First Look Review
Japanese Navy Dark Greens
The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force is a new research treatise by researcher, author and webmaster of Imperial Japanese aviation subjects Nick Millman, exploring the dark green exterior paints of legendary Japanese naval aircraft.

The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force consists of 36 pages of analysis and history, supported with 21 color chips, 6 tables & 1 schematic. It is available in PDF format, via email, for £12.99.

This new PDF e-publication can be both a primer and convenient basic resource for modelers, artists and restorers. The book is available from Mr. Millman’s website Aviation of Japan.

The author introduces this report thus:
    This document explores the dark green camouflage paints applied to the aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Second World War. It is designed to provide consolidated and baseline colour data to inform modellers, artists and restorers in their creative projects. It is not intended to be the last word on the subject and may be subject to further revision and updates. The colour chips are rendered in sRGB IEC61966-2.1 calculated from IJN colour standards and spectrophotometer measured artifacts.

During World War 2 unfamiliarity with Japanese language and culture led to Allied misidentification of Japanese companies and weapons systems, which led to the subsequent creation of westernized code names; today modelers and historians struggle with common definitions and translations. This is exacerbated by a dearth of archival material. While perhaps more modelers are focused on the true colors of Wehrmacht panzers, there seems to be even more passion about the true hue of WW2 Japanese colors. Model paint manufacturers and model art publishers have been proposing or pontificating about Imperial Japanese colors since at least 1946.

Fortunately, survivors of the era are emerging with a growing number of original documents and relics. An increasing cadre of modelers and researchers educated in Japanese language and culture and privy to these resources are establishing a more homogenous agreement of the subject. At least two hold credentials including work at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and its restoration facility.

The gold standard for almost 40 years was the seminal two volumes of research by Donald W. Thorpe. Those have held up well over the years and have laid the foundation of further research. However, some research has shaken or overturned the knowledge and long held concepts of color for modelers very comfortable with or invested in the status quo. As the paint researcher noted, “Religious-like faith and real paint colour - not the same thing! “

Research & Content
Within these 36 pages are 12 topics:
    1. Introduction
    2. The Early References
    3. The Thorpe Colours
    4. Other References
    5. IJN Kariki 117 Colour Standards
    6. Kugisho Report No.0266
    7. Document 8609
    8. Visual Comparisons of D1 and D2
    9. Pigments and Degradation
    10. Hobby Paint Colour Comparisons
    11. Other Hobby Paint Considerations
    12. Conclusion

Perhaps the greatest revelation since VJ Day has been the surfacing of two official Navy reports, the Air Technical Arsenal report (Kugisho) 0266, dated 25 February 1942, and the IJN Kariki 117 Colour Standards. The Yokohama Kokutai tested five A6M2 aircraft in trials with various experimental camouflage schemes. Kugisho 0266 details those findings and recommendations. Kugisho 0266 resulted in directives that lead to some very popular camouflage schemes and ultimately to the dark green Zeros of the second half of the war. Finally, on 5 February 1945, Document 8609 was issued by the Aeronautical Manufacturers Association of Japan to simplify pressures on the war effort. Document 8609 melded Army and Navy paint characteristics.

The author thoughtfully presents this work supported by recent discoveries of original Japanese documentation and preserved artifacts, validated with modern scientific analysis. Color analysis is determined using international standards: Munsell, FS 595B and RAL color standards. Mr. Millman’s erudite foundation of his theories and reviews of colors are derived from photo spectrometer measured values of actual paint samples in L*a*b*. He previously explained:
    The colour chips are rendered in sRGB and then re-verified. However accurate observation of the rendered colours is dependent upon monitor calibration and viewing software.

    Difference quantifications are calculated using the DE2000 formula. This formula is the most recently recommended by the Commission International de l’Éclairage (CIE).

This report not only reasons with modern research, it also recounts the history of Japanese Navy Air Force color theory in art, history, and modeling. No doubt there will be critics who challenge some conclusions, and that can be expected. Perception by an observer is a monumental factor and the author sheds light upon the topic, remarking upon observer metamerism verses illuminant metamerism.

Pigments and Degradation
This important section identifies technical challenges in qualifying colors. Noted is the chemical difference between chromium oxide as a paint ingredient compared to the term “chrome green”.
Model Paint Manufacturers
Through half of this reports 36 pages the author discusses the attempts of model companies to make their own interpretations of the colors. (One popular brand made colors based on paint samples provided by the author.) He also includes a comparison of model paint brands.

Mr. Millman supports his text with many color chips. These demonstrate the dark greens next to other descriptions of them, as well as with popular model paints:
    a. The Thorpe Colours, N1 Black Green, N2 Dark Green and N3 Dark Grey-Green: e Munsell Colour; Closest FS 595; Notes.

    b. Table by Ian K Baker, 1989 (revised 1991): 6 colors per FS 595, Methuen, Pantone, with comments.

    c. Table by Ian K Baker, 1999: 3 colors per FS 595, Pantone, British Standard.

    d. 12 Colors ʻWall chartʻ: representation of the various FS 595 values attributed to the IJN dark greens.

    e. IJN Kariki 117 Colour Standards: D1 & D2.

    f. RAL 6012 Schwarzgrün compared to IJN colors.

    g. 8609 colour swatches compared to Thorpeʼs N1, Munsell 10 GY 3/1 and FS 34052.

    h. Visual Comparisons of D1 and D2 per Paint Standard, Lansdale, Nohara, Watanabe, Summer, Owaki, Thorpe, Toda/Mikesh.

Mr. Millman produced 17 three-chip comparisons of different commercial hobby paints against either D1 & N1 or D2 & N2.
    1. Tamiya XF-11 J.N. Green comparison.

    2. Tamiya XF-70 Dark Green 2 (IJN) comparison.

    3. Mr Color 15 IJN Green (Nakajima) comparison.

    4. Mr Color 124 Dark Green (Mitsubishi) comparison.

    5. Mr Hobby H59 IJN Green comparison.

    6. Gaia # 212 midori iro comparison.

    7. Sweet # 2 Zero Fighter Dark Green Colour comparison.

    8. Xtracolor X353 Japanese WWII Navy Green comparison.

    9. Colourcoats ACJ01 IJN D1 Deep Green Black Colour comparison.

    10. Colourcoats ACJ03 Nakajima Navy Green/ACJ03 IJN D2 Green Black Colour comparison.

    11. Colourcoats ACJ06 Mitsubishi Navy Green comparison.

    12. Colourcoats ACJ10 Kawanishi Navy Green comparison.

    13. Humbrol 91 Matt Black Green comparison and mixture of an acceptable match for D1.

    14. Humbrol 75 Matt Bronze Green comparison.

    15. Humbrol 195 Satin Dark Green comparison.

    16. Humbrol Authentics HJ1 Green N1 comparison. This color was based on the N1 colour presented in the 1964 IPMS guide; included is Humbrolʼs Colour System reproduction mixture.

    17. Revell 40 Black Green comparison.

Several other model paint brands are mentioned although comparison chips were not used for this report.

Additionally, when this report was published, both AK Interactive and Vallejo were creating Imperial Japanese aircraft sets. Since the publishing of this report, both of the Vallejo sets have been reviewed on the author’s site Aviation of Japan.

The author embarked upon this work to improve the knowledge base for those interested in these colors. Fortunately, the end of the Cold War and development of more accurate methods of understanding and testing of artifacts occurred with a synergy of another phenomena: the aging of those who fought WW2 has seen veterans of both sides making available long ignored or forgotten artifacts from the war. This has been a boon for research. One should not discount prior published conceptions of colors. No doubt the people who assembled that information did the best that they could.

The author has researched and evaluated a pair of important colors of IJNAF aircraft. This report has built and expanded upon some of the previous perceptions of the subject. This report has also demonstrated that many of the prior concepts are invalid.

As the author acknowledges that there will be controversy:
    In selecting paints for models or artwork individual interpretation will be necessary
    and personal choice will probably prevail. However, careful reading of this report should inform that interpretation and choice.

    The fundamental character of both paint standards is that they were very dark greens described as
    black greens. The proliferation of lighter, more verdant greens in illustrations, on models and in hobby paints has tended to undermine that reality.

The Dark Green Paints of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force is a fascinating exploration of the two main dark green paints used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force. Modelers, artists and restorers of that subject should have a copy of this report for a better understanding of the character of the colors.

Heartily recommended.
Highs: Detailed research and modern technical analysis. A brief history of proceeding IJNAF color research.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: A fascinating exploration of the two main dark green paints used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force. Modelers, artists and restorers of that subject should have a copy of this report for a better understanding of the character of the colors.
  Scale: N/A
  Suggested Retail: £12.99
  PUBLISHED: Jun 05, 2017
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Aviation of Japan 日本の航空史!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


I look forward to checking out this reference- it sounds like an excellent new resource for a relativly arcane subject! However, I wish it were published with at least the color samples in physical color chip form; "...accurate observation of the rendered colours is dependent upon monitor calibration and viewing software". Yikes. I recenly changed monitors for my PC at home and was surprised by the dramatic differences between them in color presentation. I am a computer semi-literate and I don't know about monitor color calibration... I just want to see accurate colors.
JUN 11, 2017 - 12:14 AM
Fantastic review, Fred. This seems like the answer to the prayers of IJN modelers.
JUN 20, 2017 - 02:36 AM
Hi Tim. There is more to this 36 page document than just paint chips. And if all were in physical paint form it would cost a lot more!
JUN 27, 2017 - 02:59 PM

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