A comment on this answer suggests that the exact paint distribution of a camouflage paint job varies from individual to individual:

Looking closely at the camo details, the a/c in photo in answer is clearly the exact same individual airplane as the one in question —quiet flyer

Production of camouflage in other settings, such as textiles, produces camouflage patterns that repeat predictably enough that the patterns are trademarked, but quiet flyer's comment suggests aircrait camouflage is more like fingerprints.

How does application of a camouflage paint job to an aircraft differ from the usual predictable and consistent process of applying livery?

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    $\begingroup$ "quiet flyer's comment suggests aircrait camouflage is more like fingerprints." – That's not what the comment suggests. The comment suggests that camouflage for Tachikawa Ki-54s built before 1945 is individualized. Which, to be honest, doesn't surprise me, since I am pretty sure that no aircraft paint job in that time would have been done by a computer-controlled robot, but by humans instead, who are fallible and inexact. $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2022 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ May be dependent on situation-- for example wouldn't be surprised if some of the larger-scale patterns used in WW 2 (think of a typical Battle-of-Britain RAF Spitfire) might have at least followed a highly standardized pattern, if showing some slight variation due to freehand application. (I'm not sure how standardized these really were, and haven't tried to do research, hence not posting as real answer.) But the position of each of those individual little dots on that Japanese a/c -- no way would those have been standardized. $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2022 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ "like fingerprints" means individualized. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2022 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ It's the same basic process as tartan paint. youtube.com/watch?v=z1RMVG5Tk6E $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2022 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


Unlike airliners, military aircraft are NOT exact. This has a hand in foiling adversarial pattern recognition.

5th Gen fighter, F-22

F-22 right wing This from www.military.com

enter image description here

This from https://theaviationgeekclub.com

You can clearly see the difference on the inner surface of the right vertical stabs.

They are given general guidelines as to percentage. And especially, along seams, one type of paint vs another.

The paint on these is applied by robot, to ensure a totally uniform coating.

The F-22—also a fifth-generation stealth fighter—has a different camouflage, which sources have said plays a role in confusing adversary imaging infrared systems. The application of the darker F-22 camouflage shapes, known within Lockheed Martin as “the amoebas,” is an extremely precise process requiring robots to ensure that the paint has no high or low spots that would affect the aircraft’s radar reflectivity. https://www.airandspaceforces.com/usaf-new-camouflage-paint-for-f-35-aggressors-doesnt-interfere-with-stealth/

F-16 Aggressors at Nellis AFB enter image description here https://automototale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/cautofotoaa1313-840x420.jpg

The two on the left, grey/blue are different from each other, as well as the next two (green/brown)

Again, the paint shop is given general guidelines. These 4th gen jets are painted by hand. Well, spray...

Additionally, 2x C-130 from the 37th Tactical Airlift Sq, Rhein-Main AB Germany, 1981.

enter image description here

Same squadron, same time, slightly different pattern. https://nara.getarchive.net/media/right-side-view-of-three-c-130e-hercules-aircraft-camouflaged-in-european-paint-933866

  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense. Making an aircraft sized template to mask off the primer and the "not green" areas would be... cumbersome. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 6, 2022 at 14:06

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