login   |    register

Painting British & Pakistani Camouflage

British Temperate Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM)
British four-colour DPMs (Photo 1) are one of the most distinctive modern camouflage schemes around and, with the possible exception of US Woodland, is probably more widely used worldwide than any other. Technically, there are three versions of the temperate DPM: the ‘60s pattern, ‘80s pattern, and ‘90s pattern. However, to a figure painter, the difference between the three is miniscule enough to be insignificant, particularly in the smaller scales. In addition there is also a (rarely seen) Tropical version, and a two-colour Desert pattern.

DPM is a development of the British ‘50s Dennison pattern (itself a development of the WW2 scheme), and retains many of its characteristics. The most distinctive of these is the circular brush-stroke style of the greens and browns, something that lends itself to the fig painter and makes our lives a lot easier.


First things first: good reference pics. If you are painting DPMs worn by a particular country, get pictures of that. British DPM is manufactured everywhere and there can be slight variations in colour, particularly the sand/beige background shade. I used Brassey’s Book of Camouflage as a colour reference (excellent 1/1 scale photographs of uniforms), and downloaded a picture from an online surplus store to see the overall pattern.

Now that you have your reference pics, take a good look at the pattern’s overall feel, its distinctive characteristics, and details relevant to your scale. While it is important to get the fine details right (particularly at 1/16), it’s more important that the ‘feel’ of DPM is retained. This will make it recognizable even at a glance. With Brit DPM, its stongest characteristic is the circular brush-stroke patterns.

All modern camo patterns are actually made up of a single template which is then replicated throughout the uniform garment. Look carefully at your reference pics and figure out this template. With Brit DPMs, this is the template (Photo 2). This is important when painting fatigue pants as they have large areas of seamless cloth where the template is easily recognizable. If you look at a DPM fatigue leg, you’ll see that the template in its entirety is set out only once, and after that there is room only for parts of the template above and below.

We start off with the background colour. Revell #17 mustard. I don’t prime my figs, so it goes straight on (Photo 3). This shade varies according to manufacturer, and from constant washing (I guess the darker colours run), so that it can be a mustard, a pale sand, or even a greenish beige.

It is importan to let the background shade dry fully (at least overnight when using enamels) before moving to the next step.

Next on are the green swirls. Revell #39 (which is a sort of leaf green) is good for this, but even a darker shade is OK. Looking at DPM camouflage, you’ll notice that the swirls are quite ragged at the edges, in fact just like brush strokes. So instead of trying to trace the outlines of the swirls and then filling them in (like you would with Woodland), use a natural circular stroke to paint the pattern (Photo 4). Keep a piece of cardboard next to your fig and do a few practice strokes on that if you feel nervous. Don’t worry if the swirls look untidy, they can be touched up later. This swirling pattern is more important than sticking to the exact repeated template, because this is what will make the cam look authentic. Ideally, of course, you should get both right.

Once the entire uniform piece is covered with the green swirls, go back and touch up any mistakes or gaps.

At this point another distinctive detail of Brit DPM can be addressed. If you look closely at your reference pictures, you’ll see that the swirls are softened at the edges by a pattern of tiny dots that trail away from the main swirl. Now is the time to dot, dot, dot these in (Photo 5). Technically, these dots shouldn’t be visible to the naked eye even at 1/16 scale, but (like the fine black lines in German WW2 Splinter) are necessary to make the cam pattern distinctive. A purist could leave these out (particularly at smaller scales).
With enamels, allow the green to dry almost fully, but not quite (maybe a couple of hours), before moving on. This will be sufficient to prevent smearing with the next shade, but also allow a slight automatic blending that will replicate print on cloth.

Now it’s time for the brown swirls. I used Revell #84, which is a dark chocolate, but I have seen examples of DPM where the brown areas looked almost purple, so use your own judgement. Paint the browns in the same way as the greens, allowing the brown swirls to overlap the greens (Photo 6). Don’t forget the dots. Again, allow a couple of hours drying time.

The final shade is the thin black ‘lightning’. Straight Revell #8 black can be used, but it might be better to soften it with a touch of dark brown. The lightning isn’t painted in swirls, but runs across the other colours in a series of splotchy cracks (Photo 7). Dot dot dot again.

Now the pattern itself is complete. When done right, the background shade (the lightest) shouldn’t even look like background, but occupy no more than a third of the area in the entire pattern (Photo 8).
  • cam01
  • cam02
  • cam03
  • cam04
  • cam05
  • cam06
  • cam07
  • cam08

About the Author

About David Blacker (spooky6)

My background is ex-Sri Lanka Army (infantry), and I am now an advertising art director, and parttime writer. I am a military history buff, and am specifically interested in the 20th Century to the present. I am primarily a fig modeller, concentrating on 1/16 because I love all the extra details ...


A good read - cheers David.
AUG 16, 2006 - 05:20 PM
One of the best DPMs I have seen in scale... great details on DPM "brush marks". Well done mate! Mario
AUG 16, 2006 - 06:29 PM
Thanks, guys. I love DPM
AUG 16, 2006 - 06:48 PM