Alliance Coatings Inc. is proud to present a new section dedicated to the restoration and preservation of US Military Warbirds. We understand the quest for period type coatings and colors that the restoration shops strive for.
Understanding colors and what colors were used for what area or part can be daunting. We have tried to simplify this as follows: Flat or lusterless colors are generally found on the exterior of an aircraft. Semi gloss colors could be used for identification markings. Full gloss colors were used on insignia flags.
NOTE: Color is only a representation, due to the differences in computer monitors and calibration; these on-line colors are for reference only!
The following colors represent colors found on aircraft operated by the US Army during a 33 year period leading up to Americas entry into WWII.
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A two digit specification number was utilized in 1919 by the US Navy, by 1922 the Marine Corps had also adopted the system. In 1933 the US Navy developed the Navy Standard Aircraft Color Card, this system was developed to replace wet samples.
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In 1943 the Navy utilized ANA Bulletins that included gloss and lusterless colors. Later in 1943 a revised color system incorporated a 3 digit number within that ANA.
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In 1950 the government created the TT-C-595 as a Federal Specification to consolidate the numerous color numbers used by all the government agencies, this today is the Federal Standard 595C. This system utilizes a 5 digit numbering system to identify its color and gloss level.
1st digit represents Gloss level: 1= Gloss 2= Semi Gloss 3= Lusterless (Flat)
2nd digit represents Color Group 0= Brown 1= Red 2= Orange 3= Yellow 4= Green 5= Blue 6= Gray 7= Other 8= Fluorescent
The remaining figures (third to fifth) combined into a number indicate the intensity. Lower value indicates a darker color, higher value - a lighter color, with no other significance. The numbers have been assigned with gaps to allow addition of new colors. Fed-Std-595 is a color collection, not a complete color system, and this has the following implications:
The existence of a color chip 1xxxx in the Fed-Stan 595 doesn't imply that there is a color chip for 3xxxx. However, references to such "virtual" chips built on the principle "same color, but different sheen" is a widespread practice.
The Fed-Stan in not extensible, i.e. it does not allow to derive new colors form the existing ones. Thus, if you compare i.e. RLM colors to Fed-Stan codes, you can only refer to the nearest existing Fed-Stan color, which most often isn't a perfect match. In practice, the Fed-Stan set is extensive enough to find a good-enough match for almost any color.
Back in the 1940s as well as in the paint industry of today, the term Zinc Chromate does not refer to a paint color, but rather a protective coating.
Zinc Chromate is a corrosion resistant agent that is added to certain coatings. Even today, chromate finishes including Zinc Chromate provide superior corrosion resistance. Additionally, Zinc Chromate is highly toxic thus protecting the surface from proliferation of organic matter.
In the aircraft industry of the 1940s, Zinc Chromate was used as an anti-corrosive barrier primer; it could be described as a sort of painted-on galvanizing. It has been developed by Ford Motor Company by the late 1920s, subsequently adopted in commercial aviation and later by the US Military. Official USAAC notes mention successful application of Zinc Chromate primer starting from 1933, but it has not been adopted as standard until 1936.
Because Zinc Chromate is all about corrosion protection, the precise coloring of it is and has not been considered as important as the chemical composition. In the official notes of the period, the name Zinc Chromate is often accompanied by the name of particular manufacturer, thus mentioning Ford Zinc Chromate, DuPont Zinc Chromate or Berry Brothers Zinc Chromate. This means that the actual color of Zinc Chromate coating may have varied from batch to batch or manufacturer to manufacturer without it being viewed as an issue.
The 'native' tone of zinc chromate crystalline salt is a bright greenish-yellow. When put into a vehicle with binders to make paint, this color would be the raw result.
Such raw Zinc Chromate primer would also give a semi-translucent coating, not very opaque like a pigmented paint or lacquer. This property becomes especially interesting when we consider that aircraft factory instructions often called for just one protective coat of primer. As a consequence, the color of the underlying surface might have a significant effect on the final appearance. For example, raw Zinc Chromate applied on the white background would look yellow, while applied to bare metal aluminum it would look more like apple green.
So what does all this mean? Perhaps no more than there hasn't ever been any specification in the industry for a Zinc Chromate color. This in turn caused alternative designations to pop up in the literature that attempted to describe the color value of the Zinc Chromate finish - Zinc Chromate Yellow and Zinc Chromate Green being the prime examples.
In US aircraft use in the 1930s to 1940s, the Zinc Chromate primer was frequently used in the raw mixture yellow tone. This is sometimes referred to as Zinc Chromate Yellow. Like stated above, there is no definitive color pattern as this may have varied between manufacturers and batches of these primers.
In the immediate pre-war and early war period, the raw yellow Zinc Chromate primer seems to have been dominating.
Sometimes, Zinc Chromate was mixed with Lamp Black paste to give a bit more UV resistance (Zinc Chromate is very sensitive to photolitic reactions) and more durability in high wear areas.
Mixing with black gave greener tones, which, depending on the amount of black added could run from apple greens to medium olive greens.
There were many variations in Zinc Chromate Green. Originally, manufacturers were expected to mix raw Zinc Chromate, black enamel and aluminum paste or powder. Several blacks and grays could substitute for the black enamel, and a shortage of aluminum powder/paste caused a reformulation without it in 1942.
Some aircraft manufacturers ordered pre-mixed Zinc Chromate Green (Curtiss Cockpit Green, ordered from Berry Brothers, being an example of this).
There is evidence that such variety of shades occurred in the manufacturing practice of US aircraft factories. Where sufficient color evidence is available, it is possible to find all three colors used on the same aircraft - for example, the yellowish raw color in the wheel wells, the apple green tones in the gun bays, and the darker green in the cockpit.