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"How off-white was the French infantry uniform of the SYW?" Topic

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Khazarmac28 May 2008 6:19 a.m. PST

I am going to paint up some 15mm Friekorps SYW minis, French and British, and wanted advice on the colour of the French infantry's uniforms. The various texts and websites I have looked at seem to portray their jackets as anything from white, through off-white, to a light/medium grey. I know that later in the 18th century they did really go white, and that at the start (WSS) they appeared to be grey, but what about the SYW?

If anyone can shed some light on what colours they have used, particularly if they can refer me to pictures online or in publications, that'd be very much appreciated. I have both volumes of the Funcken books, and also Mollo.



IGWARG1 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 May 2008 7:27 a.m. PST

I used Osprey books when I painted mine. They had it very light grey. It looks white compared to other colors, but looks definately grey compared to white.

Zagloba28 May 2008 7:40 a.m. PST

There was a thread on the LaceWars yahoo group that flogged this to the point where people were debating which breed of sheep would provide the wool used in the coat. IIRC there was no real definitive answer, especially once you consider the effects of weather and wear.

I'd do them as a really light grey , but only because I'd want to differentiate them from my Austrians who are in white.


archstanton7328 May 2008 7:42 a.m. PST

Zagloba I agree--i challenge any wargamer to spend a week outside sleeping rough in any uniform and see what it looks like afterwards…If it started white or very light grey then t wouldn't be by the time the average army would get into an engagement (of the type fought by us gamers)!!!

OldGrenadier at work28 May 2008 7:47 a.m. PST

One suggestion is to paint Royal ergiments in light gray and drybrush in a bone or tapioca white, and to paint non-Royal regiments a medium gray and drybrush in light gray. It's what I do in 15mm. Of course, I don't have any Austrians.

Brett181528 May 2008 8:59 a.m. PST

The uniform is near enough white. Don't go by the French uniforms in Last of the Mohicans, which is nonsense.

RockyRusso28 May 2008 9:07 a.m. PST


I did white primer, light greay wash followed by translucent sepia ink for the "dirt" effect. Your milage may vary.


T Labienus28 May 2008 11:01 a.m. PST

you can find on the fist Funcken book, that the french uniforms were grey till the "1762 ordonnance", then they became white due to the prussian fashion, except regiments 1st to 6th : white with blue pits and regiments 7th and 9th still white-grey.

Khazarmac28 May 2008 1:09 p.m. PST

Thanks all, I will go with a very light grey, highlighting to almost white.


crogge175728 May 2008 1:28 p.m. PST

I'd make them white. You can read the sources in google library, meanwhile. All that is in any case more reliable then poor print reproductions with some publications.
The sources read "Habit blanc" – i.e. white. The regiment Du Roi is specified with Habit: gris-blanc – i.e. grey white, but thats the single non-white French line inf. I recall for the 7YW. Also the cav. hac gris-blanc with various shades.
In 1762, some more of the old regt also adopted grey-white. Thats what the sources say.

See "Dictionnaire Militaire Portativ etc." 3 vols. 1758 edition. Has tables of the entire army in appendix of vol 3 – link:

or see "Elements de l'Art Militaire" by M. de Héricourt, Paris 1756 2 vols.
Has entire army, uniforms, weapons, equippement and regulation – a very good one. Link:

All this should give clearification

Graf Bretlach28 May 2008 3:44 p.m. PST

Elements de l'Art Militaire" by M. de Héricourt, Paris 1756

Tome 1

Tome 2

Tome 3

Tome 4

Tome 5

Any advance on 5?

ge2002bill Supporting Member of TMP28 May 2008 5:14 p.m. PST

With profound respect to the writers here, yes we have been down this road several times since 2005. Somewhere in storage here are voluminous commentaries from several people including me about this – last year sometime was the last one. Perhaps someone with a lot of time may be able to find same. Let me simply say I:
1. Have been answering this question since the 1980s because of my editorship of The Journal of The Seven Years' War Assn., my own SYW French forces going back to the 1960s and because I was nearly mortified to learn French F&I reenactos were wearing light grey coats in the mid 1980s. These are all now gone replaced with off-white.
2. Grey white or gris-blanc is a name – not a color to use to figure out what to paint. A grey, peal grey, or grey-white coat is absolutely an error. An understandible one.
3. There is nothing, greyish about SYW French troupes de terre or compagnies de la marine infantry uniforms.
4. I offer to the readers the following painting by Vernet who was ordered by Louis XV to paint the ports of France. One named the Port of Antibes shows the Royal Comtois marching along in a very relaxed formation – no order. It is a cloudy day. The uniforms are off-white.
5. I wandered over to one of the sites dealing the Musee de l'Armeé in Paris to see if they have gotten their act together yet. No they have not. However, there is one site showing French Napoleonic uniforms with white culottes and facings. It is not a pure snow white. It offers a good representation of the off-white of the SYW era.
6. I use a parchment or ivory white painted over black primed miniatures. Within the white is mixed the tiniest amount of medium or light leather brown. Putting grey or black in creases and folds in the cloth is fine.
7. One of these days I'll post a color picture of a French white coat on my website.
With my utmost compliments,
Votre Serviteur,

Quebecnordiques29 May 2008 2:23 a.m. PST

Well said ge2002bill! Bravo!
It is about time all these FIW imprecisions got booted away!

crogge175729 May 2008 2:25 a.m. PST


thanks for this crearification.
I understand gris-blanc should read greyish white – or simply off white rather then light grey. Did I get this right?

Cher comte de Bretlack,
Merci. I thought it was only 2 volumes.


Khazarmac29 May 2008 3:13 a.m. PST

Dear all, thanks again for this very erudite discussion. I am actually reassured that my confusion is not unique! Amending my responce above, I will go as suggested, with an off-white, shading with a very light grey. May I call an end to the discussion now though, as I would not want to restart a debate that seems to have been covered in such detail in the past!



docdennis196829 May 2008 7:53 a.m. PST

How about "dirty white" due to dirt
or "dusty white" due to dust
or "grimey white" due to various grime
or "unmentionable white" due to stains by , well the unmentionable!
agreed that gray is not likely, but also likely that some variation of the above list is probable!

Paris Guard29 May 2008 9:53 a.m. PST

I was a management consultant for about 30 years, away from home five days a week (sometimes more) and back in the 1980's, while working at a bank in Boston, had to occasion to dine with a union organizer for the garment industry. He was French, and we got on the subject of Gris-blanc of the French army of the 7 YW. He noted that the uniform was made of Lodeve cloth, and that the fabric was woven from two threads of white wools, and one thread of dark blue wool, in single strands, which produced an off-white, or light gray aspect from about 20 feet away or more. I assume that over time the dark blue would have bleached away. Dyes were not all that stable in those days.

I knew this, but still went ahead and painted my troops with a light gray color, for I have been opposing French and Austrians to the Prussians, and like the easily-recognized contrast. I am 71, and my French troops will wear my version of gris-blanc past my death!


RockyRusso29 May 2008 10:06 a.m. PST


Is this where we get to the idea of "modeling distance?"

Oh, wait, that is IPMS talk, not wargaming.

The essence is this, the absolutely correct color may look wrong when you are looking at the figs from 5 feet a way, a scale distance of 300 feet.


Rob Herrick29 May 2008 5:56 p.m. PST

Knotel notes that Auvergne, Poitou and Champagne adopted white coats in ~1715, and the color gradually became universal for all French infantry. That's all the detail he gives, which begs the question of when did the uniform color change from the pale gray of the WSS to white/off-white/comparable to Spanish, Italian or Imperial white of the SYW? Was it up to the whim of the colonel, or was it part of one of the designated changes in uniform in 1734/43/57 (the dates Knotel gives)?

Khazarmac30 May 2008 11:08 a.m. PST

Thanks again to all for their contributions.


von Winterfeldt02 Jun 2008 9:29 p.m. PST

So far on contemporary prints I know about, they are white for the 7YW, as white for all uniforms of that time, it is not the super bleached white as of today, but it is certainly not grey or light grey.
As for fatigue duty, one should not wear the coat, in case you did wear it, you had to turn it around so that the lining was at the outside, or preferably wear the waistcoat or a linen smock.
In some armies the white coat was pipe clayed as well.

Quebecnordiques03 Jun 2008 2:56 p.m. PST

Paris Guard, may those troops "fight" in your presence for many a year still.

Good health to you!

IR1Lothringen04 Jun 2008 3:12 a.m. PST

I found some previous links to discussions on this subject.
TMP link
TMP link
TMP link

I need to get a life!!

Quebecnordiques04 Jun 2008 3:12 p.m. PST

Thanks IR1Lothringen!

ge2002bill Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2008 4:08 p.m. PST

You ARE a GOOD fellow!
Bravo. I looked for those messages last week and gave up.
Votre Serviteur,

Terry3705 Jun 2008 12:10 p.m. PST

This has been a great thread, and after reading it and all associated links I am happy to say they have kept me from making the "gray" mistake in painting my French regiments in America during the F&IW. I was all set to paint their coats a light gray and hit them with a white dry brush but now feel I will go with a with an off white base coat and a very watered down light gray wash and a final highlight of white. Thank you all!


French Wargame Holidays05 Jun 2008 8:52 p.m. PST

I used a black undercoat, shadow grey white mixed base coat, ink wash with tamayia smoke mixed with extender and then white for highlight

I will post this week on my blog and my displaced minis site


Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jun 2008 12:46 p.m. PST

This talk about coat colors nearly makes me want to go out and paint some French figures for my SYW armies. evil grin

Steve the Wargamer07 Jun 2008 1:31 a.m. PST

…I'm almost hesitant to ask…. :o)

…would the same have gone for their uniforms in the WSS??

IR1Lothringen07 Jun 2008 3:13 p.m. PST

Steve – see TMP link

Erbprinz15 Jul 2008 9:13 a.m. PST

So it seems that the situation can be summarized thusly:

1. Gris-blanc is color description, but not a description of the atual color which has no grey in it. What 'grey' it might have to the eye is caused by the threads being 2 white / one dark blue for a net 'grey effect' at distance, this 'grey effect' would probably fade over time.

2. The actual color is 'off-white', something like an eggshell color. This seems to be painted by gamers in two fashions, either a light grey with white drybrush or a parchment/ivory color with white drybrush.

3. In either case, this color is different from the Austiran white, a 'pure white'.

Given that, I am trying a 'parchment' or 'ivory' (as in the ivory of animal tusks) color with a white drybrushing. This figure is next to the figure I painted very light grey with a white drybrushing, and I'll get a contrast with that.

Basically, the only real difference seems to be from what direction you come at the off-white color: light grey or cream/ivory, a brown tint, and then both are highlighted white.

Or at least this is my understanding of it.

Erbprinz15 Jul 2008 10:09 a.m. PST

Experiment a failure – I dont' like either result of dry-brushing white onto light grey or ivory.

Anyone know a Vallejo color that is off-white? Or should I make my own by putting a little light grey into some white?

Erbprinz15 Jul 2008 10:30 a.m. PST

Following the above logic, one assumes that there IS a color difference btw the French coats and their 'white' gaitors. At the end, I guess this is all that matters, anyway. If there isn't, then they can both just be painted, 'white'.

RockyRusso15 Jul 2008 10:44 a.m. PST


Erb, I work in the opposite directin. Bright white, with a thin wash of color that settles into the folds leaving a white highlight. Then a dark brown lining under belt edges and the like.


Erbprinz15 Jul 2008 10:55 a.m. PST

Rocky, that's the direction I'm headed – not satisfied with the drybrush look, plus it is a lot of work. I was going to use the 'miracle dip' with a black/grey base. My only question at this point is the difference in tone btw the white coat and the white gaitors.

But I was also planning ot drybrush a little dirt color on the boots/gaitors of the infantry, anyway.

dbf167615 Jul 2008 12:05 p.m. PST

Erb. Vajello has a color called "Off White" or "Blanco Peragammo (sp?." With a black undercoat, I use it over Vajello light grey, then wash with a "dip" of water, Future Floor Covering and Paine's Grey. Dry brush white again.

Another technique is to spray white and then "dip" with Paine's Grey.

Erbprinz15 Jul 2008 2:22 p.m. PST

dbf, I'm unfamiliar with Paine's Grey, is it a paint?

I like the sound of the Blanco Peragammo, I have already white-primed my unit, I'd be interested in an off-white paint color to give the coat contrast to the gaitors, and then a dip for shading the entire model.

btw, are there any good re-enactor sites for FIW / 7YW? It'd be nice to see some pics of people in color.

dbf167615 Jul 2008 6:39 p.m. PST

Payne's grey (I misspelled it before) is a color. You can find it in acrylic form at any artist paint or craft store. BTW, I use this method with my Minden Austrians. The wash outlines the belts, which I then do again with pure white for contrast.

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