painful lessons learned in the past fighting against what I consider to be the very effective German war era camo.

And that is me speaking as a graphic artist, designer, photographer and armor modeler with 60+ years experience in those fields (and NO direct combat experience.)

I make no such accusation of stolen valor, but this statement was something of a button pusher. Entering a combat zone is risky, even if you’ve done everything right

I served 24 years, Active and Reserve components from ‘83 to ‘07. I saw a lot of transition of paint schemes in US service, plus vehicles of Allied nations and our foes/adversaries/etc. The MERDC schemes plus a few experimental schemes used in the mid 80’s before the transition to NATO tri color were the closest to WWII German three color, because there was at times a lot of unit variations that did not follow the official regs in patterns or combinations of colors. Occasionally you would come across a vehicle with pattern painted road wheels. The only time it was visible was when leaving the motor pool on the hardball to go to the field or after leaving the “bird bath” wash rack to go back to the motor pool at the conclusion of field time. In Europe, due to prevailing weather and road conditions, it’s pretty common to pick up a coat of light road grime/mud on the running gear fairly quickly during paved road movement. That tones it down real quick with that thin coat of tan or gray. Add in any off pavement movement and that increases exponentially.
Now let’s think of the size of road wheels. Yes, the 38T chassis has a fairly large diameter road wheel. Probably something like those on the Cold War era M107/M110/M578 chassis. But the more prevalent Panzer III & IV chassis have much smaller diameter road wheels. Think of a man size torso at a few hundred yards. That is real small at the distances and speeds where a Jabo is first going to see a moving vehicle.

Not trying to be an A.H., but I do like to debate…


Just to stick my oar in the water as an MBT trained gunner, a Guided Weapons firer and Instructor (out to 4km) and many a night and day in long term vehicle mounted OPs or overwatch watching vehicles at both short and extreme long range and also a AFV recognition Inst.
The tank when viewed from range as Carlos explained is blob… Moving or static, you are trained to know where to shoot and aim for. Split cam wheels would have no significant outcome either way, when moving at speed they become a blur and at slow speed it doesn’t matter as your not aiming at the wheels.
Also as Carlos said, after a very very short period of time I the field, the running gear is the first thing to disappear under a layer of crud. Also, when viewed from afar, if the vehicle does not have side skirts on, that area usually takes on a darkened shadow effect and the whole running gear area is dark.
And reg the modern lack of cam etc, is not overly worried about because the usual modern cam variations are enough to break up certain parts of the silhouette. Also bear in mind that in most modern engagements and hearing about if from crews, that a lot of the time thermal shoots were done whether it was day or night.


Ok ~ can we at least agree that it might just possibly appear as a cool idea to some less experienced model builders (or Grunts in the field) to do the split camo treatment on the wheels?

And can we agree it might just be OK to warn these folks that this practice is against SOP though it does still happen in real life so proceed accordingly?

And here comes the A hole part of me again:

When you guys say the running gear will be covered up in no time - what your are really saying is : “it’s OK to do it wrong because in ten minutes it won’t show anyways.”

Which, if you ask me, sounds kinda "Back aak-wards!

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The “enter combat at your own risk” remark means EXACTLY what it says. It means go ahead and do it wrong, tell everyone it doesn’t matter anyway and then take your chances - whether that means going into combat or into a model competition.

I think I am just going to take my A and go home now.

I give up, I surrender

I was able to share my thoughts and observations here, so my thank you’s go out to Armorama and to the KitMaker network.

You guys and the other readers here will make up your/their own minds.

To suggest that model builders intentionally do it wrong but then cover the running gear with mud sounds like a GREAT solution - enjoy!

Lol… Don’t go home … It’s just a good open debate…

I’m not saying it’s wrong or right to paint them in a split cam… I’m just saying it’s totally ineffective. It’s time consuming and serves no real purpose, but at the time how did those crews know that ? It was all trial and error.
I have seen pictures of WW2 German armour with what looks like obvious split or at least 2 tone cam, so it was obviously done and we as modellers would be quite right to paint them like that if we wanted as it did happen.
Also it has occured in more modern times. Some of the H Cav crews from time to time painted the CVRT wheels both NATO green and black … Why ? Who knows … But it happened.
And as an example on the other way of things, I never ever saw a Chieftain or Chally1 wheel painted in anything. They came from the factory in NATO green and went straight on the wagon. … Even when we as crews touched up the veh paint cam, the wheels never got touched…:+1::grin:

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Tomas Chory on his book on German colours states that it was recommended to paint the wheels on a single color, as Mike has pointed out.
No matter if effective or not, seems that regulations on German WWII vehicles favoured this practice.

On the other hand, there are photos of vehicles with camouflaged wheels, although I would say they are less common than plain ones.


Agreed. Don’t leave.

Regulations or not, this Strumpanzer IV looks to have some split color road wheels. Where there was one, there was likely far more during the time frame when crews painted their own vehicles. If the crew thought that it would give them that survivability advantage in combat, they’re gonna do it. Regulations say one thing. Adherence to them can be markedly different.

For the best realism, find a photo of the vehicle that you’re building and do your best to replicate it. Sometimes we have excellent reference, other times we’re lucky to get a photo from the same company or battalion, and sometimes we find diddly squat and do our best to infer what we think should be there.

Edit- Here are couple more examples of apparent sectionally painted road wheels


My 2 cents
This is rather like the issue of painting hatch interiors white - not a good idea.

I recall a friend had a Dinky Striker years ago, that had a green & white camo job on it, including a couple of wheels with half & half cam, when the vehicle was pushed along those half & half wheels strobed, which was really noticeable. Made me decide to not go there on my models.



I think AfvA and I are on the same page here!

The expression “strobe” is exactly the right one to use in this instance.

As to crews painting their own camo (as on that Tiger above) we knew split camo on the wheels was a mistake before the vehicle had moved even 40 feet in the Motor Pool.

p.s. As to the historic photos above - combat tanks DO get muddy on occasion and I have pressure washed a few) but I will point out here that I don’t see any of those active German combat tanks pictured above as being so muddy that I can on longer see their road wheels, suspension and their coloration.