A COLOUR COMMUNICATION CONUNDRUM
Scale Aircraft Modelling|March 2022
The attitude of officialdom to colour matching as expressed in BESA Specification 2 D.103 of 1922 appears to have been retained well into the post Second World War era.
Paul Lucas
Evidence for this is provided by Air Publication 2656A entitled 'Internal and External Finish of Aircraft' Volume 1 Section 6 Chapter 3 Colour Standards for Top-Coat Materials, which was issued as part of Amendment List No.29 in September 1947. This can probably be taken as typical of the method by which the colour matching was carried out by the Services during the Second World War and Post War period until at least the 1960s, if not later.

AP 2656A AL.29

Unlike the BESA Standard, AP 2656A AL.29, which was intended for use by the Services, included colour cards for twelve colours that were common to British military aircraft at that time. The colour cards themselves were samples of paint that had been sprayed on to pieces of thick card measuring two and a half by two inches, of which six were stuck on to each of two pages for inclusion in the AP.

The colours on the first page were Medium Sea Grey (S 4010-R90B), Extra Dark Sea Grey (S 7005-R80B), Light Slate Grey (5 6005-G20Y), Dark Earth ( 6020-Y10R), Dark Green (S 7010-G50Y), and Sky (S 2010 G40Y); whilst Yellow (S 1070Y20R), Night (S8502-B), Aluminium (No NCS match), Bright Red (S 2570-Y90R), Bright Blue (54550-R80B), and PRU Blue (5 5020 B10G) appeared on the second page. The text of Chapter 3 ran as follows

Introduction

1. The coloured panels on the card following this leaf show the standard colours for the top coat and identification materials used in the Service. The panels have been spray painted-not printed-and therefore give also a good indication of the surface produced by the application of these materials.

2. The colours in the range shown on the cards are not necessarily the same as those found in commercial circles, and it is anticipated that the inclusion of the colour standards in this book will enable Service personnel to identify the various shades. It must be remembered however, that when materials are being drawn from the Flight dope store, the required colour must be identified by reference to the Stores Ref. Number which appears on the container. It is very bad practice for the operator to select the required materials by opening one container after another and looking inside, and it is not intended that the colour cards should be used to facilitate that procedure.

3. When stirring materials aircraft finishers have hitherto been obliged to estimate entirely by guesswork when the pigments have been thoroughly mixed. Thus, they have frequently stopped stirring too soon, or else have wasted time and effort by stirring for too long. While the latter error does more good than harm to the material, it is certainly preferable to do exactly the right amount of work and no more.

4. A few tests on the lines indicated in the next paragraph will quickly indicate just how much stirring is necessary under varying conditions before the materials are ready for use. The variations are due to such circumstances as the following:

(1) Material group (C or S).

(2) Colour of the material.

(3) Period for which the material has been in store.

(4) Whether the material has been inverted or tumbled (see Sect 2, Chap. 1).

(5) The amount of thinners required (see Sect 4. Chap, 3).

Comparison of Colours with the Standards

5. If it is desired to compare a specimen of top-coat material with the corresponding colour-card, the following procedure will give the most satisfactory results:

(1) Make sure that the material has been thoroughly stirred, and that no more than the correct proportion of thinners has been added.

(2) Spray an even film of the whole of one side of a post-card, or a piece of cardboard of similar size, thickness and surface quality.

(3) When the paint has dried, cut a neat, round hole in the middle of the card.

The hole should be the size of a penny or halfcrown (In 1947, a one penny piece had a diameter of approximately 31mm - author).

(4) Lay the specimen flat on the corresponding colour panel so that the standard shows through the hole in the specimen.

In this way, the standard colour is completely surrounded by the specimen colour, and the comparison between the two shows to best advantage because of the absence of interference from other colours.

6. Paints from store will probably be found to show very slight differences in shade with their standards even after they have been thoroughly stirred. This is because a little variation is inevitable between the shade of paint prepared by one manufacturer and the shade of a similar paint prepared by another. It should be noted that these manufacturing differences are in relation only to the shades of the materials, that is to say, the colours may be very slightly duller or brighter than their standard equivalents.

7. If however, there is a marked difference in colour between a specimen and its standard (that is, if a green, for example, is more blue or more yellow than its standard), it is usually an indication of the fact that the material has not been thoroughly stirred!

Again there is recognition that Production Colour(s) might vary slightly from the Standard and that such variations were acceptable.

It is very easy to refer to colour without making it clear exactly what is meant because there are several facets to the subject. These facets might be described as 'Design Colour', 'Production Colour', 'Observed Colour', 'Rogue Colour' and 'Colloquial Colour!

Design Colour

This can be defined as being the colour selected by an authority such as the British Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, or Ministry of Defence as being the master hue for a particular colour. This colour may have a proper name, number, or description. For example when the colours that constituted the Temperate Land Scheme were formulated in 1933 they were officially named 'Dark Green' and 'Dark Earth!. These names were then used to identify the colours within the Colour Standards that were produced first by the Air Ministry, then the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and ultimately the Ministry of Supply in conjunction with their Air Publication 1086 RAF Vocabulary of Stores Section 33B reference numbers until 1964. In 1964, both of these colours were incorporated into British Standard (BS) 381C entitled 'Colours for Specific Purposes' and given the designations No. 641 Dark Green and No. 450 Dark Earth and this nomenclature then began to be used in the Defence Council Instructions (RAF) that replaced the earlier Air Ministry Orders in setting out the camouflage and marking policy for RAF aircraft.

Production Colour

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