I know, I know….everyone’s an expert in camouflage….except maybe this gal, who graduated from the US Army Ranger School, and is inaccurately identified as USAF in the article:
Besides the ‘red’ tinged brown she used as a base, the black doesn’t help either, because her features, ie, eyes, cheek bones, jaw line, and mouth are all easily identifiable as human. Basically, her face is almost quartered in generally similar sized areas, which leads to a recognizable pattern. Great PR, but in reality, no, not gonna hack it if she’s being hunted or is hunting.
What about this man?
Close, but no cigar, unless you can find a bush with a nice, full, pink set of lips, some matching nostrils, and eyes and ears to match! He’s also decked out in desert USMC digital with coyote whatever. The paint is woodland in nature, which contrasts and brings attention to his features.
And then, there’s these guys:
Look at all those unpainted or covered necks, ears, lips and hands. Folks don’t realize that hands are like flags. Even black (brown or sage/forest/OD green are MUCH more effective) fingerless gloves are better than bare hands. Not to mention the unsubdued patches and unpainted black and solid brown/red rifles. The only reason that the US Woodland pattern worked, and still does, is because the black in the pattern is minimal, compared to the forest green, brown, and light brown/sand. The guy on the bottom right with a USAF survival knife in an unwaxed/dyed sheath is special. Love that white t shirt. Nice aiming point. The paint itself is causing part of the dilemma with some really bright green that’s not the same shade (or even close) to the green of the natural vegetation in the photo backdrop.
Now, I’m not sitting here criticizing just to criticize. This is constructive criticism because I’m pointing out typical practices that need to change if those who purport to be able to blend in can do so better than the bad guy. I’m sure every one of the people pictured above, from the active duty Ranger to the militia group did the absolute best they knew. Which brings up the point that very few people are taught camouflage properly, and worse, if they are, do not apply the face paint properly or re-apply it every chance they get to mitigate sweat, brush scrapes, inadvertent wipes, loss when drinking or eating, or when one lays down and rests.
Camouflage has two purposes: First, to break up and disguise the human form, including the head, hands, uniform, weapon, and even the boots. You don’t want to be easily identifiable as a human. Second, it is to help transform the ‘nice’ human being into a warrior ready to bring fear and death to the enemy. A process ensues when one is painting and gearing up.
As to using face paint, there are some simple rules to follow when applying to make sure you will not give yourself away:
- Always use irregular diagonal patterns across the face.
- Always try to break up features with different colors and general directions of pattern lines. Don’t have your nose, your chin, your jaw line, your eye sockets or anything else all one color if you can help it.
- Always paint the entire face, even when you have facial hair (a good reason to shave it off if you’re going to paint). Don’t think so? Find a tree with a beard, a goatee, or a mustache. This goes double if you have red, blond, or light brown hair. If you have your hair closely cropped, then apply the paint over the area that’s not covered by a cap or head rag.
- Paint the back of the neck, ears, or anything that can be seen as less than green or loam. That includes eyelids, nostrils, in the ear folds, down the front and sides of the neck to below the collar and t shirt line. Every part of skin that shows.
Now, this is Hollywood, for sure, but the one thing this particular film, “Apocalypse Now,” got right is actor Marlon Brando’s camouflage in so far as the face painting goes. In his case, as he’s bald, the paint continues and covers his entire head. The only error visible is having his chin completely in one color and his mouth not broken up by two colors. Still, all in all, much more effective than what you typically see today.
Another good Hollywood example is Clint Eastwood’s character, ‘Gunny Highway,’ in “Heartbreak Ridge.” I do find it hard to believe, though, that in 1986, Hollywood couldn’t go down to the local surplus store and pick up a gross of Light Green and Loam camouflage paint sticks to get the correct coloring. That aside, his pattern does cover everything and breaks up the face well. Note how his paint goes below the shirt line….and no white t shirt, either.
Now let’s look at this guy…
He has a couple colors, but they’re so blended in, his features are readily identifiable. He has a beard, obviously, and you can see he’s dulled it with some paint. Bravo on that point and that he’s covered all exposed skin.
Is really trying, but his eyes are all dark, his nose and mouth are the same color, and he’s decided to try some sort of ‘war paint pattern’ with the chin stripe and diagonal (different directions) cheek stripes. Not effective. But he did paint every thing he could…except his bottom lip vermilion.
A couple of the best I’ve seen are Ivarr Bergmann and JC Dodge.
Nobody’s perfect, but Bergmann’s use of various materials and complete coverage of his face and extremities (‘cept his finger tips, but like I said, nobody’s perfect – I’ve seen him wear full length gloves in his videos, so he’s got it down) makes his camouflage job climb to the top 1%.
Same with JC Dodge.
There’s really not a lot to criticize when it comes to complete camouflage here. Sure, he could throw a camouflage net drape over his head, but we’re talking about face painting. JC’s solved the issue of finger tips with what appears to be Nomex Flight Gloves. Gray leather palms, sage green; they blend in and provide dexterity and a smidge of protection against cooler temps.
Now, after reading this far, go back to the top and check the folks I used as examples of what not to do. Then come back down and look at Bergmann and JC. See the difference?
Personally, I recommend the old school USGI camouflage sticks OR the newer NATO camouflage sticks (a bit fatter than the ‘modern’ USGI) rather than any civilian paint or the garbage their issuing in little compacts to US forces. Way back in the day (and I’m sure we weren’t the first ones to do it it, either, as there’s nothing new under the sun), we modified it a bit. Here’s our formula:
- Get 2 large kiwi polish cans. Preferably ones that have had most of the polish used. Clean them completely out. When there’s just a bit of polish left, heat the can until the polish melts and wipe it out with a paper towel.
- Take 3 to 4 thin/small USGI camo sticks, remove the paint from the tubes and break in half, loam in one pile, light green in the other.
- Chop one of the colors into fairly small pieces and put in the bottom of the polish can (it’s thicker).
- Put on a low heat stove and slowly melt the camo paint until liquid. You can check and stir with a toothpick.
- Get a rounded teaspoon of a good cold cream (use your wife’s at your own risk) and stir it slowly into the camo paint until blended completely.
- Turn off stove and let cool (takes about 10 minutes to get cool enough to remove from stove) a bit.
- Carefully place in fridge for about 20 minutes.
- Take out and check consistency. If too hard, repeat above with half the cold cream.
Usually, that makes enough camo face paint to last about 6 months if you’re using it several times a week. It will go on a bit shiny, but in less than 20 minutes, the cold cream will soak into the skin and it will be flat as it should be.
Cleaning up is much easier with this recipe, also. Anyone who’s ever scraped and sanded pure USGI face paint off their face will attest to the discomfort involved. A bit of baby shampoo on a washcloth will take the modified camo paint off easily.
Good luck, and let us know how you paint!