The Mysteries of Soviet Green, er, Camo (part 2)

Photo of the Malyshev Factory (Formerly known as the Kharkov Locomotive Factory) located in Kharkiv Ukraine.
Internet wargaming multi-media blogger Lexi Valkyrie embraces the written medium and continues to examine the mysteries of “Soviet Green”.

Any avid painter has the question on their mind, “What is the best way to make these models really pop?” Or you’re like me and can never settle on a single scheme even if your life depended on it. After diving down the “Soviet Green” hole…

Now say it with me painters:

With this revelation I decided to basecoat the majority of my army in some shade of brown or green.
My process begins before a color is even on a model, due to the fact that I take advantage of a style of painting called Zenithal highlighting. I highly recommend this style if you paint with an airbrush, and if you don’t have an airbrush I hope my painting will convince you it might be worth the effort! After priming the model black, I take white and layer it onto the model. This color is concentrated in the corners and tops of the model that take the most light. Make sure that the black primer shows through in the shaded areas. 

Zenithal highlighting on a 3d printed PLA BMP-1, STL by Marco Bergman. 

Now for the basecoat. For the brown I settled on US Olive Drab for the simple reason of having an extra bottle left over from painting my Flames of War Americans. Yes I know it’s heresy to use US olive drab on my Russian Forces but it didn’t end up too shabby. 

For the Green I used Military Green. My reasoning behind this choice being I had just painted my entire Flames of War Russian army with Refractive Green, and my brain needed a break from that green.  

I then take the basecoat color, water it down and use my airbrush to lightly apply it to the entire model. Make sure that the white and black of the zenithal shows through on the basecoat, this will lead to near instant gradients, shading and highlights

US M4A1 Sherman, with the basecoat of US Olive Drab sprayed lightly over the Zenithal highlight

The PLA BMP, with Military Green applied. 

For the next step I used my dip washes. Dragging myself to the side for a minute I highly recommend making your own washes. This allows complete control over the pigmentation of any color. So if your brown isn’t green enough you can just squirt some green ink in there! The solution I use is 8 parts water, 1 part ink, 1 part elmers/pva glue, 1 part matte medium and the tiniest drop of dish soap. I found acrylic ink at my local Michaels craft and hobby store. Mix that all together in a large enough container and you can even use this as a dip wash. Simply dunk your mini, spin and shake the excess off and boom, instant wash. 

Washes make the mini! Both of these Tunguska were basecoated with US Olive Drab but one was washed with black, the other with brown 

My test with Military Green was done on my Acacia’s. When I washed one brown it didn’t even show up, so I shifted to black and this was the result.

Initially my eye was drawn to the Military Green. It’s a deep, rich green with more blue in it than yellow. It layers on well with the Zenithal style of painting and contrasts with a black wash, and light khaki dry brush but who doesn’t love a good Olive drab? As I debated I did what comes natural to me as a painter. I took an entirely different route to paint and repaint, see what sticks. This is when I shifted into my experiments with Soviet Camo. 

The first and foremost camo I tested out was the “Shock” camo featured in World War III Soviet book for the Shock Tank Company. I have a whole video on my youtube channel that features my T-80s and walk you through step by step how I painted them. TEAM YANKEE V2: Painting Tutorial:Soviet Shock Camo 

The Shock T-80s and BMP-3’s for my elite Soviet shock troops 

Not fully satisfied with this I shifted gears, and started experimenting with camo over an olive drab basecoat. For the colors I settled on Refractive Green edged with 6k Russian Brown 

My first experiments, both PLA 3d printed BMPs. The OP used a soft edge airbrush camo, the BMP-2 was a hard edge applied by brush. 

Reasonably happy with this I went out and painted a good chunk of my Soviet forces in this style. 

Shilka done in this style

Something started looking off and I couldn’t figure it out. So I do what I do when I encounter problems in my life, I talk to my partner about it. After showing her the models and walking her through what I was trying to do she gave me her feedback. I trust her, seeing as she has a good eye for colors. She summarized my issue quickly, 

“You’re trying to be too realistic with your camo on too small of a scale. The colors are too close in hue and on a tiny model like that they blend together, especially when shaded with black or brown.”

Huh, I had never thought of it like this within the realm of historical painting before. For Warhammer miniatures sure, bright colors, good contrast and wild bases. But that was for the realm of Sci-fi and Fantasy. I was locking myself into a mindset of camo and real world examples. I first tried to take the basic three colors I was going for, (brown, green and drab) and tried to make them “Pop”.

The Result

The desired effect was achieved, but how would it look on the table?




I was happy but something was still slightly off. I realized the netting was what I was happy with, not the camo. The overall effect was still too dark for the 15mm scale. Disappointed and frustrated, I went back to the drawing board. 

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” 

Arthur Conan Doyle

I mentally threw the colors out the window and dove into researching various Soviet Era Camos, trying to find something that would catch my eye. In an amazing turn of events, I stumbled on the following photo.

T-80BV Tanks of the “Western Group of Forces” (Soviet Troops stationed in East Germany) Loaded up on railways leaving the country. Photo taken at the Berlin-Adlershof cargo railway station circa 1994. Vehicles most likely belong to the 6th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (65th Separate Tank Battalion…?) stationed in Berlin. Note the Russian Federation flags on the sides of the tanks, as the Soviet Union was no more. 

This camo seems wild, but the idea behind it was to obscure the silhouette of the vehicle at night when viewed through an IR device. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find an example of this camo viewed through an IR device and can’t attest to its real world effectiveness. However it checked the box for something that was bright and would stand out on a small scale model. I went to work. 

My intuition led me to basecoat, after Zenithal undercoat, a BMP grey, airbrush Khaki Brown and Military green in camo stripes, then use contrast paints I had on hand to tint the colors further. Gore Grunta Fur, Miltarum Green and Space Wolf Grey. 

The test model

The blue was just about spot on, the brown/red was not quite right and the green pleased me. I took the Gore Gunta Fur and applied it to the grey (Shown on the front portion of the vehicle) To see what would happen. I was getting closer, it just wasn’t brown enough. I then had a realization, what if I lightened the brown on my BTR’s with Orange brown then darken it with Gore-Grunta. On the same model I layered Russ Grey and Space Wolf Contrast for the blue.  


On a last ditch effort I went and applied Gore-Grunta fur over the US Olive Drab on a resin printed BTR

Much better

I then washed, layered and highlighted the model with their basecoats (except for the olive drab) and panel lined the model with Templar Black Contrast.

Still slightly off on that brown

I mixed together Olive Drab and Orange Brown then layered it, in addition to matching the hub caps on the wheels.


Then out with the trusty drybrush and Iraqi Sand.

Better, little heavy handed but progress not perfection

It’s an ongoing process, and with over 50 vehicles to paint like this odds are they won’t be this layered. Which in its own weird way might end up looking better at the end? Only time will tell! Please let me know down below what you think, and if you have any color suggestions I’m more than happy to hear them! Feel free to reach out to me on any of my platforms, but until next time, remember:

If you want to follow Lexi on any social media (TikTok, Youtube, etc) click here for any and all links

3 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Soviet Green, er, Camo (part 2)

  1. Great article that really brought some new ideas to life for me. Thanks for all the work that went into it.

  2. I do find painting camo really different to painting mon-colour tanks for the very reasons your partner stated, after all, the purpose of the camo is to obscure the tank and make it difficult to spot and / or identify. I havent applied camo to my Soviet tanks in TY yet, but have recently done some for my FoW Soviets and am not happy with colours not being distinct enough. I was thinking of adding to my TY Soviet collection and maybe adding some camo so you’ve given me some things to consider. If I think of my TY East Germans, the camo, even though it is soft edged, doesnt blend in to the green so think it achieves what is needed (I went with the BF classic view of EG camo).
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and process

Comments are closed.