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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Not Your Typical Volksarmee - A Painting Guide for East German Infantry Part 1

The main Team Yankee book includes some fairly decent painting instructions for NVA infantry, but if you look at the zoomed figures on page 31 of the Volksarmee book and compare them to the distance shots on page 32, the colors don't match up well to my eye. Also, the actual camouflage scheme used by the NVA (also on page 31) is very intricate making the attempt on the figure itself look fairly crude. The lines and pattern are far too large and ultimately don't begin to give a proper scale effect for NVA BDU camouflage, officially called Strichtarn, but colloquially known as "Ein Strich - Kein Strich" by DDR troops. I therefore went in search of more information and worked to develop my own paint scheme for these troops.

The first thing that I discovered is because Strichtarn was in use for so many years and produced in several places, there is a great deal of inconsistency in the exact coloration. The other thing I realized is that on a 15mm miniature replicating the actual camouflage scheme is impossible and it won't look right even if you do. Unlike World War II Waffen SS schemes that can still be rendered effectively on a 15mm miniature, as you shrink Strichtarn to correct for scale, it simply comes out looking brown with maybe a beige highlight to it. The other thing I discovered was that there was a variety of gear that came (or could come) in colors and patterns other than Strichtarn.


The photo above comes from one of the few references I've been able to find in English on the NVA, Uniforms of the East German Military: 1949-1990 by Klaus-Ulrich Keubke and Manfred Kunz. I also have a few pouches and other pieces of East German militaria I was able handle and look a personally in developing the palette for painting my own Motorisierte Schützen.

The basic color suggestions for the uniform itself (as long as you're painting it as a solid uniform) in the Volksarmee book aren't bad. Using both the Battlefront and other online conversion tables for the new Flames of War colors back to the old Vallejo equivalents, I was able to settle on a base coat of 921 English Uniform followed by a wash (discussed later) and highlights of 873 U.S. Field Drab and 821 German Camouflage Beige (with the latter being a very light highlight). I went ahead and painted the helmets as if they were covered as well, but they could also be colored green (which I may do to help tell squads apart if I paint more infantry).

Uniform Paint Palette

The large bag carried with a shoulder strap as well as most of the East German harness and many rifle slings are a blue-grey color. For these items I chose 992 Neutral Grey. The roll on the back appears to be a beige color, so I went with 987 Medium Grey. Flesh and Black were just the old Quartermasters Flat Flesh (Vallejo 955) and Black (Vallejo 950) colors as you don't need anything fancy there.

In Progress View From the Front

For the weapons and the wood handle on the entrenching tool, I moved over to Ammo of Mig paints. The entrenching tool was painted with 037 New Wood, while the weapons utilized a variety of paints from the Weapons Colors set. Most of these colors can be picked up separately - I generally used the Red Brown Base and Red Brown Shine.

Ammo of Mig Weapon Color Set covers multiple eras

East German AK-74 (MPi KM) rifles were usually fairly dark and utilized Bakelite or polymer furniture (stocks). The buttstocks typically had a stippling pattern on them, though at 15mm scale this would be invisible.


NVA magazines could be the dark blued finish above, or they could be a very light tan Bakelite. Generally Bakelite magazines would be smooth sided whereas the metal magazines are ribbed, so any magazine that looked like it had ribs on the side, I painted as a metal blued magazine.

NVA Bakelite MPi-KM Magazines

NVA canteens appear to have come in a variety of finishes, and some had Strichtarn covers, so I went with a mix of light green canteens (I used 830 German Field Grey) and some left in German Camouflage Beige.

NVA Canteen

The magazine pouch is also generally Strichtarn, but to make it stand out I hit it with a stronger highlight of the German Camouflage Beige.

NVA Magazine Pouch

Taken all together, this give a lot more visual interest to the Motorisierte Schützen than the scheme advocated in the Volksarmee book which essentially has one uniform color, a web gear color, black boots, flesh and weapon colors.

In Progress View from the Rear

For any green painted surfaces I went back to some old Flames of War books and used the conversion charts again, ultimately settling on 890 Reflective Green for any of the heavy weapons or the light machine gun ammunition boxes.

In an effort to move a bit more quickly in my infantry painting, I wanted to find a shading system that would allow the minimum amount of repainting and highlighting after the wash - especially on faces and other areas of exposed flesh. I picked up some of the army painter Quickshade washes, and these have really done the trick. I use a mixture of Flesh Wash and Strong Tone on flesh - which works well with the very light flesh color. Strong Tone works well on the uniform, and Dark Tone works well on weapons and any gray web gear.

Pre-mixed washes can save time and improve consistency

For the ground work, I went back to Ammo of Mig products which I've used successfully in past projects. For the NVA infantry I started with a base coat of Loose Ground from the Splashes line. I then used a stipple brush to add Kursk Soil and finally Dry Light Soil from the Heavy Mud range.

Ammo of Mig Ground and Nature effects

Taken as a group the three products provide a reasonably convincing looking ground effect without having to use a pumice or fill (as the splashes can be used as a paintable fill - though it may take a couple of coats). These are all oil based, unlike the acrylics used for all other steps, so you'll need thinner to clean your brushes!

Anti-tank missile team ready for final flocking

The photo above shows one of the anti-tank missile teams ready for adding final grass tufts and static grass. Unfortunately my phone camera washed out a lot of the subtlety in the ground work and highlights on the figures, but I'll try and get better pictures once they're complete.

One Company nearly complete!

At this point at least one full company of Motorisierte Schützen are ready for dullcote. I have a few other bases just about ready to go, and I've picked up another platoon to bulk out numbers in case I want to run multiple companies going forward. I'll post more (and hopefully better) photos once I get the rest of the basing completed!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks much! I'm hoping to get the bases flocked and their transports going this weekend!

    2. always liked the look of the old East German uniform,
      think it's the Star Wars helmet lol. If I pick these troops up they will probably end up as Sci-fi militia!