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"what colors for French Ships? " Topic

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28 Aug 2017 9:57 a.m. PST
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Comments or corrections?

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

Hey all,

I'm starting my first French ship and I am doing internet research on what colors the French used on their ships.

any advice please? So far I've seen White, dark yellow, or anything I think would look nice. Since my British ships are going to be black and yellow, I'd like to paint the French something different. I also thought white was mostly American. I swear I thought I saw something that the French did a lot of blue, but can't find it again.


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

As did others the French used many colors. Medium blue is often associated with the Royal French Navy. By Napoleon's time there is some evidence of efforts to standardize on black with white stripes while the Brits went with yellow ochre stripes on black. Americans also used white/black.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

try these:


TMP link


BrianW28 Aug 2017 7:09 p.m. PST

During the Revolutionary era, many French ships were painted red (source: Willis, Glorious First of June) to symbolize their rallying cry of "The Republic or Death." By 1798, it's a mixture of reds and yellows, just depending on the ship's captain. As an aside here, it should be a darker red, like a barn or iron oxide red. That;s primarily due to the fact that all paint back then faded pretty quickly.

The white stripes don't become widespread until after the Napoleonic era. The Russians use them starting about 1801 or so, the US uses them, and some units of other navies do. Their widespread usage is a post-war thing, though.

attilathepun4728 Aug 2017 9:34 p.m. PST

I do not think that the U.S. Navy made extensive use of white until after the War of 1812. It is true that white is shown in many pictures of sea battles in that conflict, but most of those pictures were painted well after the war ended. Artists just painted what they were familiar with, helped along by the fact that some of the actual warships involved still existed, but now sporting a different paint scheme.

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 6:30 a.m. PST

thanks everyone for the help.

Seems like red, yellow, blue, or white would be acceptable.

though, as an aside, I do enjoy the vagueness that exists in history, especially before photographs. I even tried looking up specific french ships (like the Orient) and couldn't find much info on how they were painted.

While I want to be historically correct, it'd also be nice if each nation had it's own color scheme like the infantry did.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

FWIW, I take an alternate approach: I paint the ships in generic interchangeable schemes and swap flags to assign them to nations as required by scenario. The models are expensive and time consuming to build, so this conserves effort and maximizes wargaming flexibility, and in truth the "national" character of each navy is lost on wargamers anyway. This is easy to do prior to 1800 when the spankers were shorter (never extending past the taffrail) and flags were HUGE and flown from poles on the the poop deck. I've never found a good way to swap flags flown from a line between the spanker gaff and boom like in the Nelsonian era.

Just for fun I do have some unique ships in the collection which never change sides (e.g. Santissima Trinidad), and for expediency and ease of identification there are batches of ships painted in similar looking schemes.

- Ix

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 11:05 a.m. PST

Thanks Ix, though I already have the flag flying from the spanker, and it's the Nelson era that I am aiming for.

but all these comments further my suspicion that I could probably paint these in any of the colors above and be OK. right now i'm leaning toward a a dark red because:

1) i think it'll look nice
2) BrainW is becoming my AoS mentor as every question I have hr gives me a good answer and I like his blog. : )


KniazSuvorov29 Aug 2017 12:56 p.m. PST

Hi Stew,

You may find that painting dark red stripes on your boats just makes them look like black holes at any distance. White and buff look much better on small models because of the high contrast.

Remember that, for the sailors of the day, initial IDing often took place while vessels were still "hull down", i.e. while only the upper sails were visible above the horizon. There was no reason at all to give ships a national livery, especially as the ambiguous nature of the paintwork worked in favor of commerce raiders and cruisers.

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

Good tip KS, I'll be sure to go a little brighter on the red. This is a big hulking 120 gun SOL so I think it'll work all right and be seen from a distance. but I'll likely go with buff for the smaller 3rd rates. I also feel more comfortable with color choices.

I want to thank everyone here on TMP again for the advice and support for starting up AoS.


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2017 6:25 p.m. PST

Be careful not to overdo the red. My red-and-white Santissima Trinidad looks like a candy cane. :-)

- Ix

attilathepun4730 Aug 2017 9:31 p.m. PST

Somewhere I once read an eyewitness describing the "Santissima Trinidad" as resembling a brick wall (the white bands along the gun ports apparently reminding him of mortar). Bricks actually have a range of colors, depending on the clay used in manufacture, but I have never seen any bright red bricks.

KniazSuvorov31 Aug 2017 1:06 p.m. PST

I've never found a good way to swap flags flown from a line between the spanker gaff and boom like in the Nelsonian era.

I briefly experimented with this. I found that by initially gluing the flags to Teflon-coated wire, I was able to create flags with a hollow "tube" that could be slipped onto a glue-stiffened thread (white glue doesn't stick to Teflon, so the flags pull right off while retaining their shaping). I glued one end of the stiff thread to the boom, but kept the upper end as a loop that would hook over the gaff. A little bead of hot-glue partway down the thread gave the flag something to sit on so that it didn't slide all the way down to the spanker boom.

The only problem I had was that the thread would eventually lose its stiffness and/or stretch. My next step was going to be replacing the stiffened thread with a wire, but I got distracted by something else.

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2017 8:21 a.m. PST

just to close off the thread, I completed the ship using red, and it can be seen here:

TMP link

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