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Louis Gardner
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Random thoughts on Japanese colors. The Japanese A6M Zero…Part 1

April 20, 2019 · in Aviation · · 33 · 27.7K

Japanese Colors... Part 1

I recently posted a similar article to this one about WW2 Japanese Aviation colors. It was not completely prepared so I removed the original posting. This is along the same line as my original intent.

Hopefully you will find it to be an easier read, since it is aircraft specific.

The following article is to be used as a guide, and only as a guide. Please do not take this "definitive". Information changes as new discoveries are made.

I have included links to other research websites dealing on this subject. This will allow you, the reader, the opportunity to make your own informed choices on the colors used by the various manufacturers of Japanese aircraft during the War.

I suggest that if you are really serious about the colors used on Japanese (or any Nation's aircraft for that matter), that you do your own research. There's a lot of information available on the web, but not everything you read on the Internet is valid... so take caution with what you read.

What I'm about to show you is based on my collection of notes on information which I believe to be true. I am also providing color chips that are very close to the original colors that were used on the A6M.

I scanned these color chips from my Federal Standard book, and they look very convincing... at least on my computer monitor. Some of the pages in my book are starting to turn a little yellow. Please do not be alarmed by this. The color chips still look good as new.

When I scanned these color chips, the scanner settings were left at the factory setting of "0" Zero... I spent a lot of time doing this for you. Hours...that turned into days.

This article is written based on the research of others, not mine. All I did was gather this information and sort through it.

I wanted to make this article clear and concise, and include a lot of information on specific aircraft colors available to use in one handy location as a reference.
Full credit for this research is due to men such as Nick Millman, Jim Lansdale, Ryan Towes, and countless others who have been studying in this area of research for many years.

This will hopefully be a series of articles that will eventually include various other Japanese aircraft and the colors they used.

Each article will be based on a specific aircraft type. Just as this article is concerned with the A6M Zero, there will be a following one for the Ki-43 Oscar, and yet another on the Ki-61 Tony as examples.

More "episodes" will continue with this series in the future if they are well received now.

Over the past few years I have been collecting notes on a lot of different WW2 Japanese aircraft. There are two main websites I have been using for color research where a TON of information on this subject has been written.
These websites are and Aviation of Japan.

Notice the background color of the page on this next website... (just a little hint). 😉

Almost everything over there has been compiled over the years and is a collection of research that is based on evidence and not conjecture or theory of some individual. Countless research hours have been spent by these persons, some of whom are aviation historians residing in Japan. These people have been scouring the archives, making trips to various museums, examining relics and artifacts of crashed aircraft that are located in museums and private collections from around the world.

I need not say it, but these guys really know their stuff !

Speaking about stuff, look how nice the underside of this wing looks ! It's shiny and clean...

Various Japanese aircraft items have been personally examined by these professionals. They have concluded what color they believe these items to be. Sometimes one person will say this part is this color, while another professional will say it is a very similar color, although different in the color chip number.
This happens because we all see colors a little differently. Women actually have a better color perception ability than men...

During this journey, I have also found out that light, (natural or artificial), will affect the appearance of a color. So do scanners and cell phone cameras. Thanks for the tips Boris...


These various Japanese aircraft relic items were compared to several different types of color swatches.

Color swatches used were from a US Federal Standards color chip book for certain aircraft parts. (I just happen to have one of these books... mine is the 1994 edition. More on that later).

Meanwhile, notice how well taken care of these early examples are... Highly polished propeller blades. The cowling has a shine to it as well.

The down side to the Federal Standards system is that it occasionally does not provide a good match to Japanese colors from World War 2. It will still give you a decent general guideline as to how the color could have looked, since it is a "Standard" of color.

The Federal Standards (or "FS" system) was placed in service during the 1950's, some years after World War Two ended. It's still used by the US Government today. They are still available should you want one. They come in handy when mixing up your own colors that are not available commercially.

There is however another more accurate way to match Japanese colors. This is the Munsell system. This system was also used on some of these "relic" items I talked about above to get a color match. The downside to the Munsell system is cost. They are expensive.
Both color systems have now been converted into computer programs, so that you can digitally render how a color "should" look. Please keep in mind that things like computer monitor screens will change how these colors appear to you.

Here's a link to a website that will allow you to type in a FS color number and have the color digitally rendered on your computer screen.

On some occasions, these Japanese "relic" items have also been subjected to testing of paint samples at various laboratories, to reveal exactly what chemical components and pigments these colors actually were made of, and how they could have looked when new. This will also rule out the arguments that have been made about how a color will shift as it ages, or has been exposed to heat or sunlight over time.

This is an evolving field of study, and new finds are uncovered on a regular basis. Because of this, what was once considered as fact, has now become myth in some incidents.

Notice at how the overall color of these restored Zeros look in each different photograph... I will discuss this later in another episode.

One such example is the Blue / Green color called "Aotake".

Aotake was a clear protective coating that was sprayed on aircraft aluminum to help protect it from corrosion. Depending on how it was sprayed on the metal, (and even to some extent where it was sprayed on the airframe), it changes the look considerably. Areas that were exposed to wetness (or the elements) often shifted from a blue to more of a green shade. In some instances, one side of a panel could be blue "ish" in color, while still having some green present in another part of the same panel. "Aotake" is typically a translucent color that allows the aluminum to show through from underneath, and will appear darker as more of the material is applied. It is commonly found inside fuselage and wing components, but not typically in crew compartment areas.

A rather convincing way to duplicate the look of Aotake when building models, is to spray on a base color of aluminum first. Once the aluminum color has dried, I use Tamiya Clear Blue X-24 and spray on a light coat. It's OK to let it get a little heavy in the corners. Then I will go back and spray on a very light coat of Tamiya X-24 Clear Yellow in a few places, making sure not to cover all of the blue. You will notice how the shade changes to a green where you have added the yellow. You can also use Tamiya Clear Green X-25 if you want. Experiment with this method, but keep in mind the trick is to "not" get it uniform ! You want it to have variations just as the real stuff did...
Here's a good example of "Aotake" from a Japanese plane. I found this photo online.

For many years this "Aotake" color was considered the "go to" color that was used in "all" Japanese aircraft cockpits. If you have any older model kits in your collection, look at the instructions... you will see what I mean. Needless to say, this is not always 100 percent correct, but the kit manufacturers didn't have this information available to them back then...

We do indeed live in the "Golden Age of Modelling".

The A6M Zero was manufactured by two different companies during the War. Much like the F4U Corsair was manufactured by Vought, Goodyear, and the Brewster aircraft companies, the A6M was built by and . Because of this, there are several areas where different colors were used.

One thing to keep in mind is that all of the A6M Zeros that were used in the attack on Pearl Harbor were Mitsubishi built machines. Nakajima produced Zeros started rolling off the assembly lines later...

This next information on the landing gear and tail wheel colors was obtained through one of Nick Millman's postings.

Wheel Well / Main Landing Gear Bay Areas:



Mitsubishi built planes had the interior of the wheel wells painted in the same colors that were used on the exterior. This means that these locations should be the same "Amber Gray" color as the rest of the airframe is on the outside.

The main landing gear doors and the smaller "Crescent" shaped inner doors were also painted in the same "Amber Gray" color on Mitsubishi aircraft, inside and out.

The main landing gear struts were painted in a "Gloss Black" FS17038 color.

The retracting yokes on the small inner "Crescent" shaped doors were also painted using Gloss Black.

The torque links on the main landing gear were painted in an aluminum color, as were the main wheel hub covers. A good match is FS 17178

These colors were used in this manner on Mitsubishi built A6M-2 and A6M-3 aircraft.


Nakajima built aircraft had the interior of the main landing gear wheel wells coated in the "Aotake" Blue Green preservative. The smaller "Crescent" shaped inner doors were also "Aotake" Blue Green on the inside portion, similar to how the "restored" Zero in this picture looks. However this restored example is wrong, since the inside of the inner doors match the outer surface colors... I'm just saying. 🙂

The outer main landing gear doors however were painted in the same color as the rest of the airframe, inside and out. The outer main gear doors should be painted in "Amber Gray" color.
The main landing gear struts were painted in a Gloss Black color.

The retracting yokes on the small inner "Crescent" shaped doors were also painted using Gloss Black.

The torque links on the main landing gear were painted in an aluminum color, as were the main wheel hub covers, exactly as the Mitsubishi aircraft were done.

Nakajima built A6M-2's and up to the early A6M-5's were painted in this manner.

Tail Wheel Assembly: These items were painted the same way on both Mitsubishi and Nakajima built aircraft.

The tail wheel assembly was painted "Amber Gray".

The tail wheel well area inside the fuselage was "Aotake" protectant coating. However, this area was often covered with a removable canvas boot that was either dark green or black in color.

The Tail Hook was painted Gloss Black.

The front mounting of the hook assembly was also painted Gloss Black.

The tail hook shaft itself was either "Aotake" Blue Green or "Amber Gray". This color difference depended on the contractor that manufactured the part.

The Imperial Japanese Navy issued a document in 1944 that was called "Kari-Kikaku 117 Shiki-Betsu Hyojun" which translates into "Provisional Standard 117 Color Norms".

Color chips were produced to go along with the document.

A partial color chip book was recently found in Japan and can be seen here.

Engine Cowlings and Cockpit Decking (areas under the rear canopy section):

These two locations were painted in a color that is referred to as "Q-1" the 3rd type... in the 117 Standard. The color consisted of 4 parts of "Carbon Black" pigment, and one part "Ultra Marine".
The color when new looked to be Black.

However it was actually a very dark blue color that was "almost" black. It has been compared to RAF "Night". The blue was hardly noticeable when new.

The "Blue Black" faded when exposed to ultra violet light. As it faded, the color shifted to a blue "ish" gray appearance, similar to this.

On aircraft that were severely faded, this color took on the appearance of a "Light Blue Gray".

Check this picture out... and you will see what I mean.

This color was used on all Japanese Navy aircraft as an anti glare paint.

There have been reports that this "Blue Black" color was used on Mitsubishi built aircraft and that Nakajima planes used a typical "Flat Black" in it's place. However this is not very likely.
The areas located under the canopy that was located behind the pilot's seat (where the radio mast was placed) often faded to the lighter shades.
The cowlings would have been better maintained since they were removed for regular engine maintenance.

The cowlings would have most likely been repainted and would not have appeared as faded.

A good match for this "Blue Black" color is FS 25042. It also happens to be the same color that was used by the US Navy as "Dark Sea Blue".

On A6M-2 Zeros that were painted in the overall solid color of "Amber Gray", there were two styles of Hinomaru used.

The National markings were sometimes called "meatballs" by the Allies and were a bright red color. A close color match for the red is FS *1136.

I have left the first number off, as this is an indicator to the gloss.

A high gloss color will start out with the number #1.
A semi gloss color will start with the number #2.
Colors that are "Flat" will start off using the number #3.

One type of Hinomaru used on the A6M-2 had a small white ringed border that surrounded the red "Rising Sun". The other style was just the solid red Hinomaru.

Mitsubishi built aircraft had the solid red style in all positions. Two were located on the side of the fuselage, while each wing panel (upper and lower) had them. Four were present on the wings.

Nakajima built aircraft had the white ringed Hinomaru on the fuselage only. The ones used on the Nakajima wings were solid red, just like the ones used on the Mitsubishi planes. This was reportedly done to assist with maintenance. According to some, there was an occasional "problem" with the interchangeability between parts on the Mitsubishi and Nakajima Zero's. This was reportedly resolved quickly.

So the Nakajima Zero's had the white ring on the fuselage Hinomaru, while the Mitsubishi did not.

This one is a Mitsubishi built A6M-2, based on the fuselage markings.

While these are Nakajima built machines, based on the same information.

In the next installment, I will delve into the differences between Mitsubishi and Nakajima cockpit colors, and the exterior paints that were used on each type... along with the associated color chips.

To be continued... depending on the attention this article receives.

I have a lot more color chips to show... 🙂

Enjoy !

as always,
Comments are encouraged.

Reader reactions:
77  Awesome

2 additional images. Click to enlarge.

33 responses

  1. All very interesting and thanks, Louis.

    There are a couple of "shortcuts" you can use, paint-wise, and identifying the manufacturer.

    The Mitsubishi A6M2s were all painted gloss, and this stood up well to a saltwater environment aboard the carriers. Nakajima A6m2s were also gloss, but as with everything else between the two companies, it wasn't quite the same color (though most of the Color Sen-Sei say it's close enough not to worry). Tamiya released a very nice paint in the correct shade when they released their 1/32 A6M2 back in 2004.

    Tamiya's original "IJN Green" is actually the Nakajima color, which is a blue-base green. When they released the gray-green color, they also released "IJN Green 2" which is "Mitsubishi Green," a more green, yellow-base color. Their original "IJN Grey" is the Nakajima grey that was used on their A6M2s and in camouflaged airplanes. So far as I know, there isn't a "Mitsubishi Grey," and I have wondered if they didn't just continue using their original grey-green color.

    Tamiya's "Cockpit Green" is "Mitsubishi interior green", you can use it on A6Ms and A5Ms. (You can also use it for British interior grey-green, it's close enough) Nakjima's cockpit color was as close as you can get to US "Interior Green" without being that exact color. Mitsubishi cockpits were overall their color, while Nakajima had things like the throttle quadrant and radio "black boxes" in gloss black. In both cases, the instrument panels were the interior color, not black.

    When you get to camouflaged A6M5s, it's easy to tell which is which: a Nakajima airplane has the rear fuselage color demarcation as a curving line from the trailing edge of the wing to the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer, while a Mitsubishi airplane has a straight line demarcation from the trailing edge of the wing to the tip of the fuselage, that passes under the horizontal stabilizer.

    So, if you use Tamiya paints, there's the easy way to do it. If you use oil-base enamel, I suggest Xtracolor paints, which are well-researched and accurate colors. The Xtracrylix line is similar.

    Looking forward to more of this stuff, Louis. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Tom @tcinla

      for the very detailed response. The majority of the information you talked about in your reply will be discussed in the next installment.

      I would like to use some of the restored Zero cockpit pictures you posted a while ago in the next "episode".

      Thanks again.

  2. now where's that tamiya deck tan

  3. Great article I rather a thorough compilation of information otherwise found piecemeal in various sources, the most relevant the ones you provide Louis. I’ve recently bought a couple of the new Air Real Colours from AK planning to use them in a couple of kits, the first one being Hasegawa A6M2. They look to be accurate, some very similar to the old Aeromaster Warbird hues, which I always used and liked. Also thanks for giving me some peace of mind about the amount of weathering these early Zeros had, especially the engine covers 😉 Thumbs up for a true public service with this article Louis!

    • Hey Pedro @holzhamer

      Thanks for the compliments. Like you I was finding stuff in various places. The two links I provided to J.aircraft and Aviation of Japan have been the best resources so far.

      Please let us know how you like those AK colors... sounds interesting. I had always read good things about the old Aeromaster Warbird colors, I think they were among the first to make a Nakajima and a Mitsubishi green.

      Who knows ? Maybe we can start posting up some more Japanese aircraft builds or even start some more "in progress" journals. That would be nice... 🙂

      Thanks again 🙂

  4. The acid test of any post like this is, “does it make me want to build something?” - this is a resounding “yes” - I just want to make anything Japanese. Really gets you thinking about it in a way that gets under the skin. Especially so with the metallic greeny blues. Beautiful.

    Thanks, Louis.


    • Hello David ! @dirtylittlefokker

      It's always great to hear from you. I am very pleased that this article has inspired you ! It has been very well received, so I will be continuing the series.

      For many years to Aotake blues and greens have always captured my imagination... There's something about it that draws you to it. Maybe because it's not your typical finish ? Could be.

      I have several Japanese planes that I want to get going on... A certain 1/32 Hasegawa Ki-61 in Bare Metal Foil has been calling me... as have several of the smaller 1/48 Ki-43 Oscars... Then there's the Ki-45 and Ki-46's that have been inching closer to the work bench...

      We might just have to start a future "Group Build"...

      Thanks again ! and Happy Easter.

      • Oh, yes. We haven’t had a Japanese themed group build in iModeler...just saying.

        You can see by the comments pouring in from the great and good of iModeler that this thread has really hit a nerve. Did I mention we haven’t had a Japanese Group Build?

        Anyway, yep - having a very, very relaxed Easter. As you can see, below...

        I have to say, that first photo you posted of the Zero is a gorgeous image, I’ve just pinched it for a screen saver. Hey, have we really NEVER had a Japanese themed group build?

        • I think this article has hit a nerve indeed... and that's a good thing. What do you mean David ? @dirtylittlefokker

          We haven't had a Japanese themed Group Build ?

          Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. We might just have to take another look at the idea. 🙂 Sometime later once the others wrap up.

          Really ? A Japanese Group Build ? You don't say ... 🙂

          What a marvelous idea...

          Why don't we do a Japanese Group build ?

          Lot's of Aotake here... at least on the inside.

          That looks like a great book you're reading...

          Enjoy what's left of the weekend my friend. Food for thought, and maybe another screen saver ?

          Hey ...what about a Japanese aircraft Group build ?

          Brilliant !

          • A Japanese themed GB? Really...that dog’ll hunt.

            Thanks for the images and yes, I noted that all the photos are of worn out or wrecked know me too well, Louis!

            We really need a Japanese Group Build, don’t you think? @yellow10 is in, I’m in, and by the looks of it, about half of iModeler would jump at this. If only some veteran iModeler with the modeling skills, organisational abilities, and who isn’t otherwise engaged in a GB, would propose the idea...

            Anyway, I am going to do some actual modeling in the next few days. The ‘Indy’ book is amazing, prep work for the ‘speed build’ (two weeks, start to finish) Trumpeter 1/350 Indianapolis I’ll be doing next month. Can’t wait.

            Mmmm. Now, where’s that Tamiya Zero...

  5. With each Japanese build, I learn something new. From the first Tam Zeroes, Raiden and Ki-84 Frank that I had built using what was known back in the early 90's, I went with the instructions called out for back then. As the years went by more information came to light as details emerged with research, found wreckage and preserved items that some civilians had in their homes. Still as research continues seems like something new is discovered. This Louis will help a great deal and hopefully encourage more Japanese aircraft builds. There are so many lesser known yet important aircraft used by the Japanese Navy and Air Force. The Myrts, the Graces and even Emily's will benefit. Now someone needs to produce a 48th scale Nell...

    • Agree, a Nell is long overdue in 1/48

      • gentlemen,



        You know I would definitely grab up a few of them should one of the main stream companies decide to make one. Hasegawa has it in 1/72 scale, but I don't build in that scale anymore... Ye Olde Eyes keep me from that !

        I would LOVE to see a 1/48 "Nell".

        It has been on my wish list of kits for many years... The new Fine Molds 1/48 scale Mitsubishi Ki-21 looks pretty good. I can see one of those in the collection soon.

        • Hey there Chuck, @uscusn
          I have learned so much during my past few Japanese builds. Each time I start doing research on another type of plane, I always find something new. I really enjoy doing this, as much as the building itself. I guess it's the thrill of the chase...

          The internet has been a tremendous help. It's like a huge library but with a lot more books.

          This is evolving into a science, sort of "Aviation Archaeology" if you will. Many "1 to 1 scale" restoration facilities are now striving to make their full sized aircraft rebuilds as authentic as possible. So besides it being just us model builders, there are others out there working towards the same goals.

          Like you I hope this will encourage more Japanese aircraft builds. Maybe even some of the lesser types as you mentioned. I picked up a Hasegawa E8N-1 float plane a few year ago when they first released it on the market... until then I never heard of the type. Not only is it a float, it's also a biplane.

          Bring on that 1/48 "Nell" ... 🙂 Sign me up for a few of them. They would look great sitting next to a G4M Betty in the display case.

          I also liked your idea about gathering information on model paints for Japanese aircraft. This could end up evolving into something much more significant...

          Great idea my friend !

          Happy Easter... 🙂

  6. This is a great post. I, for one, hope you post another!

  7. This is outstanding stuff Louis! As Pedro says a total public service - I will benefit fairly rapidly as I have 4 Japanese planes going through the prep stages as we speak! Thanks so much! That aside it is just plain brilliant reference material.

    I wonder if it is worth starting a group page even if you are the only one to post initially, just to keep the successive posts really well 'at hand'. Of course, I really believe you should continue with this fantastic venture if you have the motivation and time to commit! Others who might want to take on similar expert research efforts could add threads later? As far as I can see there has been nothing done like it here on iM?

    • Paul @yellow10

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I am impressed with having 4 Japanese builds going at the same time ! Sounds a bit like the "Iron Werks" style of building. Good for you ... 🙂

      I will be continuing on with this series. That's an interesting idea about starting a Group Page. This is something to consider. I'll talk with Martin and his staff about this to see what they have to say about it.

      I will have all of these articles linked together at the bottom of the page as part of a series, just as I did with the multiple Spitfire builds that were recently completed.

      Who knows ? Maybe after the current Group Builds have been finalized, maybe we could start up another one dedicated to Japanese aircraft ... I have a bunch of kits in mind as future builds. I have been eyeing my 1/48 scale Ki-43's. I have an older Nichimo and about 4 of the Hasegawa "Oscars".

      I'll give you a quick guess as to which aircraft will be the subject of the next "Color" series once I have completed the A6M's... it rhymes with "Oscar"... 🙂 oops the cat's out of the bag now...

      Please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks again my friend and hope you had a Happy Easter.

  8. Hello everyone,

    Here's wishing that we all have a safe and happy Easter holiday weekend.

    Judging by the tremendous response, I will be continuing this series.

    There has been a little "behind the scenes" work going on, so that we can bring you even more info and pictures on the subject of Japanese aircraft. This could be expanding into an even larger idea, to include other things like specific model paint colors that are available for Japanese planes.

    There has even been talk about a "possible" future Group Build for Japanese aircraft. Time will tell...

    I will be corresponding with Martin and his staff, to get his blessing and thoughts for these additional ideas. This could end up being larger than I ever originally planned.

    I will start working on the next installment for the A6M Zero.

    Once it is finished, I will start posting about the Ki-43 Oscar next...

    Thank you very much for the wonderful response, and please stay tuned for another article.

    Take care,

  9. Top notch information , Louis !
    We modelers have come a long way thanks to researchers such as you.
    I still think the old Aurora box top Zero is eye catching though. I’ve thought of building my Hasegawa Zero with this paint scheme, just for old times sakes.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

    • Hello Jay, @SSgt

      We have really come a long way... Your Aurora Zero box art is a prime example. I remember building my Aurora FW-190 as a kid. It had an all "Black" plane with a solid "Yellow" nose going from memory. So I went online and found a picture of the box art from my old kit...

      I say build your Zero any way you want to ... it's yours so what ever floats your boat. Just have some fun doing it.

      I didn't physically do the research for the articles. All I did was gather it together from my notes over the past few years. Those guys who did the research deserve the credit.

      Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

  10. Another great post Louis
    From a readers point of view and someone not that familiar with Japanese aircraft, nice to be able to take advantage of all that research you have accumulated over the years.
    Thanks particularly for the Aotake explanation - fascinating - did not know that.
    Nice focus on the Zero/single aircraft idea too - eliminates many of the rabbit holes for us newcomers to the field to get lost in.
    Looking forward to the next installment !

    • Thanks David, @davem

      I sincerely appreciate the compliment. The Aotake could have been any various shades of green, blue, or even yellow ! It was used as a preservative, and was actually better than the zinc chromate used by the Allies as far as the protection properties went.

      I remember reading about when these aircraft restorers were searching the jungles of Asia and the Pacific Islands during the late 1960's and 1970's.

      They said something that sounded a little like this:

      "When we came across an old derelict airframe, and if it was still mostly intact, it was Japanese. The American planes simply crumbled away over time. The coating material used by the Japanese was superior to our own means."

      There are a lot of "Rabbit Holes" to watch out for... Please stay tuned for a future article "Part 2" on the Zero colors. I think it was a good choice to stay focused on a single type with each installment. This subject can be very confusing... it still is for me on occasion too.

      Thanks again !

  11. Good stuff Louis. Like you I bounce between the two sites looking for info and now with your help its in one location. Is there a place on this site site strictly for reference material? It would be great to have everything you post in the same thread if possible. On the subject of paints, it would be nice to see Tamiya modernize their colours. I sent them an email a few months ago about this and their reply was they are always upgrading and adding new colours but so far I have only seen the three new(?) RAF colours for Day Fighters

  12. Great article Louis,

    I'm awating delivery of the Tamiya 1/32 A6M2 atm and doing research for this build.

    But I'm a little confused now, I follow you completely for interior colours and wheel wells, but you mention amber grey for exterior.

    I'll be doing a Mitsubishi aircraft and was going to use Tamiya LP-33 Greygreen (IJN) XF-76 lacquer equivelent, or should I go with the light grey (IJN) LP-32 XF-75?

    Depending on lighting in various images I've seen the colour varies from a cream grey to a green gray, Tom Cleaver wondered if Mitsubishi continued using greengrey, checked once knowing the red/ white fuselage rising sun was Nakajima built and still see diffent coloured aircraft. Research can be a mine field to interpret. I bow to people like you who make sensible conclusions from all this info

    You said you want to cover this more in your second article, I'll wait patiently for it.

    • Hello Keith, @keithwaterhouse

      To the best of my knowledge, Nakajima didn't use the same colors on the exterior that Mitsubishi did.

      The main differences between these two companies as far as painting was concerned were as follows:

      1. Main landing gear wheel wells painted in exterior color Mitsubishi
        Nakajima used the translucent "Aotake" blue / green

      2. Cockpit colors were different between Mitsubishi and Nakajima.

      This was depending on the production time frame as to when the individual airframes were produced. It could have had a slight difference in the shade, but the individual colors used by the manufacturers remained fairly consistent.

      It also depends on what author you believe, and which Zero relic, (and to some extent what color chip book) was used to determine as a match to the "closest equivalent".

      I'm not trying to knock the person that you specifically mentioned, (as he is very knowledgeable), but I would definitely look for a second opinion on what he says and claims to be gospel truth. On more than one occasion he has been proven wrong, by other persons and not only me, yet continues on making these "incorrect" statements. In his defense, this can be very confusing subject, and the material is constantly evolving as new discoveries have been made.

      Please keep in mind that there are a lot of variables that can affect how a given color looks at a given time. Things such as lighting, and even how the color looks on different computer monitors will be different. The final thing is that even people can interpret how a color looks. One person may think a specific color looks more green, while another may think it's more blue as a hypothetical example.

      Mitsubishi used a cockpit color very close to the US equivalent of "Interior Green: FS 34151. A6M2 s/n 3277 (manufactured in July 1941) flown by Iida that was shot down at Pearl Harbor, was given a close match to FS4095. I left the first number off intentionally, as this refers to the gloss or lack of.
      The Planes of Fame A6M5 s/n 4400 (manufactured in December 1943) was given a color value of FS

      So you can see how the colors can be interpreted differently, and may indeed be different due to the paint being supplied during different times.

      Nakajima used a different cockpit color from Mitsubishi, and this color also changed between the various models of the A6M, such as A6M-2 versus an A6M-5.
      Nakajima built A6M2 s/n 646 (manufactured in February 1942, had a cockpit color close to FS 4095... and 4096. These are two different shades of green.

      The Blayd collection Zero also has a number of similar dated Nakajima cockpit interior components with a paint finish matching FS 4098... yet another interior green color.

      An A6M5 captured on Saipan (s/n 2183, manufactured in early April 1944) and examined by Douglas Aircraft, was described as having its cockpit interior painted “with a yellow-green primer similar in appearance to the zinc-chromate primer used in American airplanes.” Zinc-chromate was either yellow (FS 3481) or green (FS 4227). The former could be a variation of FS4255 while the latter has similarities to FS 4373. The reference is most likely to the yellow shade of zinc-chromate, as the green shade has no yellow in it at all. Possibly what was described was an oxidized variation of FS *4255.

      Then there was a visible difference between a Mitsubishi and Nakajima built Zero, on how the demarcation line between the camouflage colors on the side of the plane was painted.

      The last thing from the top of my head was the difference between the white outline on the fuselage Hinomaru of Nakajima built machines, while Mitsubishi had no such white outline. This was done as a "quick" identification guide, since in the early stages of Zero production, some parts were not 100 percent interchangeable between Mitsubishi and Nakajima plane... Crazy stuff !

      Now you can see why this is such a minefield of color information. I didn't go into all of the details on the various cockpit colors. This is not even half of it... believe me on that.

      As far as the other part of your question about the "Amber Gray" color...
      The closest US equivalent FS 595b comparison is FS16350, but this color is too dark. Another close choice would be FS *4201, but neither of these two color shades have the slightly greenish tint...

      There are two websites in particular that I would highly recommend you take a look at. They are and

      I do plan on writing a few more of these articles in the future. Please stay tuned, and please don't hesitate to send me a PM if you have any other questions. I'll try to steer you in the right direction if I don't know the correct answer, and I will not lead you astray with rubbish.

      Thanks for the interest in the subject, and I'll be looking forward to seeing your A6M when it gets underway.

  13. Louis,

    Thank you for your reply. My usual goto paints are Hataka lacquers (say that aloud, sounds funny(orange range)) and Tamiya lacquers and acrylics, but they don't do a IJN J3 amber grey.
    On my search I have found a mix for this using XF range, but I'm not a fan of mixes.

    But AK do a IJN WW2 set that includes an amber grey as well as the Blue black for cowl and both interior colours. Never used these paints before and not of fan of acrylics bacause of airbrush blockages. Though I believe they can be diluted with Mr Color levelling thinners for lacquers which doesn't then clog AB, this also works well with Tamiya acrylics (I believe any acrylic with a Flammable symbol on it, not pure acrylic usually with an IPA type thinner)

    My kit I've pre ordered from PM stores in UK, a project Phil Flory, Flory Models is a partner in.
    These kits are dispatched from Japan in box of 6 kits, 6 people now want 1 so we are waiting on delivery, as soon as I start building I'll open a WIP thread and show its build. Welcoming any imput you give 🙂

    I like to do research before starting any work on a kit and I have found your information very helpful and this site will be my main goto source for info for this build


    • Hello again Keith, @keithwaterhouse

      Nick Millman has done a lot of computer based color chips research that shows various Japanese colors in a fairly realistic manner if you have your display monitor set up properly... Here's a few pictures that he posted on his website Aircraft of Japan. This is one of his photos, and he shows a nice comparison. Notice the green tint... It was listed for Mitsubishi built A6M's. The nice thing about his color chip renderings, is that he also includes the actual airframe number, (or fuselage code if the airframe serial number isn't known), and type of aircraft that was used to obtain the color reference. To top things off, Nick also uses the Munsel color system numbers in his matches.

      I have corresponded with Nick on various occasions, and he is a genuine stand up straight shooting guy. He posted an article on his website showing the 1/48 scale Tamiya Ki-61 "Hien" that I built earlier this year.

      The "Munsel" system is much more accurate when trying to get a good color match sample, since it's not based on a "Post War" color chip book that was originally designed for use on US subjects only.

      This next picture is also one of Nick's. This one shows the Nakajima A6M exterior colors. Notice how they are more of an ashen gray color, and not quite as green as the Mitsubishi built planes.

      I fairly certain that you will most likely end up having to make your own custom blend to get anything that looks similar...

      As far as the actual "Blue Black" color that was used on the cowling, believe it or not, the US Navy "Dark Sea Blue" is a very close match ! FS 15042 - 35042. Once it started fading, it turned more of a gunship gray color similar to FS 36118. I posted some decent color chips showing this in the article above.

      Hope this helps, and I am very pleased to hear the information in the article I posted is working for you. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions, and again I can't speak too highly of the two websites I mentioned in my last reply. You can literally spend days over there doing some research. These guys here really know what they are talking about...

  14. Thanks again for your reply Louis,

    I tried ordering Nick's book, my UK outlet is out of stock 🙁

    On Britmodeller site I found he's a member (though inactive atm). AK IJN J3 SP and J3 he described as acceptable for Mitsubishi A6M2's the Darker greens not so, but won't be using them.

    Using the colour chips you've posted, I can pre shade, bleach and wash to give a good match to these (samples 3&4). I think these meet the description of a warm candy colour I've heard J3 SP described as and it appears lighter than the FS6350 4201 which you described as close but darker.

    To give my model a realist carrier based look I will end up Gloss clearing and that will shift colours a lot (making them look darker) though I may satin/ semi gloss, jury's out on that 🙂

    I will ofc be purchasing Nick's book as soon as Hannants have stock.

    A side note on paint mix variation, I had a bottle of Hataka C-041 night black FS37038 and I loved the not quite black of this paint (I don't use true black or white). I ordered a replacement bottle and not happy, its a very dark blue and barely looks black. If with todays technology we can't duplicate the same colour, I'm certain there would have been greater variance in WW2 especially considering Japan's shortage of oil?

  15. Since my last comment I have purchased both Combat Colours n#9 Zero (£16) and Painting the Early Zero Sen.pdf (£15 paypay payment to Nick Millman).

    Both are excellent reference material and they concur with the information you posted with this article. Though you do it a more condensed and easier to read format, with excellent paint options and details on weathering. You said at start of article to look for second opinions on your statements, saying things change as more info found. Even Nick's two documents have differences in them, one being an earlier release and newer info in later document

    If anyone is interested in the Painting the Early Zero Sen.pdf Send him an email requesting details to:-

    [email protected]

    He replied to my request within a few hours and I recieved the registered to me .pdf within a few hours from paying for it, also came with a Yellow Orange Enigma .pdf (for Japanese trainers and prototypes).

    • Hello Keith, @keithwaterhouse
      Thanks for sharing this bit of information with us. This is great to know that you can purchase Nick’s books this manner.

      I have corresponded with him on several occasions, and he is a great person. There are some who claim to “Know” a lot about the Japanese colors, and then there are people like Nick, who really do know what they are talking about. He has spent a lot of his time doing research and it shows with his work………………..

      Thanks again, and I am very happy to hear this.

  16. As i have just gotten back to modelling i find this article and the comments both very interesting and helpful, a massive thank you to everyone!

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