|Basic Soviet Air Force (VVS) Painting, Colouration and Markings 1940-45|
The Soviets used a very substantial number of paints during the GPW, and pre-War, years. This is similar to the behaviour of other nations, and should come really as no surprise. The primary aviation lacquer system in use at the outbreak of War was the "AII" (also written "A2") variety finishes. These are notable for being rather quite bright; most Western observers think that they are 'gaudy' looking. Some earlier finishes of the "A", "AEh", and "AE" systems also remained, but they were not the most common.
At the start of 1942 some limited use was made of a new type of lacquer called "AMT". It took a while for these new paints to come into wide-spread use, and they were not common until the summer of 1942. Even so, AII was still used quite widely at many aero factories, especially on bombers, until after the War. For many reasons, AMT paint was used much more widely on fighter aviation than on larger aircraft, like bombers, transports, recce, etc. The first AMT paints were simply replacements for the same AII shades (i.e. green, black, blue, etc), even using the same pigments in their manufacture. Later, in late 1943, new grey AMT colours came into use and supplanted the original AMT colours on fighter aircraft.
During 1944-45 a limited amount of a new lacquer system called "A-m" was seen. This system was intended for all-metal aircraft, and was only used on such machines (like the Pe-2 and Tu-2, for example). These colours are notable for being quite dark, indeed, and were not overly common during the GPW.
The VVS was at the forefront of much thinking in aviation camouflage, from well back into the 1920s. In the pre-War era the there were many advanced ideas, such as "sky" camouflage and "ground" camouflage. In other words, many fighters wore colouration seen to be inconspicuous in the air, such as aluminium and grey lacquers, while bombers and such like wore colours suitable for operation near the ground. This kind of dichotomy in thinking stayed with the VVS through the GPW, and actually persists still to this day.
In the pre-GPW era, some aircraft were manufactured with a single-colour upper surface livery (often green, with blue unders). This kind of finish was not considered to be camouflage by the VVS, only a military finish suitable for covering the airframe (during peacetime camouflage was not seen to be required). For these "non-camouflage" schemes, AII green was typical, but also AEh-15 was used in this way. When, in 1940, the government instructed that all aircraft would be camouflaged, most of these examples were modified with appliqué, many using the ubiquitous AII Black paint. Some numbers of I-16s did carry on in this outdated way, and so too did some MiG fighters, and so this appearance has become a bit apocryphal in Western literature. However, in the main, this non-camouflage appearance was no longer seen after 1940 (and was against regulations, as well); aircraft like the La-5 or Yak fighters obviously never appeared like this.
An early MiG wearing the older AEh-15 dark green lacquer.
Some examples of the older "sky" camouflage could be seen in the early GPW period. These can be discerned from non-camouflage applications in that they were over-all colouration, not simple upper and lower schemes. The main lacquers in use for this kind of finish were AII Aluminium and AEh-9 Light Grey. This type of finish could be seen mainly on the I-153, outdated examples of the I-16 (i.e. the Type 5) and the SB bomber. Indeed, the Chaika and SB sometimes received spectacular appliqué camouflage involving green patternation over these (upper) surfaces, an appearance which has become highly popular in artistic work (although it was in fact uncommon).
An SB M-100 wearing an all-over finish of aviation lacquer AEh-9 Light Grey. In the 1930s this type of
colouration was seen as a form of 'sky camouflage' for the speedy, high flying medium bomber.
"Red 2" wore a fascinating appliqué of AEh-15 Green lines over AII
The most common colouration for fighters at the outbreak of the GPW in the VVS was a two-colour disruptive pattern of black over green, and blue undersurfaces. A dark green paint was also used occasionally in lieu of black, but the former was by far more common. This combination remained the same with the introduction of AMT lacquers, except that the AMT system had no dark green colour (leaving only black). This is precisely how fighter camouflage remained until the end of 1943, even if the patterns and style of application changed quite a bit.
There were many specific patterns of application for these finishes, many of which are probably still unknown. The manner and style of application were highly individualistic. These would depend mostly upon the specific factory manufacturing the aircraft, and the time-frame in question, but could also depend upon the preferences of individual workers and even random fancy. What is most important to bear in mind is the factory, in which one can usually see a certain range of somewhat agreed methods for many pattern applications. Equally, the type of aviation lacquer in use was often decided per factory in many cases.
Yak-1 wearing one of the type's early hard-edged schemes in AII Green and Black.
Note the distortions around the aft canopy area; most VVS models in IL2FB
suffer from serious mapping irregularities.
The 'Great Meander' pattern in AII lacquers Green and Dark Green.
A Yak-7B wearing a lovely pattern from Factory 153 (Novosibirsk). In this case, the paints in
use are AMT-4/-6/-7. The similarity between the different Green and Black colours is no
coincidence; the same pigments were used to colour the AMT and AII versions.
An early 4-gun LaGG-3 wearing another unique Novosibirsk pattern, this in AII Green
Yak-1b wearing a complex AMT-4/-6/-7 application from 1943.
The beloved 'Loops' scheme on a Yak-9T, this time in AMT lacquers. The popularity of this
application across the Yakolev programme was such that it appeared in use at several factories,
Saratov and Novosibirsk predominating.
There is one case in which we see an unusual amount of uniformity in painting and finish, this being Factory 21 at Gor'ki (now named Nizhniy Novgorod). This factory was the first to employ the new AMT lacquers in mass production, and it was always enthusiastic to obtain the latest such paints. The Factory 21 staff employed these finishes with curious (by Soviet standards) regularity, and developed a 'default' paint pattern for use on all their La-5 and LaGG-3 aircraft. This pattern application was so ubiquitous that it has come to be known as the GSP (Gorki Standard Pattern). In short, if the reference photograph of an LaGG or La-5 during the entire 1942-43 period (i.e. pre-AMT-11/-12 lacquers) does not clearly show another pattern, then one may reasonably assume that this was the application in use-- it was simply that common.
The Gorki Standard Pattern on the early La-5, 1942. The finishes here are AMT lacquers (-4/-6/-7),
as the factory so relished to use.
Here is the GSP a year later, now on the La-5F. As this application developed, the fuselage 'bump'
areas become somewhat tighter and more compact.
It was previously thought that there were a few examples of this
scheme in AII type lacquers,
but we now believe that AMT was used exclusively at Gor'ki after the
spring of 1942. A fair number of mid-to-late series
LaGG fighters were also finished with the GSP at Taganrog (Factory 31),
which seems to have relied heavily upon Factory 21 for its painting
At the start of 1944 a new system of AMT paints was introduced en mass for fighters. [In fact, this finish was actually seen in very limited cases prior to 1944. The known examples of this practice were all LaGG-3 fighters of the last type (Ulyushenniy i Oblegchenniy), manufactured during the late autumn of 1943.] The new upper surface colours were AMT-11 Grey-Blue and AMT-12 Dark Grey, but the current blue undersurface colour was retained (AMT-7). Almost without exception, these new colours replaced the old ones on all VVS fighters after this date. Furthermore, units in the field immediately began to apply this colouration onto surviving fighters which had been finished originally with other colours/lacquers.
Along with the new colour finishes, the government (NKAP) decided to issue a recommended pattern for fighter camouflage. Note the word "recommended"; that is how this instruction was greeted at the factories. By and large, during 1944 the various factories did use a version of this pattern, although never, never with angular straight lines as in the NKAP diagram. Some of the common factory interpretations of this application are shown below.
Here is the actual diagram which accompanied this NKAP scheme recommendation, Order No. 389/0133.
The Soviet aviation factories regarded the angular, straight lines with utter contempt-- it was the antithesis
of all VVS camouflage practices heretofore.
The La-7 wearing a typical NKAP-type scheme, 1944. Thanks to Jester for the superb La-7
Factory 153's interpretation of the NKAP pattern, here on a Yak-9D.
By 1945, some factories began to deviate from the use of these NKAP type applications. Factory 381 at Moscow and 166 at Omsk were fine examples of this work. Indeed, the Saratov plant (no. 292) showed little interest in the NKAP scheme even by late 1944, when it completed many Yak-1b fighters with an application of their own invention.
A 3-gun La-7 manufactured at Factory 381, Moscow, 1945. The new pattern was a return in many
ways to previous ideas on camouflage application.
Factory 292 at Saratov was not especially thrilled with the NKAP's ideas, as
demonstrated by this common Yak-1b application from 1944 manufacture. Later,
the same factory deviated again heavily with camouflage on the Yak-3.
During the early months of 1945 a new single-colour application could be seen at some factories. This timing has suggested to some that this new scheme might have been a Winter seasonal application; it is not currently known whether this was indeed the case. To date, examples finished in this way have been identified only from Factories 21 (Gor'ki) and 292 (Saratov), thus involving the La-7 and Yak-3 programmes. For these schemes, lacquers AMT-11 (most frequent) or AMT-12 (infrequently) were used as a single-colour upper surface application, with AMT-7 unders. Numbers of aircraft finished in this way were limited, and by all means the two-colour disruptive pattern of AMT-11/-12 remained standard right through the GPW, and immediately thereafter.
A three-gun La-7 finished in AMT-12 single-colour uppers.
There were no three-colour camouflage schemes applied to VVS
at the factory. In fact, even in the field these were exceptionally
with no more than 2-3 examples known from some 20,000 photographs.
was no "brown" (RAF-like) Soviet aviation paint, and nothing like it
ever used on any fighter. All of the myriad colour profiles and artwork created for years and years
existing all over the world showing this kind of colouration are
VVS camouflage for bombers, and such like, was by far more complicated and varied than for fighter aircraft. Even before the GPW there were 3-colour bomber schemes, and these made use of paint types seen to be especially suitable for bomber work. Unlike fighters, many bombers made use of the older AII lacquers for the entire GPW period.
The Il-2 started the GPW wearing a two-colour disruptive scheme of Black/Green, as with fighter aircraft. During 1942 it even received some Dark Green/Green applications, as well. So far as is currently known, AMT was not employed on the early Il-2 programme. During late 1942, examples of the Il-2 two-seater began to appear wearing a two-colour scheme with AII Brown replacing AII Black. This paint, AII Brown, was known before the GPW, but was not common until it began to be used on the Il-2. The name "Brown" is also highly misleading-- the factories who made aircraft called the paint "red", which seems more appropriate than "brown". The Il-2 programme turned to AII Brown with very great enthusiasm, and from spring 1943 this became the standard AII lacquer finish for Il-2s.
An early all-metal Il-2 single-seat aircraft wearing one of the complex patterns of the time. The
finishes in use are AII Green and Black.
The exceedingly ubiquitous colour combination for the Il-2, AII Green and Brown.
The pattern in view dates from 1943.
During 1943 the government (NKAP) decided to offer some advice on camouflage. Once such recommendation was for a three-colour camouflage for use on shturmoviki (assault aircraft) using the new AMT type paints. On the Il-2 this application was used from late 1943, featuring AMT-12/-1/-4 over AMT-7. At the time of writing, it would appear that both AII and AMT lacquer schemes were applied to the Il-2 indiscriminately for the remainder of the GPW. Research continues on this topic to attempt to quantify these relative ubiquity of these options.
The NAKP's recommended shturmovik camouflage, a three-colour application using
AMT-4/-12/-1 uppers. The "gun cover" boxes are another errant mapping problem
on the Il-2 3D model.
Other three-colour applications on the Il-2 are known. Many field applied schemes of this type were completed, and there were examples of AII Black/Brown/Green at at least two of the factories involved. Factory 18 made a series of Southern Front camouflage Il-2s, these in AII Black/Brown/Light Brown. These were, of course, specific and unusual examples, and not the norm.
A three-colour (not NKAP) application from Factory 1 dating from 1943. The lacquers
used here are AII Green, Brown and Black.
The DB-3/Il-4, being a pre-GPW design, started off mainly with "sky" camouflage finishes using AII Aluminium. These were quickly replaced by AII schemes of Black/Green/Blue, and sometimes early three-colour examples (Black/Brown/Green over Blue). The SB was another pre-GPW aircraft, and early examples featured either AEh-8 (which was grey and looked a bit like NMF) finish or a light grey called AEh-9 (see above). Sometimes one might see a non-camouflaged Green/Blue example, as well. By 1941 most of these aircraft were wearing two-colour Green/Black camouflage, or various forms of filed applied appliqué. Many TB-3s wore a non-camouflage (Green/Blue) finish pre-GPW, and also obtained Black/Green/Blue finishes by 1941.
An SB M-103 version wearing a typical AII Green/Black livery.
The Pe-8 in another AII Green/Black scheme. Due to the very large size of the aircraft,
I have employed highly desaturated colours on the skin. The attempt in so doing is
to generate a sense of scale within IL2FB's shading system.
The colouration history of the Pe-2 is fascinating and complex. Some of the very early examples manufactured at Factory 39 in Moscow were finished in a pre-GPW manner, with a single upper surface colour of AEh-15. However, such examples were uncommon, and most early Peshkas were finished with an AII Green/Black/Blue scheme. During late 1942 many machines started to use AII Dark Green instead of Black, and the Pe-2 programme-- for reasons unknown-- virtually monopolized the remaining stocks of this paint and used it in manufacture until 1946. From late 1943, examples were seen wearing the NKAP 3-colour scheme (AMT-12/-1/-4), and during 1944-45 even some in the new A-m all-metal lacquers (A-32m/A-21m/A-24m). Some three-colour AII paint versions were also seen, these in AII Green/Brown/Light Brown.
An early Series Pe-2 wearing a typical AII Green and Black scheme.
Factory 22 employed this somewhat outdated colour combination-- AII Green and
Dark Green-- with the greatest enthusiasm, indeed until after the GPW.
So great was the preference for AII type lacquers in the Pe-2 programme that,
in fact, examples of the NKAP scheme were completed using these instead of
the specified AMT colours. The paints in view are AII Green, Brown and Light
A later Series Pe-2 wearing the very dark and unusual all-metal formula Am type
finishes. The pattern is the same as the NKAP 1943 recommendation for medium
bombers, but using lacquers A-24m, A-32m and A-21m. The undersurfaces
remained AMT-7 Blue.
A set of digital colour chips for the various VVS lacquers may be found here. Readers are urged to bear in mind that colours do not appear identically on different computers, monitors or screens, and therefore these samples are meant for the purposes of general familiarisation only; their subsequent appearance should not be accepted literally.
Digital Colour Chips
The national insignia of the VVS changed over the years, perhaps to an unusual degree. The Plain Red star was seen from the early 1920s, and was somewhat standard at the outbreak of the GPW. During 1941-42 is was a bit of a fad at some factories to apply a thin black outline to this marking (the Black Border star), but units in the field did likewise, and also used white colour in the same way. This practice gave way to a general convention during 1942-43 that national markings should have a white outline (White Border star), the thickness of which seemingly increased with each passing year. Variations were legion, of course, no one appearing to apply them in quite the same way.
The White Border star, with a medium-to-thick border, became a defacto standard until 1945. Just after the GPW, the VVS Command issued a regulation that a new star would be the correct insignia, this a medium border White Border star with an additional thin red outline. This marking, the so-called Victory star (as the instruction was issued right after VE Day), was actually again taken from the work of field units, and examples like this can be seen as early as very late 1943, or so. By 1944 many units thought that this was certainly the preferred marking, and during that year it became as common on service aircraft as the White Border type.
Artistic permutations to these standard markings are almost numberless. A common variety saw a 3D artwork in the star area, this known as the Kremlinstar type. A very few examples of star borders may have been painted in other colours (e.g. yellow), but so far no such examples have been located in the archaeological record and remain unproven. Some rather fanciful colours for borders have been suggested (silver, blue, etc) but there is currently no evidence whatever to substantiate such ideas.
The VVS applied national insignia in a manner dissimilar to
Even dating back to the 1920s, many VVS theorists believed that having
a large red marking on the wing upper surface was a violation of
and spotting practices. It was quite common even
during the pre-GPW years to see military aircraft with no national star
on the upper wing surfaces (civil aircraft usually did, however).
1940, when the government insisted on camouflage for all aircraft,
were specifically mentioned as inappropriate. However, as everywhere,
practices died hard, and some aircraft (notably, for example, the I-16
and MiG-3, often the recipient of pre-GPW painting) did carry them in
By 1942, however, one would virtually never see such, and in the main
they were never seen on most GPW aircraft.
A handful of Lend-Lease types were seen with such markings, and during 1944 there was something of a 'mini comeback' of this kind of marking on Lend-Lease machines. The Americans were in the habit of applying stars, even VVS ones for L-L contracts, on the wing uppers. Mainly these were painted out with some kind of green paint, but in some unusual cases they were retained, and even more curiously sometimes made symmetrical with a starboard marking. It is rare, but not impossible, to see such an arrangement on some P-39s, and a few B-25s. Again, however, it must be stressed that these are exceptional cases, and the usual L-L aircraft did not feature such upper wing stars.
Soviet national insignia were usually applied in four or six positions on the machine. The wing undersurface application was standard, and one always sees them here (well out towards the wing tip, like the RAF, not inboard as with German markings). Stars were then applied either to the fuselage sides, or to the fin/rudder, or to both. The practice was a bit random, especially early in the GPW, and examples of each permutation are common. The sizes of these various markings, their skill in execution and suitability of orientation, were quite random, as well.
Soviet aircraft have always used a number on the side of the machine to identify the aeroplane. During the GPW era these numbers were exceptionally unique in design, font, placement, and execution.
There are, for example, recognizable fonts in the photographic record. However, these are known to have been employed only at specific factories, and then only for strictly limited time periods, and then not again. Such things as a 'standard' font are virtually unknown, except for the case of Factory 21 (Gor'ki) on the La-5/-7 programme during 1944-45. One could make a catalogue, perhaps, of similar styles of fonts common to Russian use, but the fact is that the numbers on VVS aircraft are frustratingly unique (for the artist and historian). That said, one must also note the large number of inappropriate fonts which appear on colour artwork of VVS machines. The most reliable practice to replicate authentic Soviet fonts is to study a specific photograph of a period subject and attempt to replicate the numbers directly in view.
Merely concentrating a bit on numbers "2" and "5", one gets an immediate sense of the extraordinary breadth of font
styles in use by the VVS during the GPW.
The most usual case with regards to tactical numbers is that these were applied by the receiving regiment, in the field, when any new aircraft arrived. Tactical numbers were usually assigned randomly, and no obvious pattern was evident as to their meaning nor origin. In a few regiments the numbers did look to have been rather consecutive, and orderly in appearance, but in most cases they were not. White was the overwhelmingly preferred paint for such work, and the vast majority of all VVS tactical numbers were indeed this colour. Early in the GPW, tactical numbers would appear virtually anywhere on the rear fuselage, the fin, and/or the rudder. Later, by 1942, it was common that such numbers mainly appeared on the rear fuselage sides.
Some tactical numbers were applied at the factory, and these were usually also completed in white. When tactical numbers were applied at the factory, it was often the case that these were in fact the last two digits of the aircraft's Production Number, although there was no guarantee that these would remain once the aircraft reached its unit. Red and black paint were used to mark tactical numbers at times, particularly on winter schemes, and occasionally even yellow might have been used. A tiny number of rare examples have been seen with quite unusual field applied colours.
The employment of winter seasonal camouflage seems to be one of the least understood aspects of Soviet VVS colouration during the GPW. The stereotypical view of "white" VVS aircraft has its basis in the early GPW period, but thereafter the matter became actually somewhat complex, as we shall see.
Just prior to the GPW the Soviet materials industry produced an aviation finish known as MK-7 White. This paint was developed with the idea in mind that it could be easily applied over existing camouflage, and then subsequently removed. It was also considered to be essential that the paint be safe to handle for various ground crew personnel, that it be workable under severely cold temperatures and, obviously, that it not be overly expensive to manufacture. In its initial formulation, MK-7 was soluble in both water and kerosene, with the latter recommended only under very low temperature conditions. However, and remarkably for the Soviet aviation industry, this finish was not really tested in any systematic way prior to the GPW. It was thus that, during the winter months of 1941-42 when the finish was deployed on a very wide scale, the inherent properties of MK-7 came as a rude shock to the pilots and crew of the VVS.
MK-7 lacquer was manufactured in very large quantities during the autumn of 1941, and widely distributed to both aviation factories and field units of the VVS. The new lacquer was employed by both groups with the greatest enthusiasm, as one may see in the photographic record from this time (indeed, it is quite difficult to locate a VVS aircraft from the winter 1941-42 without MK-7). This new lacquer produced a very matte surface with a nice white colouration, and visually it was seen to be very suitable for seasonal camouflage.
Alas, it is also had quite a rough surface, which then imparted considerable aerodynamic drag onto the wearing aircraft. Fighter pilots, in particular, were horrified by this development, especially as it came so unexpectedly. Moreover, it was subsequently discovered during use of the new paint that it did not, in fact, adhere well to the existing aviation lacquers of the AII variety. With virtually all of the machines in the VVS inventory so finished, one can imagine that the situation was not particularly happy.
An early LaGG-3 from the winter of 1941-42 wearing a freshly applied coat of
MK-7 White. Such a fresh appearance would not last long.
Three months of intensive service left this appearance on HSU Zhidov's Yak-1.
This aircraft had originally been manufactured with a nice coat of MK-7, but
deteriorated considerably through wear.
A Pe-2 showing a typical bomber appearance for the first two winters of the GPW.
The amount of wear visible on the MK-7 surfaces gave an immediate indication
of the age of the finish.
The materials industry did take note of these failures with MK-7 finish during the following year (1942). Several new formulations were developed in an attempt to rectify the poor performance of the paint. Version MK-7F, for example, was soluble in alcohol, and was heavily tested over the new AMT lacquer surfaces, to which it adhered fairly well. However, MK-7 still imparted drag onto the wearing aircraft through its very matte surface, and no modification of the paint managed to remove this feature [as a matter of fact, all countries experienced similar performance loss with their own white winter paints].
During the winter of 1942-43 the use of MK-7 was, thus, exceedingly mixed. Many fighter pilots refused outright to apply this paint to their aircraft, and simply operated during the winter months in temperate camouflage. Some pilots opted to apply MK-7 sparingly, or on parts of the airframe, attempting to sort out a compromise between concealment and performance. The resulting 'half-white' winter schemes from these activities are now famous, and part of the public perception of the VVS. Bomber pilots took a similar view, and employed MK-7 in a similarly mixed way, although perhaps a bit more heavily than with fighter aviation. Also, some limited production of aircraft with MK-7F finish was undertaken at a few aviation factories at this time, no.21 at Gor'ki and no.292 at Saratov being the most profligate examples.
The 'light' application method on an La-5 from the second winter, 1942-43. MK-7
was applied sparingly, and the resulting opaque nature of the finish was somewhat
attractive. Thanks to CanonUK for this wonderful skin.
Here we see the 'removal' method from the second winter on a Yak-7B. Areas of
MK-7 have been deliberately removed and/or thinned.
By the third winter of the GPW, 1943-44, the reputation of MK-7 had deteriorated to the point that it was not seen again. The mere mention of the finish in fighter aviation circles was enough to start a near mutiny. A very, very small number of bombers were seen to use this finish during this time, but even this branch of the VVS gave up on MK-7 White, not fancying the performance loss to their aircraft. The ramifications of this timing are important vis a vis the appearance of specific types of VVS aircraft in the GPW. For example, there exist many specimens of colour artwork for aircraft such as the Yak-9 family and La-5FN with white winter camouflage. These are erroneous. Since these aircraft did not enter service until after the second winter (1942-43), no examples ever wore MK-7. Some limited experimentation was carried out on fighter aircraft using a single-colour grey livery during this winter period, but such applications were primarily made in the field, and were uncommon.
HSU Kostilev's famous La-5 wearing its odd AE-10 upper surface finish. This
lacquer was heavily used by the Navy (VMF) in the pre-GPW era, and some units
made use of this finish during the winter 1943-44 period.
HSU Kozhedub's La-5F was another famous example with this kind of single-
colour livery. In this case, the regiment mixed its own paint colour using equal parts
of the new AMT varnishes, AMT-11 and -12. Note the irritating mapping onto the
radio mast from the fuselage sides.
During 1943 production of this paint was abandoned, and essentially no more was heard of it again. Subsequently, during the last winter of the GPW (1944-45), no seasonal camouflage was employed at all. VVS aircraft simply carried on in their temperate schemes-- with the possible exception of some Yak-3s and La-7s (see above)-- and such matters as seasonal concealment were not a matter of urgency.
The VVS employed a number of different styles of painting demarcation (the area where two colours overlap or intersect), but happily in this case there was a recognizable pattern to this development. These colour demarcations applied not only to the various upper surface paints where they met, but also to the line formed where the lower colour and upper(s) conjoined, as well.
During the early GPW period, two basic styles of colour demarcation were seen as regards the upper surface lacquers. In the first permutation, the demarcation between the colours formed a hard edge. That is to say that the colour applied over the base colour (usually AII Green in most cases) had the appearance of having been applied with a brush or similar instrument (a spray gun was usually employed, but it did rather look this way). In the second case, the demarcation between the upper surface colours was a bit softer, as if it were neatly sprayed onto the airframe with great care. This kind of edge has come to be called the "semi-hard" demarcation.
Both types of demarcation were used at many different factories, and it has proven to be impossible to identify any enterprise using only one variety. However, it is correct to say that the demarcation between the upper and lower surface colours did correspond to the type of demarcation seen on the upper surfaces-- they were either hard or semi-hard corresponding to the upper surface treatment. In the early GPW period, the upper/lower colour demarcation was usually a straight line, in many cases extending along the bottom of the fuselage to the rudder, but in other cases (on bombers especially) travelling from the wing root to the fin. There are too many examples of upper/lower demarcation to mention here, so one should check reference photographs.
As the GPW progressed, it was the case that, as a general trend, the colour demarcations softened in application. By 1942 hard-edged demarcations were very rare, and certainly after the summer months one would not see them again in factory applied camouflage. Later, during 1943, an even looser form of demarcation became popular, this being the "semi-soft" form (where the edge was softer and more 'sprayed' in appearance). Both semi-hard and semi-soft demarcations were common at the time, but the latter began to gain in popularity, especially when the lower colour demarcations began to form a "ramp" feature. This 'ramp' was formed when the lower colour demarcation began to curve upwards along the fuselage side to meet the stabilizer, rather than pass below it to the rudder.
By 1944, an even looser form of demarcation became popular, this the "soft" variety. It was especially common on AMT-11/-12 schemes which were applied at the factories. One should bear in mind that at this time there was a very great deal of field repainting, this resulting from the desire to replace the existing camouflage on older aircraft with the new AMT-11/-12 colouration. For this reason one may see a virtually endless number of colour demarcation types during the spring of 1944 on all manner of fighter aircraft. However, despite the growing popularity of 'soft' colour demarcations, upper/lower colour demarcations tended to remain 'semi-soft', even in factory work. At the same time, some new versions of the upper/lower 'ramp' were seen, and in some cases these were very high up the fuselage sides indeed, and some formed straight lines from the wing root to the stabilizer (especially in the La-5 and -7 programme). Once again, it is always wise to check the reference photograph of any specific prototype.