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Need help with civil war uniform colors

Discussion in 'Painting Techniques' started by Chris Kelm, Jul 20, 2015.

  1. Chris Kelm Active Member

    I am starting to work on a couple of civil war figures on both the union and confederate sides and I need to know what colors to use. I mainly use JS acrylic paints so I will need to know what the paint colors for each confederate and union soldier uniforms. Thank you.
    garyhiggins and DaddyO like this.
  2. pmfs A Fixture



    If you have white, black, blue, brown you can paint both Union / Confederate soldiers. I am not familiar wit JS colours but looking to colour chart you can use the following colours:
    to Union try to use a dark blue (pytalo blue perhaps) as base for the jacket. For the trousers a medium blue (perhaps pacific blue) to work in next steps the highlights.
    To confederate, Grey for trousers (perhaps nimbu grey) and brown (raw umber perhaps) for the jacket will be fine.
    Note: The bold colours are for base.

    DaddyO likes this.
  3. DaddyO A Fixture

    Hi Chris

    My personal opinion is that some folks can be really hung up over uniform colours, whereas in reality the whole area is so grey it looks like a grey painted figure in a grey room in grey light.:)

    It's easy enough (with application) to find out what the colours should be, but throw in the fugitive nature of clothing dyes, wear and tear, washing, dirt etc and what colour were they? Looking at actual uniforms doesn't necessarily help either - sunlight and age take their toll. Even assuming you have a colour which the experts agree is correct do you tone down the colour for scale effect? How light or dark do you like to paint your highlights and shadows? That's before you get into how different eyes perceive colour differently . . .

    The above is intended very much tongue in cheek, because it was a genuine question and I'm not trying to wind anyone up. It's just one of those subjects that so much energy is spent on and ultimately we can't actually know if what we do is right or wrong. So I'm with Pedro, start with a few basic colours and tone them till they look right to your eye.
    (I'm currently painting a Confederate figure so I expect I'll be keelhauled over the uniform when I post the finished article) :rolleyes:
  4. garyhiggins A Fixture

    As with so much of history, painting is not so much what you can prove, it's about what someone else can't prove is wrong. With the American Civil War, contracts were put out to tender and went to the lowest bidder so any uniform was a different colour after a rainstorm than it was before and if you had a new uniform two weeks ago and your mate had a new uniform a month ago, yours was going to be a different colour than his. If you happened to survive a battle in your new uniform it was going to be a different colour again, not to mention whatever goodies you might have picked up on the battlefield.
    in these situations all you can do is start with the basics and then adjust them as you feel is suitable. And anyway, if you've put all the effort in in painting and someone else doesn't like it, that's their problem :).
    Best wishes, Gary.
    ChaosCossack and DaddyO like this.
  5. ChaosCossack A Fixture

    I can't quote JS colours specifically but what you are looking for is a very dark, almost black, blue for Union coats. Medium blue for the trousers. Confederate colours can be tricky depending on who and when you are depicting... Greys range from light to dark, can have a blue or brown undertone, facings can be medium blue, yellow or red for infantry, cavalry or artillery. Butternut is a whole other story. It can range from buff to dark brown, a yellowish, ochre tone seems prelevant as well.

    Best bet is to check your references and start scrambling together mixes unill you get what your looking for.

    Also Gary and Paul's advise is sound as a pound

    garyhiggins likes this.
  6. Chrisr PlanetFigure Supporter

    Paul and Gary,

    Very valid points. One can only get an approximate colour due to different dyes, the fugitive nature of them, wear and fading. Just been reading Elting's 'Swords Around the Throne' where he brings out these very issues regarding French Napoleonic uniforms.

    DaddyO and garyhiggins like this.
  7. kansas kid Well-Known Member

    Oh my this is a tough one. The Confederates so often
    took the boots from dead Federals, and they wore a
    lot of civilian clothes. Some attire (not the best word)
    even got so faded and "tannish" that the soldiers were
    called "Butternuts". . . Any serious modeler who knows
    about what happened between 1861 and 1865 realizes
    that you can not guarantee what specific shade a
    uniform or a pair of britches stolen off a cloth line
    would be. . . . Go with your best idea, and first do
    a lot of online research. . . Good luck, Jayhawker
    garyhiggins and ChaosCossack like this.

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