Individual visible spectrum camouflage

Here's a summary of what I think I understood about individual (and exclusively regarding the human visible spectrum) camouflage so far:

Personal observation:
  • I suck at spotting camouflaged persons at any reasonable distance. I really, really do.
  • Maybe that's why I respect the effect of camouflage as much as I do.
Just in case someone trusts the competence of bureaucracies to procure the best possible camo.

About camouflage patterns (excluding snow camo):
  • micropatterns matter only at short distances
  • macropatterns are important for breaking up recognisable silhouettes at longer distances (30+ m)
  • digital camo was a 2000's fashion and is a way of combining a micropattern with a macropattern. That was done in Flecktarn earlier and without the digital style, though
  • the longer the distances and the poorer the light, the less do the colours matter and the more do brightness contrasts matter to keep up contrast in the pattern (there's a limit, though)
  • that's why black makes sense in camouflage patterns even though there's not much black in nature. Another reason for black in patterns is that it's quite the same as shadows, and those are plenty in nature.
  • white or very light yellow or very light brown colours may serve to maximise the contrast by adding a light colour instead of black
  • colours get washed out over time and much contrast is then lost
  • soaked wet clothes are darker and lose contrast compared to dry ones (though impregnation should keep good clothes from becoming that wet)
  • all camo patterns can be turned into the irregular "mud camo" pattern in almost no time 
  • the former point applies especially to pattern-camouflaged boots
  • at very long ranges almost everything that matters is whether you have approximately the same brightness as your background (example Yehudi lights) (this issue is the aforementioned limit)
  • any coloured clothes - even pink ones - can be turned much less conspicuous by adding a dense black net
  • camouflage patterns get disrupted a lot by gear, and often times the gear destroys the macro pattern effect or even creates easily recognisable new outlines (especially when the gear such as a chest rig uses a different camouflage pattern or is unicolour). Such extra gear may also create shadows (especially next to pouches) that greatly alter the appearance
  • good camouflage patterns discourage the use of additional camouflage measures on the pattern-covered areas
  • all camo patterns appear to be realised as tiles, though in theory one could use fractal algorithms etc to create boundless patterns that are functional on very large areas without repeating tiles
  • camouflage patterns were used as means of identifying friend or foe in infantry battles when most camouflage clothing was still unicolour; it's often claimed that this inhibited the adoption of camo patterns by the Western Allies in Europe
  • old Warsaw Pact-style stripe camo patterns (which can be created easily with household utensils) appear to have fallen out of use
  • plants in nature often have a vertical structure (though branches are often horizontal) - this makes horizontally-dominated pattern such as the well-known tiger stripe pattern questionable
  • the earliest land warfare camouflage pattern was probably the fairly standardised style (or fashion) of painting Stahlhelme, guns and motor vehicles in WW1
  • the first mass-produced camouflage pattern was afaik Heeres-Splittermuster 31, but it was used for tent tarps (Zeltbahn 31) rather than clothing. The triangle tarp was also used as a kind of poncho and for much else, though
  • military camouflage is abstract, while civilian hunting camouflage may be photorealistic (example Realtree patterns)
  • for reasons utterly unknown to me I don't know of a single serious attempt to mimic the evolution-optimised camouflage of stalking predators of the relevant geographic region (such as lynx, wild cat) in military camouflage tests or even mass-produced products
  • sometimes new camo patterns were created and introduced into armed services simply because the bureaucracy didn't want to pay the license fee for an existing (usually extremely similar) pattern (see OCP)
  • there are fun camo patterns  
  • some camo patterns got excused for their ineffectiveness at camouflaging anyone by pointing out how well they hide stains  instead of their wearer (this applies especially to proprietary air force and navy patterns)
  • camo patterns are often selected for utterly nonsensical reasons (see the Chinese marines' "smurf" camo or UCP) instead of effectiveness. Sometimes camo patterns are introduced to break uniformity; different armed services insist on different patterns  for different branding/identity, or "special forces" get their own camo to feel better than regular army

About non-pattern individual camouflage:
  • face paint draws most of its effect from messing with face detection; Europeans expect darkness above or around eyes, and lips darker than the skin. Hence we should have the normally light-coloured skin areas darker than the ordinarily darker face areas after the application of camo paint
  • helmets have an easily recognisable shape, thus it has to be changed by scrims, foliage or Mitznefet-like camo
  • leaf camouflage may have much camouflage effect at short ranges akin to micropatterns
  • face masks/balaclavas are incredibly effective if they have a decent pattern, but maintaining a full field of view is more important than face camouflage maximisation (for general infantry - it's debatable for snipers)
  • partial concealment greatly enhances almost any camouflage because it breaks up the silhouette
  • ghillie suits are a fire hazard if not treated chemically, may be quite hot (insulation by boundary layer effect), may obstruct access to carried equipment and are quite impractical in general use - ghillies can be fascinatingly effective camo when the featured colours were tailored to the area, though
  • often times unicolour (black, brown or light brown) boots, weapons, gloves or knee protectors ruin the effect of camouflage patterns
  • externally carried large munitions (such as anti-tank rounds) may have a disastrous effect on camouflage quality as well
  • the oldest camo clothes in Europe were unicolour (often greyish or greenish), and the Bundeswehr kept using such an approach into the 90's. Unicolour is still in much use for non-clothes infantry gear (chest rigs, pouches, gun slings, guns, large munitions, night vision goggles mounts on helmets). Coyote brown appears to be a fashionable choice for this, though matte black and dark green tones are also in very widespread use.

This may be debatable:

My personal favourite from a purely aesthetic point of view is Realtree xtra. This one looks perfectly compatible with civilian life in Germany (on a t-shirt), year round. It was seemingly designed to have a camouflage effect up close (the similar Realtree Edge pattern is supposed to have a macro pattern effect).
the Realtree xtra tile
As a personal insight I came to the conclusion that a brownish pattern should work best as an all-seasons pattern in Central and NE Europe. Brown is not out of place anywhere where one might reasonably try to remain undetected by camouflage (that is, not in the midst of green grass, for example). It's even very inconspicuous in many urban areas. Brown works even where most background is green because it's still not terribly unrealistic/out of place and works especially fine with partial concealment. Green by contrast is quite out of place in many urban, suburban and rural environments for at least half of the year (except again on the rather irrelevant grass areas). Brown isn't very good at providing contrast, though. An addition of a little sand-like yellow and some black (dark brown might lose too much when washed out) may be necessary. A little - actually very little as in xtra- green could be added as well.
Interestingly, this comes close to some brown-dominated hunting camos as the one shown above.

I consider the velcro patch areas way too generously large on many current field jackets, especially on those meant for civilian buyers. Patches and stuff should be worn on office clothes or ceremonial clothes, not on camouflage/field clothing. Medics are exempted, of course.

I never really figured out what's the idea behind the Kryptek style of camo patterns. It's supposedly micro/macro with a (warped) net effect, but I simply don't see enough contrast for real macro camouflage effect in most of the patterns ("altitude" is an exception).

Infantrymen and scouts should be kept dissatisfied with their camo pattern, to keep them motivated to adapt to the terrain with improvised (additional) camouflage.

There are too many pseudo-tacticool fake camo patterns in civilian clothing fashion in my opinion.

Last but not least; an obligatory video on the camouflage topic:



P.S.: Just to be super-accurate: The first (famous) photo may be a bit untrue to the real situation. The UCP camo looks too blueish. UCP was a disaster nevertheless, and just about everybody was able to see it for what it was from the beginning.

edit few days later: I'd like to add that we need a different approach regarding macropatterns with arms, worn accessories, AT munitions and guns than in the pattern tiles for  torso, legs, tarps and rucksacks. Those are large areas, but the often narrow and long guns, light AT munitions and even arms cannot really make use of the tile macropatterns - darker or lighter becomes random on those. We should thus have a separate pattern with identical colour palette for such items - and it should provide a dark-light-dark-light-dark-light sequence along the narrow item to break its silhouette up.So any camouflage pattern should actually have two tiles - one for large surfaces and one for narrow surfaces (the latter would need to be used with an approximately correct orientation).



  1. I think you should cover improvised and on the spot camouflage.

    For example, positioning is very important. You don't want a spot that highlights your silhouette. Examples being the top of hills or crests. The next issue is the shadow created by your hiding spot, since you need a good field of view. This is solved with sniper veils. They hide the "hole" and allow good vision out.

    In the Norwegian army, branches, grass and local foliage are usually attached over the uniform, to break up the silhouette.

    1. Well, I mentioned improvised camo, but by its very nature there's little that can be said. It depends too much on the environment.

      And positioning (as well as exploiting microterain for concealment) belongs to fieldcraft, but not to camouflage as far as I know.

  2. Solution dyed ranger green (more brownish-grey than green) is also a good monochrome camouflage.

    Some form of reversible smock is likely the solution to endless varieties of camouflage.

    At some point, thermal and other sensors are just too effective.


  3. I confess I don't know much about the technicalities involved, but screening fro thermal imagers is obviously going to become ever more important as some armies move to general issue of thermal or multi spectrum individual weapon sights.

  4. The reason why military camo (with some few exceptions) does not copy the camo of stalking predators (animals) is, that the human eye detects things (very) differently from the eyes the prey of this animals do. So camo against humans does often not work so well with animals and to the opposite some camo which excells against animals would not work so much with humans.

    For the Brown vs Green Debate: i have long thought the same way and regarded brown the better colour, but in the last years i became more and more convinced that green (grey-green as the ground colour like in the former bw uniform) is better than brown in most enviroments, even in the semi-arid / arid ones (with the exception of deserts, arctic etc of cause). Even in an urban enviroment today there is much green in many cities worldwide. In cities without much green camo is moreover not so relevant for infantry etc because their the houses and the buildings will give you a hide.

    One camo pattern i especially find very superior is most unknown to nearly everybody:


    There is also an special desert / rocks / urban enviroment pattern from the same creator:


    1. U.S. flight suits (grayish green) can absolutely disappear even in the desert.

      Excellent points about human eyesight versus animal eyesight. Humans have much better color vision. Animals tend to have better field of view. Of course many animals perceive different wavelengths of light too.


    2. I know about the different colour perceptions
      but the patterns used by evolutionary optimised animals should still be worthwhile for military testing.

    3. Tigerstipe wouuld be the most known example of such an pattern. And Tiger Stripe, which you critisized works very good in many enviroments.

      Especially if you are lying on the ground or you are crawling, kneeling etc and then this is not longer a horizontally-dominated pattern as you wrote.

      But Tiger Stripe does not work so well in a wide area of different vegetation.

    4. One ad on too animal camo and the green vs brown debate. Of cause the following is now a little bit off topic, because the thread is about visible spectrum camo but, imo you cannot divide the visible spectrum and the invisible spectrum. this would be an very heavy failure.

      And here is the main point: many shades of brown are not good in the invisible spectrum, especilly coyote brown is very bad in comparison to gray-green in the NIR / FLIR etc area.

      So a uniform in a coyote-brown / brown dominated camo pattern, like the MARPAT pattern of the usmc or the Soldier 2000 pattern of south africa or for example the ROOIVALK Pattern of the pakistanis (which is amazingly effective in the visible spectrum in many areas) they are all not very good in the NIR / FLIR etc spectrum. The same for the hunting pattern REALTREE XTRA last dingo showed here.

      So as one can and should not divide the visible and the invisible spectrum, a brown dominated camo uniform is no good and especially coyote brown is very disadvantogous. A uniform dominated by gray-green would be much better.

      Interestingly the russians seem to have recognised that and the new russian standard camo, the EMR Pattern (Tsifra) which is not so superior in the visible spectrum and gray/green dominated is interestingly realy good in the not visible spectrum. The same with the russian version of the YEGER pattern which is a greener variant of the finnish standard camo pattern and of cause especilly the CADPAT pattern, which is highly effective in the visible and in the invisible spectrum.


    5. But as said, all of this have much room for improvement and i agree insofern with last dingo, that a photorealistic print of plants would be superior to an highly abstract pattern and therefore the better camo pattern is imo the best theoretically available pattern (and is used by no one and even not available commercilay at the moment).







      The following picture shows also the importance of black especially in the invisible spectrum, in which camos which are highly efficient in many areas in the visible spectrum are bad in the non visible spectrum, here for example MULTICAM:



      Which is highly used now even by russian and other special forces and is near to useless in the invisible spectrum. The proliferation of such technology to terrorist, guerillas, hybrid enemies etc will make such camo like multicam highly questionable.

      Here some more (of cause not objective but for marketing the usforces pattern) infos about camo:


      And especially about the non visible spectrum:


      To the question why the fur of animals is mainly brown and not green which is often used as an argument for brown camo:

      It is very difficult to produce green fur. That is the simple answer for that. Animals without fur are often gray-green if they need to hide (frogs, lizards and so on) Moreover one the real masters of camouflage amongst the animals, the SLOTH has a gray-green fur. The sloth achieved that in incooperating green alga into its fur wich is gray naturally. The alga grow in the fur without harming the sloth. The resulting gray-green colour is extremly effective in camo and much better than any form of brown.




      It is a kind of natural ghillie. So as written it is not only about green vs brown or about the pattern but also the 3-D effect is especilly important.

    6. My information on NIR and far IR camouflage technology isn't nearly as deep as about visual spectrum, but I believe you make a wrong assumption here:
      NIR/FIR camo is not so much about colours. NIR (780...1,200 nm wavelength) camo in particular is about additives treatments (and whether they were washed out yet).
      Some camo clothes are no good NIR camo because they didn't get the (extra cost) additives, for example camo clothing produced for civilians (incl. hunter camo) and camo produced for 3rd world armies that don't expect much NVG-equipped opposition.

    7. Different colours react very differently in the NIR/FLRI area. So it is not only about additives, but this additives are absolut necessary to make some colours work in this spectrum. The additives are therefore an necessity to compensate for the wrong colours and could be spared if you use the right colours and the right fabric. One could therefore create an camopattern which would work fine in the NIR/FLIR spectrum without such additives (although such additives would help even further).

      And especially disadvantagous in this spectrum is the named coyote brown which without the named additives shines realy in the invisible spectrum.

      Some last point about "black": It must not be black to create the wished effects, but any dark tone and imo a realy dark gray (anthrazit) or dark brown would work even better than true black.

  5. Camouflage is one of those big confusing areas in which it is difficult to spot the key elements.

    There is something about military camouflage which I have never quite understood even if I can see some reasons for it. Why do troops practically always have the same camo pattern for the head/neck area, upper and lower body?

    It may be sophisticated patterns but why not use a lighter brownish variant for pants and a greenish one for the top?

    For closed country like forests and bush those airy 3D Pull-overs in the fashion of the very light Deerhunter Sneaky might be a fine idea. There are several takes on the form and pattern with the Sneaky* being very light and fairly quiet. So far for the visual spectrum. Perhaps two or three per squad could suffice for the 2-3 scout elements moving ahead to keep the weight down. They might be rotated for specific duties.

    A bush rag with a wide hood limited to the the shoulders/upper arms and some overhang over the back might be a more universal piece of equimpent. Perhaps a stronger net with a less complete 3D pattern makes more sense to allow local attachements.


    *I'm using one for deer stalking and crows, in the former case often only the upper piece. For military use letting it flow over the ruck and/or closing it behind the back might make more sense to allow frontal access and cover for the backbag.

    1. Using different patterns on the body can make much sense if you combine the right ones (a question mainly of trial and error). For example actually if often combine Pencott Greenzone with Pencott Badlands in the area i life and the combination of this two patterns together is amazing (in my specific area). Why the military does not do it ? For cost reasons mainly and for stupidity. The same with weapons and boots in black - there is no single reason why they must be black etc

      The same with half-camo-nets, hoods and so on, which increase the camo immense. Are only used in special forces, Long Range Recce etc and even there not so much as one would think.

      I want to give an practical example of an in my thinking ideal camo as a complete system:



      But even some 3 - D Leaves on an camo uniform increase the perfomance of the camo immense. This 3 - D Element is the main thing most military camo misses. It would be extremly simple and cheap to give the soldiers such leaf material so that they can then sew it to their uniform and add it to their other equipment. I mean stuff like that:


      which the soldiers than sew on their uniforms (not too much and primarly in the upper part of the body to not hinder movement etc)

      Add gloves like that:


      and a head-net:


      and nearly every modern camo pattern will become highly effective without hindering movement and heating up etc like an ghillie but nearly as good.

    2. The Sneaky pull-over has indeed a couple of interesting properties.

      In my limited experience it seems to cool you compared to a shirt alone if the sun shines on you.° I made some limited comparisions to confirm this impression today and there is a difference.

      This needs clearly more testing but I guess the thin, partly erected cloth strips weaved into the net work as a whole like a distributed sun shade. Air can easily flow throw the suit and carry away heat.

      With 270g for the upper part alone it is light enough and allows you to carry it with you so that you can wear traditional European hunting clothing while walking about. In the right circumstances you can pull it over in no time.

      The baggy fine mesh* also helps to keep European mosquitos out. Never tested the difference for obvious reasons, maybe I will :)

      In a military context it may have little durability but with stiching one should get good enough service life out of it.


      °Obviously you don't want to be there in the first place but it happens.

      *I'm rather tall and use the biggest available...

    3. I can think of two reasons why troops have the same pattern all over rather than two seperate ones. First one is probably more likely overall: Cost-Benefit. While your average hunter can afford to buy two different patterns (in fact it probably costs him no more to buy two patterns than two items of clothing in one pattern)for a military that needs to worry about paying for intellectual properties and setting up production lines etc the benefit of having a light upper and a dark lower camouflage scheme isn't enough to offset the cost.

      The other one I'd suppose is probably to do with how soldiers operate as opposed to hunters. I'm guessing most Hunters spend a lot of time sitting in Hides or similar upright postures? I suspect the advantage you get from having two different camo patterns is more or less negated when you're doing a lot of work in prone position, leopard crawling, etc.

  6. In the Norwegian army, during the winter, white pants with green jacket is worn. Since in the forest, the ground is white (where your legs are) and the green bushes and branches are at torso height.

    1. The white pants and green jacket combo seems to be by far the most common example of mixing of camoflage clothing. In the Alps it fits surprisingly often as wind and sun make in many occasions quick work of snow on branches and trees.

      Do you have cotton for the oversuits like to oldish German reversibles? Not so noisey but very clammy when they get wet which they will.


  7. How did you learn all of this stuff about camo? I have been trying to learn about camo for a while, but the sources I have found just by googling are awful. The Wikipedia article on it is useless, and I can't find anything else remotely as useful as this blog post by googling. Is the info you got mostly in books and other sources that doesn't directly have to do with camo, hence being unsearchable?

    1. Some people get born as a sponge and soak up knowledge like crazy. Stuff happens when you squeeze a bit.

      Seriously, it's from dozens of sources. Military service, physics, videos, military manuals, online news, some websites about camo patterns, military history books and some own observations.

      You might like camopedia.org

    2. or this