Confusion over RLM colors 81/82/83

Over the past year I have been working on a model of the Dornier Do 335A. The 335 is the unconventional late-war design that used two DB 603 engines with two propellers, one pushing and one pulling. The model will eventually nicely complement my model of the Göppingen Gö 9, the experimental prototype Dornier designed to test the new concept. The project has now progressed to a point where I am painting the airframe. I am building the model to represent the 7th pre-production A-0, Werkenummer 240107. There are plenty of pictures of this aircraft from the time when it was being initially test flown by Dornier; for example [1, pp.74-75].

In the title I used the word “confusion”… I could also have said “frustration”. Here’s why: one of the late-war camouflage schemes used by the Luftwaffe consisted of the RLM colors 81/82/65. Color 65 is easy, it is the darker shade of light blue that Luftwaffe used a lot. The problem is with the definitions of 81 – often called “braunviolett”, sometimes “dunkelgrün” (dark green) – and 82 – called either “dunkelgrün” or “hellgrün” (light green, go figure). When I look at the black-and-white photos of the Do 335, I can hardly see the difference between the two greens, but when I look at the – thoroughly researched – aircraft preserved at the NASM, the greens seem quite garish, almost cartoon-like. And even though not used in Do 335, the color RLM 83 is also called “dunkelgrün” and is almost identical to 81.

In wartime pictures it is very difficult to see that these aircraft carried a two-tone camouflage pattern, so I took one of the pictures I had taken of the NASM Do 335 and turned it black-and-white (see below). Sure enough, the difference now between RLM 81 and RLM 82 is much less pronounced. Assume, in addition, that wartime photos are not of the best quality, I think it is reasonable to think that these colors indeed were 81 and 82, and 82 really is a fairly light (and bright) green.

Considering how much effort many people have put into researching wartime RLM colors, it is quite frustrating how many vastly differing opinions there are. My reference sources include the 1970s Kookaburra set on Luftwaffe colors [2, 3, 5, 6], the popular Monogram guide [7], and the Eagle Editions guide [4]; these come with color chips, the Eagle Editions’ chips are even from Warnecke und Böhm, GmbH, the company that produced paints for the RLM during the war. And yet, confusion prevails… and I am not alone.

I actually painted my model several times, trying out different color options. I have now settled on Mr.Color lacquers 121 and 122, and the results match the NASM photos quite well. The project is still ongoing, I will report more once it is finished.

Update (something I completely forgot when I first published this): Smith et al [3] seemed to think that 83 was the light green color, and 82 was the dark, almost the same as 81. They refer to the 81/82/65 -scheme as “low-contrast”, and claim (about a picture on p.14) that one of the early Do 335 prototypes would have sported this scheme. The NASM research was already known at the time their book was written. Maybe they were confused too…


  1. Dornier 335 Arrow (Smith et al); Monogram Monarch Series 2; Monogram Aviation Publications 1997
  2. Luftwaffe Camouflage & Markings 1935-1945, vol 1 (Merrick); Kookaburra Technical Publications 1973
  3. Luftwaffe Camouflage & Markings 1935-1945, vol 3 (Smith et al); Kookaburra Technical Publications 1977
  4. Luftwaffe Color Chart by Eagle Editions
  5. Luftwaffe Colors Volume 2 1940-43 (Smith & Gallaspy); Monogram Aviation Publications 1976 (US edition of vol 2 of the Kookaburra series)
  6. The Modeller’s Luftwaffe Painting Guide (Smith et al); Kookaburra Technical Publications 1979
  7. Official Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935-1945 (Merrick & Hitchcock); Monogram Aviation Publications 1980

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