Original article written for Large Scale Planes and published in 2004. Images are low resolution due to the limited digital technology of the day.
Anthony Oliver January 2022.
You can almost hear the collective groan of 'oh no not another one-ninety'. But I make no apologies, I like them, in fact I have an 'on-off' obsession with Kurt Tank's design. From the A3 BMW radials to the more exotic and sparsely documented in-line Jumo airframes, it seems I'm not alone in this fascination with these aeroplanes.
There's enough written both about the aircraft and the kit that doesn't bear repetition here, suffice to say I built this kit with the goal of extending my hobby skills, and after reading an article by David E. Brown, explore the murky waters of late war Luftwaffe camouflage schemes.
The fascinating thing about the closing stages of the air war in Europe is the colour diversity of Luftwaffe subjects. Of course there is enough surviving documentation along with plenty of supporting evidence that has allowed researchers and historians to build a good picture of possible schemes and the varied use of colour at unit levels. But very few aircraft are documented in their entirety and a fair amount of 'guesstimation' has to be done on the parts of an airframe which aren't documented.
The chaotic conditions in the last months of the aerial conflict over northern Europe saw combat units move location, sometimes on a daily basis. This means that records are thin on the ground for many specific aircraft and in turn, allows the modeller to be a little more creative and interpret some of these schemes from an alternative viewpoint. Not quite 'what if' but certainly with a little more latitude and flexibility.
The starting point for modelling Black 6 was the EC58 decal sheet from Eagle Editions and build one of the sparsely documented 'large wooden tail' Dora-9s from the 500xxx werknummer series.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only does the Revell kit include Black 6 Wnr. 500645 in their kit decal sheet, but also the other better known large tailed 190, Brown 4 Wnr. 500647.
Actually, Brown 4 is rather better documented and images exist of it in a semi-derelict state at Husteldt on the North German Plain in the spring of 1945. On the face of it, the two published images seem to be the same aircraft, but on close inspection there are several subtle differences, which suggest these might be two separate aircraft. This in itself further supports the idea that there were several aircraft constructed/modified with the larger metal or wooden Ta152 type tail.
Whether the tail swap was done at factory construction or was a field conversion due to battle damage is a subject of conjecture and adds to the mystique of this period of military aviation history. Unfortunately the images supporting Black 6 are rather less complete and really only prove the existence of the airframe by the remains of the damaged tail with the werknummer 500645, which has been partially over-painted. Its all a bit too fuzzy to make bold statements about how it actually looked.
Eagle Editions excellent colour instruction sheet (EC58) mentions the existence of a colour image of Black 6 but the sheet doesn't identify where or when it was published. After strenuous efforts to track down this image, which incidentally is also called out on E.Brown Ryle's limited run 48th Kommandeur scale decal sheet, I gave up, discovering only that it was reputedly published in a book of French origin.
I decided that it would be more interesting to revise the colour scheme using a collection of supporting evidence on how these airframes were constructed and how the component sub-assemblies were finished prior to final construction and delivery.
There are many pictures of Fw190's in various states of assembly to provide evidence that it is quite possible for a variety of colours and demarcation patterns to appear on one aircraft. Add to this the field alterations and what starts out as a simple matter of painting a standard scheme turns into something more akin to alchemy. Which is great from my point of view as both artistic and modelling licence can be given a bit more elbow room.
Constructing the Revell kit
Detailing was kept to a minimum and I resisted the urge to include one of the superb cockpit sets available along with many of the other embellishments that are rapidly appearing for the 190. I did however correct the gun hood profile with Milliput after seeing images of a resin replacement item. After a bit of correspondence with likeminded individuals, I decided that this was one aspect of the kit that really did need correction.
The only other additions were the harness from scalpel blade foil packaging, textured with the knurled grip of an old needle file to give a fabric effect and completed with an old set of brass-etched buckles and those rivets. . .
Why oh why did I do this? I'm not entirely sure if after the paint and lacquer coats, it wasn't a gigantic waste of time but at least I can say I actually completed the entire airframe. The pattern is an approximation and many of the lesser rib and stringer patterns were left off, if only for the sake of sanity and my eyesight.
Any colour you like as long as its Blaugrun
The logic behind deviating from the instruction sheet is based on the information that the main airframe components were made in dispersed factories all over Germany, and painted to an Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium - RLM) specification intended for the specific aircraft type (Oberflaschenshutzliste, or Os-Liste).
These documents were issued by both the RLM and aircraft companies with RLM approval. Overarching documents issued by the RLM were called Sammelmitteilungen (collected communications) and these were more detailed in the use and replacement of colour based around general use of replacement colours.
These directives applied to all aspects of the aircraft's finish. The article by David Brown that was published some years ago on HyperScale delves into these documents and the implications they have on the perceptions of late war schemes. After reading this absorbing article, it was enough for me to assume the possibility that instead of a uniform finish, different components could have received different colour application based on a combination of outdated directives, the production of approximate colours for expediency or a combination of poorly applied primer and paint. Indeed it's also possible that paint manufacturers faced with the changes required by the RLM, used modified existing paint stocks. As it is stated clearly in one Os-Liste from the RLM that if considerable stocks of paint were available then they should be used up or traded to other manufacturers for use.
To add confusion it is apparent from other research sources that several Os-Liste existed at any one time for a specific aircraft type, giving the aircraft manufacturer even more scope for misinterpretation or error.
The quality and application of the primer and paint would further add to the possibility of deviation from the long established 'standard' colours. In my opinion this all provides the modeller with the incredible opportunity to be diverse and inventive with aircraft where there is a distinct lack of hard evidence. As always if anyone knows different and has evidence I'd love to hear from them.
Here's a specific colour confusion example: The very different hues of 81 identified from actual preserved aircraft and paint chip samples, is a reflection of German industry’s response to the Allied bombing offensive. we know this included various economy measures, substitution of raw materials, relocation of plants and factories, and the dispersal and subcontracting of war production facilities. Because of the bombing raids on all major industrial plants in Germany, in late 1943 - early 1944 war production and manufacturing shifted to smaller companies and firms away from the big cities. For example, Herberts, the large established paint company located in Wuppertal was completely knocked out during bombing raids in 1944, yet the smaller Wiederhold company located in Hilden (a small town west of Düsseldorf) was never touched by bombs and produced paints until the end of the war.
Unfortunately, only very fragmented records exist today that give information about the paint manufacturers that supplied camouflage paints during the conflict. So we have limited insight into the variations of colour values. We can illustrate this issue by asking why was the 81 seen on colour images of the Me 262 so different in their hue to that seen on the Me 163 and other aircraft from the same manufacturer? First of all, production of the Me 262 reached its peak late in 1944 - early 1945 and was produced and completed in various locations scattered over middle and southern Germany. During the early introduction phase of colours 81/82 the RLM was unable to provide genuine and approved paint samples of 81/82 to the contracted paint manufacturers. This resulted in paint cans that were identified as containing colours 81 or 82, but the actual paint inside had varying hues depending on the manufacturer.
Getting back to the subject of this article, the 'wooden Ta152 tailed' Fw190D-9s, Brown 4 has been a popular subject for modellers before in different scales and in particular Mark Tucker's quarter scale Dragon D12 conversion was a good starting point for applying this aircraft's colour characteristics to Black 6. In fact there exists different interpretation of this aircraft too and Claes Sundin, the well known profile artist published a profile of Brown 4 that mirrors the overall graugrun scheme as depicted on the Eagle Editions EC58 sheet for Black 6. Whilst Brown Rhyll's Kommandeur decal sheet interprets the scheme with a more fragmented 76/ Graugrun fuselage scheme, the scheme that Mark opted for and the style that I've adapted to Black 6.
I think the images describe what I tried to achieve so I won't bore you with numbers and the vagaries of the erroneously labelled Farbton 84. If you have an interest do seek out David's article for a considered opinion on the four known shades of this colour.
The term "RLM 84" was a post war creation to give a label to an officially unidentified and undesignated colour. The colour is approximately similar to RAF Sky, although it appears it could vary.
According to Michael Ullmann, the colour labelled as RLM 84 occurred because the German paint makers reduced the amount of chromate in the paint to save on strategic materials . The reduced chromate then caused the RLM 76 to take on a greenish/ yellow tint.
This colour value was found on the original paint on a He 219 at the Smithsonian NASM. It was not a mutation of 76, but rather a definite colour.
Suffice to say I decided to add a touch of 76 in a bid to make it look as if the fuselage colour was a variation of the 'neat' 76 applied to the tail and forward fuselage and not a separate colour in its own right. If I'd been really keen, I would have altered the tonal value of the 76 on the tail to suggest that the makers used a different mix here also, but this was perhaps going a bit too far.
All the colours were from my dwindling Aeromaster acrylic stocks (neatly mirroring the true events of 1944-45) and thinned with tap water to a milky consistency. I can't quote ratios as I tend to airbrush 'on the hoof', and change paint consistency as I change air pressure. I know that tap water isn't supposed to be used with this paint, but I've never had any problems so far.
I spray at a low pressure requiring a thinner mix but this allows me to work close to the model to do demarcations freehand. There is virtually no overspray but I do use some masking where there is a big tonal contrast between colours such as wing root to fuselage join. Other markings such as the yellow white yellow RVG bands were sprayed and masked in a logical 'light to dark' order, as was the spinner. It received a coat of Tamiya acrylic white tinted with a bit of RLM66 to kill the starkness and then masked with a hand-cut spiral and the Humbrol generic coal black sprayed over.
I almost forgot to mention, the under surface was Alclad II aluminium shade A, which is in keeping with various Os-Liste requirements. I believe the 'wrap-around' use of 75 Grauviolett on the wing leading edges and landing gear covers was an attempt at unit level to make the aircraft a bit less visible to low level recon and airfield attack, so I used a fresher mix sprayed over the weathered splinter pattern already applied. It's not too apparent from the images due to my editing them for gamma correction/ tonal contrast in an image editing application.
Eagle Editions decals are well known for their product quality and attention to detail so there's no need to bang on about how good they went on, save for the fact that after further correspondence with David E Brown about the subject, I deviated from Eagle Edition's suggested national markings, and replaced the fuselage balkenkreuz with the larger B4 800mm 'open' basic crosses. I also replaced the underwing markings with the same B4 900mm crosses, reasoning that these markings were commonly seen on the same aircraft.
Without the evidence of the colour image of Black 6 to validate the instructions, I went with a crop of supporting images and correspondence on the 500xxx werknummer information. Again this is purely personal preference and if anyone can help out with further information. . .
After a coat of matt acrylic lacquer (this stuff always dries too quickly in my airbrush for some reason!), I headed into final construction territory adding the aerials, canopy, which incidentally was so nice out of the box I didn't bother to give it the Johnson Kleer treatment, and the slackened radio aerial. This was giving me a headache and I eventually persevered with a single strand of copper wire using Humbrol Clearfix for the insulator blobs. Scuffs and scratches were added with a Derwent prizmacolour silver artists pencil and combined with scraped back Alclad II in strategic areas. I also discovered that it's so easy to go from 'just right' to 'overdone' in a few small marks!
The panel shading was a combination of post and pre shading inspired by the painting skills of Andrew Dextras, and highlighted with a wash of heavily thinned illustrators ink into the access panels and a less obvious wash of thinned acrylic 'grime' (a mix of Tamiya smoke, Aeromaster black and a bit of brown acrylic tube paint) on areas of heavy traffic.
I believe in trying to avoid a uniformity of finish with washes and detail painting. So I avoid running this mix into every panel line and concentrate on areas of natural shadow or areas where dirt would accumulate. Remember these aircraft were fighting for their existence and by this stage of the game cleaning anything but the canopy was very low on the duty list.
Photographing the model was done with a mix of film and a basic digital camera. This was 2004 and digital sensors were still very much in their toddler stage of development.
The lighting was a combination of my fluorescent circular dentist's magnifier and an angle-poise desk lamp fitted with a 60watt daylight bulb. These are blue and change the colour 'temperature' to something approaching that of natural daylight. The whole set-up is placed next to a north-facing window, which has voile curtain hanging in it to help filter harsh direct light. The Minolta Z1 3MP digital camera was mounted on a 'borrowed' tripod designed for AV movie cameras and was essential for the next step.
I never use the auto exposure setting on my cameras, because the metering system can be fooled, but mainly because using either aperture or shutter priority gives greater control over the final image. When starting out, aperture priority (AP) is the easiest to manipulate and for maximum depth of field an aperture of f11 or smaller is needed. If you need a quick refresher - the larger the f-number the smaller the aperture (hole in the lens). Anyway don't rely on the auto and give it a go and experiment with light positioning, camera angles and exposures.
Finally the images were post edited using Adobe Photoshop Elements and JASC's Paintshop Pro 8 for gamma correction and contrast. PSP8 is useful for editing out dust spots on transparencies and making the whole thing look way better than it does in real life!
This was written in 2004, I rarely use Photoshop now and rely on Adobe Lightroom, or a mobile phone based camera app such as Reeflex for iPhone. There are lots of really capable alternative apps available for Android and Apple devices. (Adobe also offer free mobile versions of their products with some reduced functionalities).
That's a wrap. . .
So there it is, my take on a sparsely documented yet rather cool looking aeroplane. Writing in late 2021 to update this article, I'd like to revisit the subject and cannot wait until the much anticipated Zoukei-Mura Fw190 family make their appearance.
The whole subjective issue of the 'late war greens' ensures plenty of modelling subject matter for Luftwaffe fans for years to come and I must stress that the final product is only my personal take on what might have been.
All of the published profiles and decal sheets have an equal claim to authenticity based on available references, research and just a bit of educated guesswork, and it would be quite wrong to suggest that any one scheme or profile represents the definitive. Perhaps, due to the fog of war, we'll never know for sure.
Now to find that colour image of Black 6, perhaps the Holy Grail of late war Focke-Wulf's!
JG26 photographic history of the Luftwaffe's top guns: D Caldwell
Defeat in the West 1943 the Luftwaffe at war series: M Spick
Fw 190D & Ta 152: JaPo
Yellow 10 Eagle Files 2: J Crandall
Aero Detail 2 Fw 190D
Internet articles that I can remember:
Late War Luftwaffe fighter Camouflage Pt3: D E Brown
Late War Luftwaffe fighter Camouflage Pt5: B Green/ C Swank
Fw 190D-9 Brown 4: M L Tucker
And a host of illustrations and images from various publications and web sites.
Further Luftwaffe camouflage colour reading: Camouflage of the Dornier Do335: A critical re-evaluation: Michael Ullmann 2004.
© Aviagrafik/Anthony Oliver 2004 and 2022.