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Japanese Aotake coating?

Guest Nigelr32

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Oh, but I'm not done yet :mental:


Here's a link to what Ryan Toews describes as the correct shade of interior green for Nakajima built A6M's... http://www.colorserver.net/showcolor.asp?fs=34255 I would've loved to have shown it here in the text but it wouldn't let me save the image. And below is what XF-71 looks like. You'll see that the XF71 is more closely related to the Nakajima color than the Mitsubishi color.



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Can highly recommend Nick Millmans guide on Zero colors.

Downloadable for a small fee from his site.

Superb information and a great history on the development in Zero painting as we know it today.

Covers outside and inside.

Best single reference I've found bar none on Zero colors the effect of sunlight etc and weathering.

Very very cool..

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Can highly recommend Nick Millmans guide on Zero colors.

Downloadable for a small fee from his site.

Superb information and a great history on the development in Zero painting as we know it today.

Covers outside and inside.

Best single reference I've found bar none on Zero colors the effect of sunlight etc and weathering.

Very very cool..


How about a link? I'd love to check it out.



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Well done on working out how to post images mate! There's still a minor flaw in your technique though, in that, with the option you're choosing in Photobucket, there's no need to use the 'insert image' button here, as the code is good to go for a direct paste into the message editor. I've cleaned up your posts to remove the extraneous bits.



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Hi Nigel:)


For Aotake, I wouldn't recommend any OOB (out of bottle) paints as they all try and "mimic" the effect by adding metallic particles to a blue to blue-green color. I start with a base of aluminum (i.e. Alclad) and use a blue-green clear coat. You can mix Tamiya clear blue and clear yellow to the tint you like. Looks just like the real thing! The color varied a lot from blue to green with an in-between blue-green being most common. I can post relic samples.


For cockpit (and other) colors, this may help......information I received from Ryan Toews and various posts. Everything you need should be here but let me know if you need any more help.





Nakajima Zero cockpits appear to have been finished in several different shades of green. Early Nakajima built A6M2s have been found to have a cockpit colour near to FS 24095, but by late 1942 Nakajima was also using a light green cockpit colour best matched to FS 24373. At some point, possibly with the change to the manufacture the A6M5 in early 1944, it Nakajima seems to have switched to a cockpit interior color approximating FS 24255. In contrast to Mitsubishi, Nakajima Zeros had the seat supports and landing gear and flap levers painted gloss black. Both the guns and radio equipment, however, followed the pattern found in Mitsubishi examples.


The fuselage deck both behind and in front of the cockpit was painted black as was the inside of the canopy framing. This continued to be the case even when the dark green upper surface camouflage was adopted.




Zero Cockpit Interior Paint.


It is generally accepted that Mitsubishi and Nakajima built Zeros utilized different colors of paint in their cockpits. The following is an examination of the different existing evidence for this conclusion. The best evidence, of course, are original cockpit relics that can be linked to a specific aircraft serial number and thus also to a date of manufacture. Other relics that can be assigned a more generalized date are also included. Last of all are written references to cockpit color.




1. In the collection of the Nimitz Museum is a piece of the A6M2 s/n 3277 (manufactured July 1941) flown by Iida that was shot down at Pearl Harbor. Greg Springer assigned the paint an FS value of 4095.


2. The port instrument console from the ex-Sterling A6M3 32 s/n 3148 (manufactured September 1942) has paint with an FS value of 4255.


3. The A6M3 22 (s/n 3844 manufactured July 1943) in the Auckland War Memorial Museum appears from photos to have the interior to have been painted in a shade of dark olive green. This has been described in MA510 page 11 as 4528. But no such number exists in the FS palette so I have assumed this should actually read 4258. This value is quite light and may represent an oxidized version of a darker green. Other photos of the interior of this plane indicate a darker shade.


4. The NASM replicated traces of existing paint valued at 4151 on their A6M5 s/n 4340 (manufactured December 1943).


5. The Planes of Fame A6M5 s/n 4400 (December 1943) cockpit color has been described by Katsushi Owaki as having a Munsell value of 2.5GY4/2 which compares to FS 4097.


6. According to Mikesh, Japanese Aircraft Interiors, the interior of Mitsubishi Zeros from the beginning of the war to the end was a close to Munsell 10Y 4/4 which is close to FS 4151.




1. Greg Springer has examined a cockpit component from Nakajima built A6M2 s/n 646 (manufactured February 1942. It had a cockpit colour close to FS 4095 and 4096.


2. A number of cockpit interior parts from various A6M2 wrecks that date from October 1942 to March 1943 are in the possession of Blayd. All are finished with a paint with a value of FS 4373


3. The Blayd collection also has a number of similar dated Nakajima cockpit interior components with a paint finish matching FS 4098.


4. Mikesh’s Japanese Aircraft Interiors describes the interior paint in the Air Force Museum’s A6M2 s/n 51553 (manufactured September 1943) as having a Munsell value of 2.5GY 4/2, which is close to FS 4097.


5. An A6M2 (s/n 71930, manufactured Nov 1943) shot down over Ponape Island on 27 Mar 1944 and examined by Stan Gajda had an interior colour “similar to that found on the Blayd cockpit artifacts” (4373).


6. The Imperial War Museum A6M5 s/n 196 (manufactured mid-March 1944) had its cockpit finished with two applications of paint, according to an examination by Joe Picarella. Unfortunately, he compared the paint to the Pantone color system and the FS values are not always easily comparable. His study found an undercoat of Pantone 4495U, which is somewhat more yellow/green than FS 4255. Over this was an application of Pantone 581U, which is roughly comparable to FS 4151. This second application of paint may possibly be a field modification.


7. An A6M5 captured on Saipan (s/n 2183, manufactured early April 1944) and examined by Douglas Aircraft was described as having its cockpit interior painted “with a yellow-green primer similar in appearance to the zinc-chromate primer used in American airplanes.” Zinc-chromate was either yellow (FS 3481) or green (FS 4227). The former could be a variation of FS4255 while the latter has similarities to FS 4373. The reference is most likely to the yellow shade of zinc-chromate, as the green shade has no yellow in it at all. Possibly what was described was an oxidized variation of FS 4255.


8. The Arashiyama Museum’s A6M7 s/n 82729 (manufactured mid-May 1945) cockpit paint has been described by Katsushi Owaki as having a Munsell value of 2.5GY6/4. There is no real close FS match to 2.5 GY 6/4. The closest is FS 4257 but this is both is darker and slightly browner.


9. Mikesh also states that the interior of the A6M7 s/n 23186 in San Diego has a Munsell value of 2.5GY 4/2. This is close to FS 4097.




It would appear that Mitsubishi consistently used a darker to mid olive green paint falling, for the most part, into the parameters of Thorpe’s N5 and N6 and Mikesh’s N33 and N34 in the cockpits of the Zeros it built.


Mikesh also reported a mid-tan shade in the cockpits of the two ex-Sterling A6M3s. Both these planes had been extensively rebuilt in the field and it is very possible that this paint, which was brush applied, was a field applied finish.


Early Nakajima built Zeros were finished with a mid to darker green cockpit interior that is close to what Mitsubishi used. At some point Nakajima also began using a much lighter green shade with the value of FS 4373. At some point, possibly with the change to the manufacture the A6M5 in early 1944, it appears that Nakajima switched to a cockpit interior color approximating FS 4255. This may have been an attempt to standardize the color of paint used in the cockpits of Nakajima aircraft as traces of a similar color can be found in the interior of the Nakajima Ki-43 in the collection of the EAA Museum.


All of these paint values can be viewed at http://www.colorserver.net/default.asp?fs=35526 .Simply type in the number of the paint value you want to view.


For someone modeling the Zero I can make the following recommendations:


Mitsubishi Interior Green - Polly Scale IJA Green (5272 - acrylic) or Tamiya Cockpit Green (XF-71) or Gunze Interior Green (H-58).


Nakajima Interior Green FS 4095 – Model Master Medium Field Green (1786 - enamel)



Nakajima Interior Green FS 4373 – Gunze Sangyo Lime Green (H50 - acrylic)


Nakajima Interior Green FS 4255 – 4 parts Polly Scale Concrete (414317 - acrylic) / 1 part Polly Scale IJA Green (5272 - acrylic)



Navy Interior Green


Posted By: Katsushi Owaki

Date: Sunday, 27 December 1998, at 3:15 a.m.


It was a Navy standard color for interior,called "Tanryokushoku"(maybe M1/Pale Green).This is a very similar toward US Interior Green.

10Y4/3.5...FS34151...dark yellow green...yellow green

10Y4/3...FS34127...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

10Y4/2.5...FS34098...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

10Y2.5/2...MA#428/Ki61/Ki100...very dark yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY6/4...A6M5c/82729/Arashiyama/FS34258/Hasegawa report...dull yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5.5/2...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5/2.5...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...FS34102...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/3...Mitsubishi Interior...MA#378/Shinjuwan Kogekitai...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/3...Mitsu. Int...MA#406/Kaigun Bakugekiki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...dark grey yellow green...MA#329/Rikugun Sentoki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...FS34102...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2...A6M5/4400/Planes of Fame...Dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3.5/3...Olive Green...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3.5/2...FS34086...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3/3...Mitsu.Int...MA#272/Kaigun Sentoki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green



Navy Interior Green


Posted By: Katsushi Owaki

Date: Sunday, 27 December 1998, at 3:15 a.m.


It was a Navy standard color for interior,called "Tanryokushoku"(maybe M1/Pale Green).This is a very similar toward US Interior Green.

10Y4/3.5...FS34151...dark yellow green...yellow green

10Y4/3...FS34127...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

10Y4/2.5...FS34098...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

10Y2.5/2...MA#428/Ki61/Ki100...very dark yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY6/4...A6M5c/82729/Arashiyama/FS34258/Hasegawa report...dull yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5.5/2...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5/2.5...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...FS34102...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/3...Mitsubishi Interior...MA#378/Shinjuwan Kogekitai...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/3...Mitsu. Int...MA#406/Kaigun Bakugekiki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...dark grey yellow green...MA#329/Rikugun Sentoki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2.5...FS34102...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2...A6M5/4400/Planes of Fame...Dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3.5/3...Olive Green...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3.5/2...FS34086...dark gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY3/3...Mitsu.Int...MA#272/Kaigun Sentoki...dark gray yellow green...yellow green


2.5GY6/4...A6M5c/82729/Arashiyama/FS34258/Hasegawa report...dull yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5.5/2...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY5/2.5...A6M5c/82729/Owaki report...gray yellow green...yellow green

2.5GY4/2...A6M5/4400/Planes of Fame...Dark gray yellow green...yellow green



WWII Japanese Aircraft Coatings

Posted By: Greg Springer

Date: Monday, 16 February 2004


I have been doing research on these for around a year. Here is a short summary of what I have found so far. There are three coatings as defined by their binders. Binder is the resin that dries to form the solid coating that protects a surface. It may or may not be pigmented.


The first coating is phenolic resin lacquer. Phenolic resin is the first plastic, developed by Leo Baekeland prior to WWI. It was marketed under the name Bakelite. Disolving it with solvents and/or oils produced lacquer or spar varnish. According to the US Army tech manual TM 5-618 "Phenolic coatings have excellent resistance to abrasion, water, and mild chemical environments. They are not available in white or light tints because of the relatively dark color of the binder. Furthermore, phenolics tend to darken during exposure." This is the metal coating found on the early Mitsubishi-built Zeros. A small portion of nitrocellulose was also present with the phenolic resin in this coating according to the Smithsonian Conservation Lab analysis.


The second coating is nitrocellulose lacquer. Nitrocellulose is produced by treating cellulose (plant fiber) with nitric and sulfuric acids. If the cellulose is highly nitrated, smokeless gunpowder is produced. Lower nitrate levels are not explosive but remain very flammable. The original movie film was celluloid and burned readily. Nitrocellulose lacquer is also liable to attack by gasoline and other solvents. It was widely used by the auto industry until the advent of alkyd finishes. Today it remains a favorite coating for musical instruments. It yellows quickly when exposed to sunlight. It is also strongly affected by sulfur compounds such as would have been present in the atmosphere from volcanic action at Rabaul. This is the binder that was found on an artifact from a Nakajima-built Zero collected by the late USMC ace Ken Walsh.


The third coating is cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB). It is made by treating cellulose with acetic anhydride. It was first marketed as an alternative to highly flammable nitrocellulose products. It is still used to manufacture magnetic recording tape. Spraying it through tiny nozzles produces threads of the fabric Rayon. CAB found great favor in WWI as an alternative to nitrocellulose lacquer. It is still produced by the SIG Manufacturing Company for use on flying model aircraft under the brand name Supercoat. CAB has the advantage of 'water white' clarity and not yellowing. It was originally used on fabric but could be used on metal as well. The Eastman Chemical Company still sells it for use by restorers of old automobiles who seek to replicate the original finish.


These coatings were often applied over a coat of red primer pigmented with iron oxide. I think that the iron oxide is probably a type called micasous (sp?). In this type the pigment particles are flat sheets like mica. It is particularly good for protecting metals against moisture. The pre- and early war Japanese coatings were highly glossy. This means that the pigment particles were fully enclosed in binder. The iron oxide pigment particles cannot affect the pigments in the top coat until the binder of the top coat completely breaks down due to weathering. This was seen on the Rex at the Admiral Nimitz Museum and numerous wartime derelict aircraft. The telltale sign of binder breakdown is 'chalking' where a white residue of released pigment particles appears on the coating. If an arifact was collected prior to complete binder breakdown or if it was located in a portion of an airframe that was protected from exposure, the iron oxide should not have affected it.


If the top coating is a flat or matte finish, pigment migration from lower coatings can occur due to the fact that, in order to produce a flat finish, the coating manufacturer choses to exceed the critical pigment volume concentration (CPVC). When this level is exceeded, the pigment particles are not longer fully enclosed by binder. Tiny voids in the coating will allow moisture to penetrate and pigments from a lower coating could conceivably migrate outward.


(CPVC information was collected from the Journal of American Institute of Conservation 1993, Volume 32, Number 1, Article 1 (pp. 01 to 14)


Interestingly the Smithsonian report seems to indicate that coatings can be 'reverse engineered' by destructive testing that would reveal pigment types and proportions as well as binders and plasticizers present. From surfing sites of coatings testing labs, it appears such analysis would cost around $500 per sample. But who would be willing to sacrifice their precious artifacts?


I am not a coatings chemist but I have drawn some conclusions due to the nature of the evidence in the literature. These conclusions are solely mine and you may judge their validity for yourselves.



Posted by Katsushi Owaki on Monday, 21 December 1998


It is very popular that "Hairyokushoku"(Gray-Green)of IJAAF and "Hai-iro"(Gray)of IJNAF in the Pacific War. "Hairyokushoku" was used since early 20s. I think "Genyo Ameiro" was one variation of various Grays, because of ,which is translated "Gray J3 slightly toward umber".


Several Gray examples are as follows:

N5.5...Nezumi-Iro (mouse color)

7.5Y6.5/1.5...FS16357/A6M5c/82729...former Arashiyama


7.5Y5.5/1...A6M5/4400...Planes of Fame

7.8Y5.5/2.5...Lansdale Report

10Y7.5/0.5...FS36440/Light Gull Gray



2.5GY6.5/1...A6M5c/82729...former Arashiyama,also reported by Hasegawa

5GY7.5/1.5...MXY7/1018...USMC Museum,Quantico,VA



5GY6.5/2...Nakajima's Gray...MA#406/Kaigun Bakugekiki


5GY6/1...J3 Gray...MA#378/Shinjuwan Kogekitai

5GY5/1...A6M2/6544...Lansdale Report

5GY5/1...RLM 02 Grau/FS34226

7.5GY6.5/1...Hairyokushoku...MA#329/Rikugun Sentoki


7.5GY5.5/1...Nakajima Light Gray...MA#272/Kaigun Sentoki

7.5GY5/2...FS34226/Light Gray Green

2.5G7/1...MXY7/1214...JASDF Iruma

2.5G6.5/2...Nakajima Gray...MA#242/Zero

2.5G6.5/0.5...Ki61 Main Wheel...Kakamigahara Aerospace Museum

2.5BG6.5/1...Early 20s Army Fabric...Owaki Collection

2.5BG5.5/1.5...Temporary Comouflage Color...MA#272/Kaigun Sentoki


7.5BG6/1...Main Weel(800x150)...Nakagawa Collection


2.5B6.5/1...Mitsubishi Light Gray...MA#272/Kaigun Sentoki


7.5B7/1...Mitsubishi Gray...MA#242/Zero

7.5B6/1...Ki45Kai/4065...Shubudai Memorial

2.5PB7/1...Mitsubishi Gray...MA#406/Kaigun Bakugekiki

2.5PB6.5/1...Aichi Gray...MA#406/Kaigun Bakugekiki



Japanese Aircraft Color Standards

Posted By: Katsushi Owaki

Date: Friday, 31 December 1999


Editorial Note:


The following posting by Katsushi OWAKI was originally posted as "A Happy New Year!!!" His greeting is a fabulous and awesome gift! He has discovered the complete Official Japanese Aircraft Color Standards: 5 February 1945 and posted them as a gift to all of us in the New Millennium. Bravo OWAKI-san!!!


Japanese Aircraft Color Standards, Feb/5/45.


Code Army Std/Name Navy Std. Munsell Number FS Number


1~1 #7/Ohryoku 7 Go-shoku *** 7.5Y3/1.5 34088


1~2 (#27)/Aomidori-iro D2 7.5G2/1.5 *4036


1~3 #39/Kusa-iro (M1) 7.5GY3/1.8 *4056


1~4 (#39)/Kusa-iro M1 7.5GY4.5/2 34159


1~5 (#21)/Midori-iro D4 2.5G3.5/3.5 34108


2~1 #3/Hairanshoku *** 2.5PB3/1.3 35045


2~2 #43/Tochi-iro *** 2.5Y3/0.3 *6008


2~3 *** J1 7.5G3.3/1 ***


2~4 *** L3 10B4.5/2.8 35164


2~5 (#17)/Tanseishoku K3 5BG5.5/2 34158


2~6 (#1)/Hairyokushoku J3 7.5Y5.5/1.5 *6350


2~7 (#42)/Karekusa-iro *** 7.5Y4/1.3 34127


3~1 *** N0 2.5YR2.5/1 *0062


3~2 (#4)/Seki-Kashoku A3 7.5R4/4.5 30111


3~3 *** I3 5Y4.8/2 34201


4~1 *** C1 7.5YR6/11 *3432


4~2 (#14)/Ki-iro C3 10YR7.5/11 33637


4~3 #2/Toh-Oh-Shoku (H4) 10YR7/7 33434


5~1 (#9)/Aka-iro B2 5R4/9.5 31136


5~2 #10/for Hinomaru (B3) 7.5R4.5/10 31136


6~1 #32/Kokuranshoku *** 10PB2/2.5 35044


6~2 #13/Ao-iro (E1) 5PB2.5/7 *5080


6~3 (#17)/Tanseishoku E3 10B4.5/7 35109


7~1 (#11)/Kuro-iro/Black Q1


8~1 #12/Shiro-iro/White (O1)


9~1 (#5)/Gin-iro/Silver P1


Zero Camouflage Schemes: Revision



Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Wednesday, 5 April 2000


Since the last draft of the research paper "Zero Camouflage Schemes" in June of 1998, additional discoveries and work by Katsushi OWAKI, David AIKEN, and Tom MATLOSZ have made it necessary to include new information on this topic.


OWAKI-san, having discovered the official Japanese color standards of 5 February 1945, has positively established two distinct color variations recognized by the IJNAF authorities;


1) J 3 hai-ryokushoku (gray-green) which has been matched to Munsell Color 7.5 Y 5/2 and 7.5 Y 5.5/1.5. A near match to this color is Federal Standards 595B FS-x6350. This scheme does weather/oxidize to various shades including FS-36357.


2) I 3 (light olive toward amber ?) which has been matched to Munsell Color 5 Y 5/3.5 and 5 Y 4.8/2. Various attempts to match this color to Federal Standard 595B have resulted in a fair range of color values! The fact is that no exact color match is possible on the Federal Standard system. For example, it has been variously labeled as and compared to:


FS-24201 (Lansdale/Owaki)


FS-16160 (Mikesh)


FS-10277 (Aiken/Scarborough)


FS-13440 (Aiken/Matlosz)


FS-14255 (Lansdale/Matlosz)


There are a wide range of factors which defy an exact definition of this color, not the least of which is the limited range of colors available on the Federal Standards reference! Add to that the possible permutations of color formulae of the various suppliers, state of weathering (age), and metamerism, any of these color variations may be discerned.


The most intriguing new possibility is that the J3 (hai-ryokushoku) may be more specific to Zeros built by Mitsubishi and that the I 3 color may be specific to those Zeros manufactured by Nakajima which left the factory line in a single overall color scheme.


More research and evidence needs to be gathered before any final conclusions may be drawn.


Re: Visual Acuity For J3

Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Sunday, 22 October 2000


"Hairyokushoku" (gray-green) is the term used by Jiro HORIKOSHI to describe the color of the Mitsubishi A6M1 Zero prototype. The color and finish of the Mitsubishi production A6M2s, A6M3 model 32s, early

production A6M3 model 22s and all undersurfaces for the later production A6M3 model 22s and early production A6M5s was a color very close to FS-16350/24201, whatever it was called.


Early production A6M2s produced by Nakajima may have had a more "amber" color (more like FS-16160).


J3 was a color developed at Yokosuka in December of 1941 as a "test color" to be applied to the Zero and, unlike the earlier paints which were glossy, J3 had no gloss. It would appear, from the description of J3 in YoKu Report No.0266 and a color chip (which NOHARA-san stated was similar to FS-36357) that J3 may have been decidedly more gray than the earlier glossy gray-green color (whatever it was called!).


Before the outstanding work of Katsushi OWAKI, who located the Official Japanese Color Standards: 5 February 1945," I speculated that the earlier glossy gray-green was called J1. This was NOT correct!


The Japanese color numbering system came in to use during the war and we do not have a precise designation for the early Zero color. According to the "Official Japanese Color Standards" and the OWAKI-san compilation, the following colors for IJN aircraft were in use in 1945 for the so-called "grays," "gray-greens," "light olive-grays," or, even, so-called "ameiro."


Color No.2-3/IJNavy J1/(Munsell 7.5 G 3.3/1)


Color No.2-4/IJNavy L3/FS-35164 (Munsell 10 B 4.4/2.8)


Color No.2-5/IJNavy K3/FS-34158 (Munsell 5 BG 5.5/2)


Color No.2-6/IJNavy J3/FS-36350 (Munsell 7.5 Y 5.5/1.5)


Color No.3-3/IJNavy I3/FS-34201 (Munsell 5 Y 4.8/2)


The two colors/finishes which did not turn up on the 5 February 1945 list include the early glossy version of hairyokushoku (FS-16350) and the more amber-toned varient (FS-16160). C'est la vie!


Re: Color & Camo charts for the Zero


Posted By: François P. WEILL

Date: Friday, 26 January 2001


You've had an excellent idea and I've nothng to ask you to remove. But I think some colors were mismatched.


Mitsubishi used the Hairyokushoku variant in 14201 range (unweathered - 16350 weathered)) from the beginning (excepts the particular case of early Zero 11 which is a problem in its own).


Nakajima built Model 21's used a color in the 16160 range (a more "mustard" color – sometimes near to 10277).


For Mitsubishi built planes the color seems to have stayed the same for the duration of the war as an unsdersurface color, though it went semi matte (24201) from at least Jan. 1944 when it appears that primer was (or should be) deleted during Model 52 production run. (notice weathered examples are in 36357 range)


Mitsubishi planes produced earlier are liable to have used 14201 both as a general airframe color (excepts cowl), including those factory painted in two tone camouflage as per June 1943 instructions.


Nakajima produced Zeros kept their 16160 - 10277 color until an unknown date (to this day) with fabric covered parts (ailerons, tail flying surfaces) were generally finished in semi-gloss 26314 range (probably a subcontractor habit). As Nakajima introduced Model 52 in its lines in Feb. 1944 (as per Mikesh book) and we have no reason to think the use of primer to have been systematic any longer at Nakajima plant than at Mitsubihi one, I think that the new undersurface color (matte or semi-matte - in 36307 range) was introduced was introduced on late Nakajima Model 21's and fully in use on all Nakajima built Model 52's and later on. My personal opinion is that primer was deleted at the same time from production process.


The cowl question needs a bit more research.


Though I'm almost sure Mitsubishi used a specific color for this so-called antiglare (it was glossy as new!) paint and not only on Zeros. this color was a blue-black (a black color with a drop of blue as new. Other manufacturers (so Nakajima too) used a gray-black color (a black color with a small drop of white). So cowl color is liable to have been different for a Mitsubihi produced Zero than for a Nakajima one.


Going to the greens used we should be careful to distinguish between field applied one (or ones) as per makeshift camouflages used in the Solomon Islands - New Guinea area for which to this date, in the absence of actual unweathered relics we can't be affirmative of what exact shade (or shades) was (were) used and the factory applied colors used from June 1943 on.


Factory applied colors were:


For Mitsubishi in 24052 - 34052 range (semi gloss or matte)


For Nakajima in 34077 - 34077 range (semi gloss or matte)


It is difficult to assess if the degree of sheen was the result of different paint bases (semi-gloss and matte) or the semi gloss examples being the result of polishing or even waxing by the crews. I had a piece of unweathered factory applied (on primer) Mitsubihi green sample (courtesy of Jim Lansdale) from a Betty bomber it was just plain matte in aspect. From this observation I have the feeling the green was pained matte and then sometimes polished to extract the last available mph.


The case of the green paint used in Makeshift camouflages is a real nightmare... It could be anything available in these islands, even captured paint from Rabaul facility.


Here are the different possibilities:


Before factory shades reached the islands only one IJN green was available the one used in Kumogata camouflage (still used on heavy bombers until summer 1942). From the examination of the Hospital Kate sample (Greg Springer) we know the green used on Pearl kates was in the 34084 range. I think those camouflages were made with whatever readily available and Kumogata camouflage shades were IJNAF procured (field applied scheme) so I think here was the "Kumogata green". It is entirelmy possible it was used on Zeros for the field applied camouflage.


When factory applied greens were available (it seems that for anything but fighters factories began to deliver already camouflaged planes during spring 1942) any manufacturer green should have been used without regard to the original manufacturer of the plane.


So we have:


Mitsubishi green: 34052 range

Nakajima green: 34077 range

Kawanishi green: Unkown FS number seems to be a dark one and bluer than others

Naval Air Arsenals green : Unkown for sure, may be the same 34084 as Kumogata green

Aichi green: 34031 range


And to add to, our confusion any of the early war Australian greens that might have been scrounged from Rabaul facility !


Just take your pick ! and add to that the way the green was applied (from rags, brooms and brush to spray gun) which is liable to modify somewhat the shade and to alter its degree of sheen (it appears from the photos these greens were matte).


Re: A6M2 Color Schemes


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Saturday, 4 August 2001


You write: "Nakajima used a slightly different version of "Hairyokushoku" on their products, and for early A6M´s manufactured by that company FS 14255 is usually the quoted shade."


Since my original publication of Zero fighter schemes much research and forensic analyses has transpired. I have been able to add many new samples of Mitsubishi and Nakajima constructed A6M remains, both pristine and weathered. Perhaps, the most significant additions have been the contributions of Tom MATLOSZ, Greg SPRINGER and Ryan TOEWS.


Ryan TOEWS will shortly publish on this web site the results of his corroborative and follow up research of many A6M2 remains at the Blayd Corporation.


This research has led to substantive evidence that:


1) Mitsubishi A6M Zero production aircraft, from the very start of manufacture and continuing until mid-1944 (and perhaps beyond), left the factory production line in an olive-gray color most like hairyokushoku (close to FS-x4201) overall or on the lower surfaces (for the two color variation camouflage scheme). Weathering soon rendered this finish more like FS-x6350, eventually going to an chalky-gray after years of exposure.


2) Nakajima production A6M2 Zeros left the factory line in a more brown shade of finish (I3) or almost identical to FS-x6160, which is often called "ameiro." This also weathered to a finish close to FS-x6350 and also turned chalky gray after many years of exposure.


Re: Is there Grey A6M5`s...Ever ?


Posted By: François P. WEILL

Date: Tuesday, 18 September 2001


To answer your first interrogation: no there was never an all gray (I assume you mean Hairyokushoku gray-green) Model 52.


The reason why is simple: after June 1943, all IJNAF combat planes were supposed to be delivered in green uppersurfaces FROM THE FACTORY, including the single engined fighters which – until that time - were the only types to escape that rule, retaining the earlier factory applied scheme of plain Hairyokushoku (though in the New-Britain - New Guinea area scarcely one kept the factory finish unmolested by a field applied coat of dark green whether applied in some kind of pattern or at this late date an almost solid application from around fall 1942!). The earliest Model 52's to be delivered (all Mitsubishi built) with the Model 22 type cowling including the exhaust collector with two outlets, didn't reach operational units (in fact "Rabaul Air Force) before August 1943 and were all produced with the mandatory new two tone "standard" camouflage.


However it seems that more variations of this "standard" camouflage occured during Model 52 and later production than generally believed.


It is more than probable that early variants kept the same standard of quality once used with earlier variants and the scheme was applied on primer. As all these planes were Mitsubishi built (Nakajima began the production of Model 52 only in Feb. 1944 (according to Mikesh), they used the original Mitsubishi Hairyokushoku variant (FS 14201 range) as undersurface color, while the standard Mitsubishi variant of IJN dk. green was used on the uppersurfaces (FS 34052 range) with a straight demarcation line from the wings to the tail cone.


It seems that late 1943 and surely during January 1944 the primer application sequence was deleted. But at Mitsubishi plant, the undersurface color remained unchanged in tone but became semi-matte instead of automotive like gloss (24201 range)due to the the absence of primer and (or ?) less careful application.


Nakajima built model 52's don't seem to have ever received the primer application though the precise date of deletion of this stage in production of the Zero fighters by this manufacturer (which produced Zero 21 until Feb. 1944) is still unknown. Hence, Nakajima built Model 52's used the new matte undersurface color in 36309 range with the uppersurfaces painted in Nakajima IJN dk. Green variant in 34077 range as uppersurface finish (some might have been polished at unit level to a 24077 aspect). The separation line on the fuselage was curved from the wing trailing edge to the tailplane leading edge.


Additionally, some major differences in the application of the Hinomaru (uppersurfaces of wings) the IFF stripe and the data plate (both application and size and content) existed between the two manufacturers and other minor variations could be noticed.


Finally the latest Models to leave the plants with the plain Hairyokushoku scheme (but with IFF stripes already factory applied) were Model 22's from Mitsubishi plants and - obviously - Model 21's Nakajima built (with the longer spinner and a white brim to fuselage Hinomaru) produced before the factories began to complete the aircraft according to June 1943 mandatory spec. probably during early spring 1943. I have even serious doubts about the production of any Model 22 Ko in this early scheme from the examination of April 1943 Operation I Go pics... Remember Nakajima built planes used the same general scheme but with different colors (Nakajima variant of Hairyokushoku was in the 16160 range and the fabric covered surfaces were finished in 26314 range).


As a last word remember that for both schemes: the early war one or the definitive two tone one, the color of the cowling was also slightly different. Mitsubishi built planes used a specific blue black but Nakajima used a gray-black instead.


Midway Eastern Island Relic Analysis


Posted By: Tom Matlosz

Date: Sunday, 2 April 2000


This posting is additional color information regarding the aluminum skin and fabric control surfaces recently obtained from Commander Harry Ferrier. These relics were obtained on 5 June 42 from Eastern Island at Midway.


This morning, Jim Lansdale and I matched the specimens to the following standards:


External aluminum skin color: Munsell 5Y 5/3 to 5Y 5/4; While none of the Federal Standard colors are an exact match, FS 14255 is very close. This places the external color as "I3".


Internal cockpit color: Munsell 2.5GY 3/2; FS 34082.


Fabric color: Munsell 5GY 6/1; Very close to FS 26307


In an earlier posting string, Mark Horan postulates that the aircraft which crashed on Eastern Island was an A6M2. Jim Lansdale indicates that Robert Mikesh determined the color of a Nakajima built A6M2 found at Munda Airfield to be Munsell 5Y 5/2. Could the relics from this Midway Eastern Island aircraft be from a Nakajima built A6M2? The fabric is painted gray rather than the overall airframe color. I understand this to be a practice of Nakajima, not to repaint the control surfaces manufactured by sub-contractors.


Midway Eastern Island Relic Analysis


Posted By: Tom Matlosz

Date: Tuesday, 4 April 2000


Here is eye witness confirmation that the relics I received from Harry Ferrier are from an Akagi A6M2. I received this account today from Walter Grist who was an armourer with VMSB-241 on Eastern Island during the Japanese strike on Midway. This account confirms Mark Horan's analysis of the Striking Force's losses at Midway.


This is a revelation, because Jim Lansdale and I matched the fuselage skin color to I3, not J3!


"I do recall the plane going down. It was the only Japanese plane to go down on Eastern Island. It was a single place A6M2 ZERO. The impact area was at the edge of the North \South runway that was used by the fighter aircraft. It was near the end of the attack on Eastern Island, the plane was in a shallow dive on a scrafing run sighting in on a 50 caliber machine gun just East of the inter section where the two East\West runways cross. We were all shooting at it but I suspect it was the 50 that got it because he had the most fire power. He was so low that after he was hit he had no chance to pull up and hit on the East side of the North\South runway. There was so much smoke and dust I have no idea what color it was or what kind of marking were on it, things were just to fast at the time. I was in a concrete refueling pit about 35 yards away when he got hit and watched him hit the ground. The impact was so severe that the plane disintegrated and scattered over a very large area except for a large part of the fuselage and cockpit which burned. The pilot was thrown clear of the wreckage and laid about 30 yards away. Later in the day he was buried next to the fuselage and I don't know if he is still there or not."


Midway Eastern Island Zero Data Plate

Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Sunday, 16 April 2000


I have received a report from a California militaria collector that the main data plate recovered by an American officer from the A6M2 model 21 which crashed on Eastern Island during the Battle of Midway will soon be up for auction on eBay.


I have received a Xerox copy of the main data plate removed from the cockpit area for authentication. It is from a Nakajima built A6M2 model 21 s/n 646 (46th A6M2 built by Nakajima) and completed by Nakajima on 2 February 1942.


A6M5 Finish Flat or Gloss


Posted By: François P. WEILL

Date: Tuesday, 21 November 2000


Regarding the degree of glaze of Zero paints, things are not exactly straightforward. Besides, the undersurface color and the uppersurface color should be scrutinized separately.


As you probably know, the original "offensive" camouflage of Zeros was just plain gray-green (Hairyokushoku) with at least two main variants: one for Mitsubishi built planes (14201 to 16350)and one for Nakajima built planes (16160 to 10277) with the fabric control surfaces generally painted a grayer lighter semi-gloss shade: 26314). This factory applied camouflage was a glossy automotive like finish and stood so but if surface oxidation set in (like on hulks of abandoned airplane). It appears to have been a very resistant finish and it is unlikely from existing photos of OPERATIONAL planes that the glaze was not predominant even after having been exposed even to harsh conditions of combat life. An operational Zero having this finish will retain most of its original high gloss appearance.


In June 1943 the so-called universal, factory applied, two tone camouflage became mandatory, with all uppersurfaces finished in Dk. Green (the two Zero manufacturers again each using a different shade of green). It is highly probable that the traditional GLOSSY Hairyokushoku remained the undersurface color for a while (probably up to sometimes in the beginning 1944 while the green paint was probably semi-gloss (from photos) or matte (I saw - courtesy of Jim Lansdale - a piece of Betty 11, shot down earlier with a Mitsubishi factory applied green which was just plain matte). I am still wondering if the semi-gloss aspect of green found on some two tone camouflaged Zero pics was due to the use of originally semi-gloss paint or to a careful waxing or polishing by the crews.


When the undersurface color changeover appeared, it is clear from the examination of relics that the glossy paint was no more used (the shades changed too)and it is safe to go the matte side. However both semi-gloss and matte appearances of the greens show on the photos of aircraft of this period. It seems whatsoever that the more the planes were produced toward the end of the conflict, the more matte paint was used (see the famous Tanimizu's 52 Hei close up, it is a matte paint everywhere).


To summarize things for the Model 52 I will try to give you a practical painting guide as precise as our present knowledge could allow:


Early Mitsubishi built Model 52:

Uppersurfaces: Semi-gloss or matte Dk Green FS 24052 or 34052

Undersurfaces: Gloss Mitsubishi variant Hairyokushoku gray-green FS 14201 to 16350 (probably more toward the second reference).


As the first Nakajima built Model 52 was produced in Feb. 1944 (as per Mikesh) there is some doubt about the undersurface color used. I think plain gloss Nakajima variant of Hairyokushoku was no more in current use at that date. So here is the combination of color I would use:


Uppersurfaces: Dk green 24077 or 34077.

Undersurfaces: Gray-Green 36307 (or 26307 semi-gloss at this time)


Mitsubishi built Model 52, 52 Ko, 52 Otsu, 52 Hei (and Models 62 and 63 Hei) from 1944:

Uppersurfaces: DK. Green 24052 or 34052 with more and more use of the matte variant toward the end of the conflict.


Undersurfaces: Gray-Green 36357


Nakajima built Models (same variants):


Uppersurfaces: Dk Green 24077 or 34077 with more and more use of the matte variant as you near the end of the conflict


Undersurfaces: Gray-Green 36307


Remember that the cowling was painted glossy Blue black for Mitsubishi built planes and glossy gray-black on Nakajima built ones. This color was also generally used on the fuselage back inside the cockpit greenhouse, though some Dk Green have been reported on this place.


Zero data plates background color


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Thursday, 16 November 2000


You are absolutely correct! I only wished to point out that the background color was NOT white, but one of the colors found on the aircraft. Mitsubishi did indeed use the hairyokushoku or undersurface color as a background to the fuselage data stencil and Nakajima simply laid the markings on after the aircraft had been painted.


BTW. Do you suppose that Mitsubishi painted the entire aircraft gray-green (on late production A6M3s and the A6M5s), masked-off the stencil area, and then painted on the upper surface dark green camouflage? This would give a more durable double coat to the upper surfaces.


Late in the war, the photos reveal a great deal of chipping with no evidence of any undercoat on the upper surfaces (or is this only true of the Nakajima constructed Zeros?).


Zero data plates background color


Posted By: François P. WEILL

Date: Friday, 17 November 2000


Of course what I will say is partly speculative as to date the facts were not established by study of actual aircraft relics. I'm almost sure that the "standard procedure" for painting the airframe (at least at Mitsubishi's) was a complete coating of Hairyokushoku, just as done before, when first the two tone camouflage was made mandatory. I think the data plate was then applied to the airframe, only to be masked for the final Dk. Green (34052) uppersurface overcoat. I'm not sure this was not the standard procedure at Nakajima's too (excepts the colors were different), but for the data plate which should simply have been stenciled after completion of all painting stages.


However, as close examination of relics and photos tells us, when (sometimes in 1944, I suppose - this date should be interesting to establish)when the original glossy, amber tones (different for each manufacturer) was discarded in favor to a semi-matte to matte undersurface color (again different for each manufacturer) I have some doubts - even for Mitsubishi produced planes - a complete coating of undersurface color was still done before applying the Dk. Green coat. I've read (in the much criticized translation of Model Art 272 by Aviation USK) that for lack of properly qualified manpower the undersurface coat was, from this time on, often hand painted by brush. This seems to be confirmed by our friend Hiroyuki when he told us sometimes ago that someone in his family (his father ??)was a youngster at this time and hand painted aircraft components late in the war. I think the data plate area was then simply hand painted (probably with great margin for error), then masked off before the dark green was finally applied. This to save time in production delays.


Nakajima planes painting procedure were probably kept the same as far as the moment of application of the data plate is concerned (final stage).


It is VERY interesting to look at a pic in Model Art 510, page 143. There is a close up of an A5M4 Model 4 which clearly shows the data plate. It appears to have been directly painted on bare metal BEFORE THE APPLICATION OF THE MUCH DISCUSSED "LATE CLAUDE" FINISH ! ... So early application of data plates seems an old tradition at Mitsubishi's. Nearly any Mitsubishi plane is liable to be seen with a data plate on undersurface color or bare metal at an earlier date... and not only Zeros. My best guess is that at Mitsubishi, the data plate was used to trace the airframe advance on the lines and that some other tracing method was used by Nakajima (provisional numbers ??).


I will review all my pictures of late war Mitsubishi built Zeros to see if paint peeling is less evident on them than on Nakajima built planes... What is sure is that many late Nakajima built Zero 21's seem to exhibit a lot of paint peeling. If I have correctly understood what was published on the board about relic examination, it is almost sure that quite a number of late Zeros were devoid of the usual primer coat (this explaning the great amount of peeling). I don't know if this concerns both Mitsubishi and Nakajima built ones (but I suspect it would be easier to establish it by relic examination, as late war aircraft relics seem to be much more numerous).


The progressive discarding of primer and general degradation of airplane finish in the late war years seem to be consistent with the prevalent conditions in Japan:


1 - Lack of qualified manpower at factory level (one of Tojo's government major goof as qualified people drafted for active first line duty should have been much more valuable for the war effort doing at home what they knew the best).


2 - Tighter and tighter allied blockade implying less and less available raw material thus introducing forced restrictions of use (much paints were petroleum distillates consumers)according to the shortage of supply.


3 - Lack of ability to train the average pilot to a sufficient proficiency level which, in turn, drastically reduced the average expected duration of an airframe before being shot down (so corrosion was no more a problem because it has no more time to set in)and increased efficiency of allied tactical air raids in destroying the airframes on the ground, with the same consequences.


4 - Absolute necessity to simplify production and speed it up to compensate for the losses and try to reinforce the fledgling number of available combat ready aircraft.


However, I have noticed that the Zero seems to be one of the aircraft that was particularly spared from the most drastic restrictions:


1 - Zeros kept their interior finish with a cockpit color overcoat on Aotake primer - anti-corrosion coat (not unusual, it seems, for single engined planes)


2 - Zeros kept an undersurface color to the end (not so for Kawanishi Shiden and Shiden-Kai)


It would be very interesting to gather as much identified and dated relics as possible to establish thereal practices of each manufacturer and to try to establish (even broadly) the date of the different steps in the degradation of finish of IJNAF planes as the war progressed.


Mitsubishi/Nakajima Hairyokushoku Variations


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Friday, 29 December 2000


Today, Tom MATLOSZ brought the larger fragment of a Nakajima constructed A6M2 model 21 s/n 646 shot down at the Battle of Midway, June 1942, for further analysis. We laid it next to a skin fragment from a Mitsubishi constructed A6M2 model 21 downed at Kaneohe Bay, 7 December 1941. Neither piece has been subject to weathering since each was collected (June 1942 and December 1941 respectively)


One may compare the two unweathered relic colors (see below) of so-called "hairyokushoku" as applied by two manufacturers during the early months of WW II. The Nakajima version (top fragment) is decidedly more "khaki" (close to FS-14255, I3 ?), while the Mitsubishi equivalent is more of an "olive-green" (close to FS-24201/16350, J3 ?).


Note the use of the red-oxide primer as an undercoat in both cases. The Midway fragment (Nakajima relic) is from the fuselage near the cockpit area and the Kaneohe Zero fragment (Mitsubishi relic) is from the lower wing area, possibly the flap.


Mitsubishi/Dark Green


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Wednesday, 10 January 2001


Samples of skin from Mitsubishi and Nakajima Zeros appear to indicate that the companies used different versions of the dark green. Mitsu=FS34052 and Naka=34077. I do not have any color equivalents in commercial paint colors, but look in the Color Research section of the Homepage of J-Dot Com. I think there are some there.


Undersurface Colors


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Tuesday, 12 December 2000


You wrote; "Mitsubishi used (on late war Zeros from 1944 onwards) a matte version of its anterior glossy Hairyokushoku color FS *6150 which - apparently - was more toward 14201"


That is absolutely accurate up to mid-1944, based on an original panel from the lower wing surface of a Mitsubishi constructed A6M5 Model 52 captured on Saipan in 1944 which has been stored since recovery. However, I do not know if this was the case after mid-1944.


I am also a little unclear by what you mean when you continued, "- was more toward 14201 originally and then more akin to 16350 (glossy)and finally akin to 36157 at war's end (matte)."


You probably intended to write FS-36357 instead of FS-"36157." Actually, my current research is currently stymied by the lack of late war undersurface color samples from Mitsubishi products. The only two color samples I have analyzed of undersurface paint used by Mitsubishi, which have NOT been weathered, are both like a semi-gloss FS-24201. I have seen weathered pieces which appear FS-36357, but the owners will not allow me to remove any of the patina.


I also have a report sent to me by Shigeru NOHARA, in which he states that the color chip attached to the Yoku Report No.0266 for the color known as J3 is close to FS-36357.


Contradicting this observation is the Katsushi OWAKI report based on his examination of the February 1945 Official Color Standards, that J3 (coded 2-6 on the official report) was close to FS-36350.


My copy of the Official Japanese Color Standards is not complete, but I do have a color chip sample of the color coded 2-6. On my copy, the color coded 2-6, is more in FS-36357/36307 range. Don THORPE matched this color (coded 2-6) to Munsell 5 GY 6/1. I will try to get a better match soon.


In the final analysis, we need to study these undersurface colors from the late war period more thoroughly and get more data before we draw any hard conclusions. All that I can say with certainty about Mitsubishi constructed Zeros is that they continued to have the FS-x6350/x4201 color on their undersurfaces well into 1944 and, perhaps, beyond!


Nakajima A6M5 underside color


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Saturday, 11 May 2002


I am the author of that which you cited as:





Documentation for Nakajima factory applied two color camouflage scheme N-02 applied to A6M series Type 0 models 21 and 52 produced after early 1943: dark green upper surfaces (FS-24079, or FS-24077) and pale blue-gray lower surfaces (FS-36307)."


When my original manuscript was written I had examined a very few relics from Nakajima constructed Zeros. Some of these relics had suffered from severe weathering which produced a gray lower surface color. Since the date of my original publication I have expanded my data base of relics/colors.


Nakajima continued to apply the hairyokushoku shades to the lower surfaces of their A6M2 and into their production of the A6M5. However, some of A6M5s built by Nakajima appear to have the had the blue-gray FS-36307/36314 variation as an overall lower surface color.


Unfortunately I still do not have enough Nakajima Zero relic samples to say with any great degree of certainty as to when this transition occurred or if Nakajima applied both colors randomly depending of the availabilty of the paint.


Hinomaru with Yellow Outline


Posted By: James F. Lansdale

Date: Sunday, 23 March 2003

Bob MIKESH and I have analyzed a relic from Munda A/B of a Nakajima-contructed Type 0 Reisen 21 fuselage hinomaru with a "beige" or "off-white" outline collected by USMC ace Ken WALSH. This may also have been an "anomaly," but the fact remains that such an "anomaly" did exist!

Whether or not this was a factory application, a "leaching" into or a change of color to the white outline, or, indeed, an intentional factory variation, remains to be seen. There are "too many" monochromatic photographs of IJAAF aircraft (primarily Nakajima-contructed Ki-43s and Ki-44s) with a fuselage hinomaru outlined with a border that is certainly some other color than "dead white" in b/w (monochromatic) photos which seem to contradict the "all white" hinomaru outline convention.

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