Help support TMP

"Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero Colours" Topic

15 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please don't make fun of others' membernames.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the WWII Aviation Painting Guides Message Board

Areas of Interest

World War Two in the Air

Featured Link

Featured Ruleset

Featured Showcase Article

Those 1:144 Planes at Wal-Mart

You can buy miniatures at Wal-Mart?

Featured Workbench Article

Decaling GFI's N-Scale Hurricanes

miscmini Fezian completes his work by applying decals, doing a bit of weathering, and coating the minis with a matte-finish.

Featured Profile Article

Report from Spring Gathering VI

Paul Glasser reports on the debut of Axis and Allies: Guadalcanal and the North African expansion.

2,834 hits since 28 Jan 2018
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

LeeRS7228 Jan 2018 5:01 a.m. PST

Hi Guy's.
I'm building some ww2 Japanese models for the Crossfire wargame, to create an airstrip.
So far I have a Toyota starter truck and an Isuzu fuel truck. I've just ordered a few airfix Zero's and because I'm concentrating on the late war I'm confused on the aircraft colours. The top picture shows green on the underside and the bottom grey!
Which is correct?

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2018 6:06 a.m. PST

Try here:


and here: (the Japanese is translated)


It was interesting to discover that Mitsubishi and
Nakajima had different paint schemes.

Lucius28 Jan 2018 9:34 a.m. PST

Great links!

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2018 12:41 p.m. PST

Those are both great articles.

To answer the OP: both pictured paint schemes are "wrong" for a A6M2 Zero. There may actually be specific examples of each, but they would be exceptions to the general rule.

The A6M2 generation came from the factory in Mitsubishi gray-green or Nakajima gray, and faded and chalked in the sun and weather to a light gray. Until roughly 2000ish, light gray was considered the "correct" color by the modeling community, because all the preserved color samples were faded and chalked and all the photos were in black and white. The gray-green color seems to be relatively new (re-)discovery and even some restored Zeroes are getting it:

I decided to paint all my A6M2s this color because it's cool, and Tamiya makes spray and brush versions of it. (FWIW, there are also 2017 and 2018 Subaru Crossteks painted this color. Subaru calls it "khaki".)

A6M3 Zeroes seem to have come from the factory in the original A6M2 schemes. The ones operating from land bases seem to have been commonly overpainted with blotchy green on the top side:

I would expect A6M2 Zeroes still in use from land bases until the end of the war to look like this too, but I don't remember any photos of such a thing.

That dark green top with light gray bottom wasn't ordered until mid-1943, and it would have taken time to appear in the field. The A6M5 Zero was put into production shortly after the order was issued for the green/gray color scheme, so probably nearly all of them came from the factory in that color scheme. I wouldn't be surprised if the final production examples of the A6M3 also came in this scheme, but I haven't tried to research that topic.

- Ix

Ryan T28 Jan 2018 2:23 p.m. PST

The top image in the OP is of a Zero operating in a training capacity – the scheme is not usual for combat conditions.

The overall olive-gray paint scheme was superseded in mid-1943 by a factory camo pattern that retained the olive-gray colour on the lower surfaces and used a dark green paint on the upper surfaces. This was midway through Mitsubishi's production run of the A6M3 22, so some of these Zeros and all of the A6M5s had such a camo scheme.

Nakajima continued to build the A6M2 until May of 1944, so almost a year's production of these planes had the dark-green upper surface camo scheme as seen in the second image in the OP.

As the Yellow Admiral mentioned, Tamiya has a good match for the olive-gray colour both for brush (XF-76) or as spray (AS-29).

Below is an image of a Nakajima built A6M2 captured on Saipan in June 1944. The plane has the serial number of 22284 and was manufactured in late December 1943 as the 2284th A6M2 made by Nakajima. The dark green upper surface camouflage is clearly visible. Note the curving fuselage demarcation line on the fuselage – this is typical of all Nakajima produced camoed Zeros.

The Subaru link is very interesting. Subaru was formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries which in turn was part of Nakajima until the latter was broken up after the war.


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2018 8:53 p.m. PST

Nakajima continued to build the A6M2 until May of 1944, so almost a year's production of these planes had the dark-green upper surface camo scheme as seen in the second image in the OP.
Holy crap! Really? Did they still use the older guns and engine and leave out the sealing tanks and armor added to the later versions? That just seems crazy.

I think I read once that the Rufe was still in production for quite a while after the Zero got upgraded, but I wasn't aware Nakajima was still making the full fighter too.

I'll have to go see if there is any info about this in my Squadron/Signal books.

The Subaru link is very interesting.
Heh. It is interesting, and I looked into that last year after I first saw a Zero-themed Crosstrek. :-)

The Subraru "khaki" is probably not an exact match for Mitsubishi olive gray-green, but it is close enough that every time I see a Crosstrek in that color I want to put white-rimmed hinomaru on the doors. :-) They even added black "cowlings" over the wheel wells.

They also put in a totally underpowered engine, but that's probably pure coincidence.

- Ix

Ryan T28 Jan 2018 9:57 p.m. PST

The A6M2 soldiered on well into 1944. The last M2s were modified to be carrier borne fighter-bombers. Details can be seen here: link

These A6M2s were badly underpowered with two wing tanks and a 250 kg. centre-line bomb. They probably, however, did get a wing-tank fire extinguisher system and the wing gun ammunition load was raised from 60 to 100 rounds.

I now have to go to a Subaru dealer ASAP and compare some of my Zero relics to the SUV paint.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2018 1:12 p.m. PST

Funny you thought of Zeros rather than Oscars?

Light grey is mostly fleet duty.
Can't go wrong with the green.

Lucius29 Jan 2018 5:40 p.m. PST

The Crosstrek does not have self-sealing gas tanks, either!

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2018 8:03 p.m. PST

You're right! Subaru cars are clearly not combat ready.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2018 8:05 p.m. PST

Funny you thought of Zeros rather than Oscars?
All German tanks are Tigers, all German artillery are 88s, all Japanese fighters are Zeroes… who thinks of Oscars? They're pretty hard to tell apart. :-)

(I prefer Oscars in bare aluminum silver, with or without overpainted green mottled "cammo". Personal prejudice. I don't know any cars that look like that. Thank God….)

- Ix

Ryan T29 Jan 2018 9:12 p.m. PST

I phoned a Subaru dealership today and the Desert Khaki colour is no longer available. However, he said he had a used one on the lot so I'll go check it out this weekend.

My nephew had a Subaru WRX and you better believe that thing was combat ready. He had to sell it as he was one speeding ticket away from losing his license. When I drove it I could understand why.

LeeRS7204 Feb 2018 3:00 a.m. PST

Thanks guys for the information (especially the subaru stuff), I think I'll go with the traditional Mitsubishi gray-green or Nakajima gray as pointed out by yellow admiral.

GGouveia05 Feb 2018 2:08 p.m. PST

This page has all the federal standard colours, then look up those FS numbers on a colour conversion chart for different paint lines.


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 3:25 p.m. PST

That's a nice chart. Thanks for posting that.

One thing to keep in mind: the smaller the miniature, the lighter you have to make the shade of the color you want to use. I find many colors look "wrong" straight out of the bottle/can. I found the Tamiya IJN dark green was too dark on a 1/300 Betty, so I went with an old Pactra brush-on medium-dark green with some blue tone to it; even though the color looks cartoonish in the bottle, on the 4" wide bombers it looks great. I had similar problems with "accurate" USAAF olive drab colors, which tend to look way too dark on small models.

Conversely, I used the Tamiya spray and bottle IJN gray-green on 1/200 Zeroes, and they look just fine. Once a color passes some threshold of brightness I can't quantify, it should look just fine. (In hindsight, some drybrushing of the Zero upper surfaces with light gray to make them look faded and chalking and sun-damaged would probably have looked even better. Maybe next batch.grin)

- Ix

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.