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WW2 german track colour


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to not pollute somebody else's WIP thread I thought I'd start a new one here!

First some context:


i copy/pasted everything from this thread: https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/235040296-panther-schmalturm/&

@Das Abteilung @Soeren @ironwork @BlackMax12 @Badder @Retired Bob


On ‎11‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 7:49 PM, Das Abteilung said:

If I may offer a few observations on what is undoubtedly a very skillfully finished model, Herr Eisenwerke.................


German gun barrels were factory-finished in a grey gloss lacquer not unlike Panzer Grey in shade.


The base colour of armour plate and cast armour was always a dark metallic brown: it could not possibly be otherwise.  The only variation was that face-hardened plate and castings were somewhat darker than rolled homogeneous plate (RHA), the latter being much preferred by Germany.  It did not (and could not possibly) wear to a silvery colour, but did develop a polished sheen from wear.  Because of the other elements in the alloy it did not rust readily and I applaud you for not being tempted to spatter it with rust spots or rusty areas.  Mild steel fittings and other parts would rust of course, and cause rust runs down the paint, and would wear to a bright metal colour.  The sheen on worn armour plate and track naturally catches the light in photos and this glint is commonly mistaken for it being a bright colour.  And many people assume that all steel is inherently a silvery colour.


German tracks all had a manganese content, decreasing as the war progressed.  This means they were never and could never be bright silvery metal or graphite/metallic grey, even on the wear points.  Their native colour was initially a mid metallic goldy-brown, but by later in the war this had become a somewhat browner colour as the manganese content decreased.  Again they developed a polished sheen in use but this was not silvery or graphite in colour.  The same is true for the guide horns and wear areas on the inside faces.  There isn't an easy match for that colour that I have found thus far Manganese tracks also did not rust easily, because of their inherent corrosion-inhibiting properties.  Initially their oxide was a mid grey-brown, later changing to a very dark brown.  Orange and red tones of rust would not be seen.  Shiny silver mild steel tracks would be a complete waste of time and have an incredibly short life, which is why no-one used them.


Congratulations on keeping the weld metal bright and not being tempted to rust it, which of course it never did.


22 hours ago, Bozothenutter said:

Do you know if the Saumur KT has Original tracks?

I distinctly remember seeing a silvery shine on the guide horns, not as much as some modelleres depict, true, but it was shiney.......



did a quick search as I'm not at home:

not the guide horn, but you get the idea....


Militracks 2018 - King Tiger



22 hours ago, Soeren said:

I would assume that is exactly what DA was referring to. Silvery sheen at direct light angle and brownish if not. Like in your picture.


18 hours ago, Das Abteilung said:

Ah. I seem to have stirred up some confusion.  I'm good at that.............  Part of the problem, as we're highlighting with these photos, is that the sheen makes the wear areas look silvery when they're actually not.


If you look at the extreme ends of the Tiger II spuds (the sticky-up worn bits) where they round over and the light doesn't catch them you can better see what the native colour looks like.  The Tiger 1 links are a bit dusty but again at the inside ends you can just see the basic colour.


Both Tiger tracks show what I meant about a grey-brown oxide rather than orange rust.  Yes, some of that is dust.  I might have expected the Tiger II tracks to be a bit darker brown oxide, based on the Bovington examples.


This is raw manganese, which gives the colour to the links.  Diluted somewhat when alloyed with steel.



The best pictures I have that shows the colour are these 2 of Tortoise and Churchill tracks.  You can really see the Manganese colour in the Tortoise links immediately below the Manganese picture. 

2GvEvus.jpg  B770zrv.jpg


These T62 links on a Sherman aren't a bad example either, both of wear and oxidation.



Now to throw in some (more!) confusion.  PzIV track with rusty guide horns.  Aha!  You got me!  Note also the darker brown aged oxide, but you can still just see the native colour on the rounded ends of the spuds.  So why the rust?  It's transfer from the rusty inner faces of the roadwheels and return rollers.  Like your car's brake discs, a rust film will form on the bare metal when parked up in damp conditions for a few hours  On moving off some will transfer to the guide horns but will very quickly wear off once the vehicle has driven a little way.  You can see the same effect on Pz III, Panther and Tiger guide horns too, most particularly with steel-rimmed wheels on the cats.  The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed some little orange rust spots on the spuds, not on all links.  I believe these are rust runs from the sprocket teeth from when they were at a slightly different rotation.  They are exactly in line with the teeth.  Something else to perhaps think about on a parked-up vehicle.



No-one does a proper match for this manganese steel colour out of the pot, not even any of the weird Warhammer colours, nor do any of the big name companies seem interested: I've asked most of them ........  Xoma (a Russian model paint brand) do a colour called Burnt Metal, which looks like this.  Getting there.  Probably needs some metallic brown or perhaps a touch of bronze mixed in.



Washed over with Track Wash it looks like this.  Getting closer.



Weathered and then drybrushed back with the Burnt Metal looks like this.  Pretty close, I think.  But a straight pot colour would be much simpler.



Lately I've been experimenting with a Vandyke Brown Metallic oil pastel, touched on and then rubbed gently with a fingertip.  Best pic I have of that effect is this MkIV.  But WW1 tanks had links of very brown, almost chocolate, face-hardened plate.  That being said, I think it will work on WW2 and later steel links too.



Apologies for hijacking with pics of my stuff.  Just trying to illustrate a point, not hog the post.


17 hours ago, ironwork said:

Thank you all for the contribution.

My intent was to depict a factory fresh tank, with just some dirt, as told somewhere into the posts.

According to this situation, I represented tracks with a sharp and shiny contrast, knowing that the addition of dirt would tone down them to the desired level.


References provided are very beautiful but, sadly… they  70 years and more old tanks. Pictures  taken p.e. from Encyclopedia of german tanks  show polished-new tracks on tanks as they come out of the factory.



14 hours ago, BlackMax12 said:



As the op said this is a "what if" and I believe it is mean to show off the various paints, washes and techniques rather than anything

that could be seen as realistic.


I do like the subtle tones and shading but the combination of reddish primer and silverish details sort of doesn't work.  The wheels look great

and I like the weathering on the lower hull and can live with the tracks. The overall color and the contrasting details and gun barrel/mantlet are

sort of whimsical though.


I did a "what if" Tiger II a while back with an exaggerated ambush scheme which had hundreds of contrasting dots rather than the normal pattern.

It was something to try and it got some comments but not something I kept. (got a white wash fairly quickly) Anyway this model is in that category

and while not too authentic it does look darned good. That True Earth and SDW stuff looks interesting.


Just my $0.02 (Canadian so not worth much)




13 hours ago, Badder said:

Interesting discussions going on here, but I've been dropping by to see what effects the 'advertised' products can achieve, rather than the ins and of material science.

So, whilst the 'silver' seen on track treads is not due to a silver colour of exposed/polished/worn metal, but rather an optical effect, it's always good to see a product that can give a nice silvery, metallic,, finish.

The 'bare' metal parts of the KT do look like fairly new, or slightly tarnished metal. What that metal is, is to me, immaterial. Forgive the pun.

The red-brown of the rest, whether that be due to oxidation, red lead oxide paint, or whatever, is again immaterial. It's a nice colour and could be any of those things if appied in a particular way.

All in all then, a nicely constructed KT, depicted in an unusual state - a state which may be classed as inaccurate in respect of materials and chemistry, IF the host insists that the materials being portrayed are true to the originals.


Personally, I view this KT as a 'what if'.


So, nice one, Ironwork.





1 hour ago, Retired Bob said:

I find this discussion on AFV painting very interesting, trying to get accurate coloured tracks is difficult when for years we have fed the description of rusty steel with highlighted wear points of shiny metal, by the "experts".  Please Das Abteilung, keep on enlightening us, I for one am listening and making notes.




1 hour ago, Soeren said:

Hey guys. No apologies needed. This is a splendid paint job and the discussion should not distract from that. I really like your approach. It just looks great. BASTA


Nonetheless this added some questions, that could have been asked elsewhere of coirae. But if you are not too annoyed by that, it would be nice to carry on where needed, just for the sake of increasing all our knowledge.

This might be the risk of posting ones models in the WWW ;)



55 minutes ago, Das Abteilung said:

As well noted above, worn tracks will catch the light and shine in photos.  This is exacerbated in black and white photography, which of course gives no hint of colour - only of tone.  Over-exposure was not uncommon, further exacerbating the brightness.


As for colour, in general the native colour of metal does not change over time.  Yes, there may be some sort of oxidation, corrosion or dulling of the surface but get through that - as you would on track wear points - and you will be back to the native metal colour.  So, whether 70 minutes or 70 years old the colour will be the same.  The underlying track metal colour on a preserved tank will be the same as the day it left the factory.  It only takes a couple of turns around the factory yard to put a good sheen on them.


While no paint company so far does a manganese track colour, I notice that "shine" paint is now being included in some paint modulation sets.  I haven't used any but I'm guessing it's a form of varnish: it looks uncoloured.  I must try some on some tracks.  Silvery and graphite shades do provide the "shine" effect, but are inherently the wrong colour.


There is a long-term misconception in the modelling community that worn tracks and armour plate are silvery and that both go rusty in the orange/brown range we typically think of.  Neither is true.  Both are made of alloys containing other metallic elements and carbon which naturally inhibit and alter the speed and nature of oxidation and corrosion.  The use of graphite is relatively recent, but is also wrong.  Brown chipping has finally caught on, now it's time for tracks.


It's one of those things you need to go to museums and look at rather than relying on imagery.  You get that "Ah, I see what is meant" moment.  I'm fortunate in that my work takes me near Bovington fairly frequently and I will soon be moving to that area.  I know that the great majority of us are not that lucky.


We haven't discussed rubber-padded tracks, largely because we began with German and they didn't use them.  Many of those are made of cheaper low- and non-manganese steels as the rubber provides the wear surface.  So you do see orangey rust and silvery wear on some of these, such as on M60s and M1s.


I'm not convinced that AFV modelling is a fine art genre.  To me it's a scale representation of reality and must therefore be realistic and grounded in reality.


The tracks on the Panther would look very different with the ice sprags worn down to the spuds, as in the real Tiger photos above.  I agree that on such small areas it is hard to tell the actual colour.  And yes, as a "papier panzer" for 1946 or later it might be assumed that Germany had been forced to use very low manganese steel for tracks as they just couldn't get it, short of recycling worn scrap tracks.


30 minutes ago, ironwork said:

Experten, experten… :)





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I completely agree with @Das Abteilung about he colours shown in his examples, but as @ironwork says, they are of tanks that seem to have been static for quite some time.

I used the Saumur KT as an example, because it one I know that moves about frequently and frankly it is the only tank I know anything about!


does anybody have pics from tankfest or somesuch showing tracks that have been used for a bit?


the orangey colour will still be there I reckon, but much less obvious. (titanium does this aswell, the surface will be brownish oxide, but machined surfaces will be nearly silver in colour

Edited by Bozothenutter
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The Bovington Tiger I:


















Tamiya does have a Dark Iron paint:





LifeColor has a track colour set that includes both paint and powders, but you will likely have to do some mixing if you want to match reference photos:
















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My favoured paint for that indeterminate brown/grey colour was the now discontinued Humbrol 170 Brown Bess (back in those happy days when Humbrol sold matt enamel that covered and dried matt).  Humbrol 173 Track Colour is still available and closish to it though the "track" in the name is railway, not tank.

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7 hours ago, JackG said:

Tamiya does have a Dark Iron paint:





Probably stating the obvious here, but Tamiya's Dark Iron is VERY dark, and not at all like the 'red-brown' shown on the pot lid above.  The XF894 colour 'swatch' beside the pot is more accurate.

It's always a bit of a laugh when discussing colours and using images as examples, when each of our devices may depict the exact same colour differently.


And finally ...... If I were to paint the treads on my tracks a glossy brown and photograph the vehicle in such a way that the treads reflected light and looked to be silver, I could post those photos in an RFI and get much praise. But, maybe I lied? Who would know that actually, I painted them silver?🤔😜





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2 hours ago, Soeren said:

While watching the recent Florymodels me262 build on YouTube I saw his application  of Mr model polishing/buffable metal colors. Would that help? 

Only if he uses the right colours!!  Yes, buffable products can be useful for simulating active wear and getting that sheen effect without resorting to using silver or graphite tones to achieve it.


Would you use silver or graphite to represent polished copper, brass, bronze or gold??  No of course you wouldn't.  So why use it to simulate manganese steel, which if anything is closer perhaps to bronze than silver.


What you're trying to represent is the sheen.  And that comes from a shiny surface, not an artificial colour.  So buffing is good.  Varnishing is probably a good second.  But the right colour is essential.


We've all come to the realisation that armour plate isn't silver and that the underlying colour for chips and wear is dark brown: not silver and not graphite.  Again, graphite is used as a sheen-inducing product, but of course introduces its own colour to the workpiece.  There are a few metallic brown artists' pencils out there.  People are also beginning to realise slowly that armour plate takes a long time to rust in any significant way because of the natural corrosion resisting properties of some alloy constituents.  And that weld metal never rusts and will remain bright shiny silver for ever.  Now the time has come for the same realisation about track metals.


As for the somewhat pointed "experten" comment about the Ferdinand factory shot, all that shows you is shiny metal catching the light.  It cannot tell you what colour the shiny metal is.  An assumption is being made that all shiny metal is silvery, which is or course very far from the truth.  The only guaranteed silver metal in that photo is the gun ball mount and the roadwheel tyres.


If you were working in monochrome then yes, you might only have shades of silver to work with.  Although that factory image in fact only contains white, black and the proverbial 50 shades of grey.

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47 minutes ago, Das Abteilung said:

What you're trying to represent is the sheen.  And that comes from a shiny surface, not an artificial colour.  So buffing is good.  Varnishing is probably a good second.  But the right colour is essential. 

A bit of an aside here, but  this comment reminds me of a couple of things I 'discovered' in my teens in the late 70's whilst trying to depict snow on Tamiya's SdKfz7 with Flakveirling....

Firstly, talcum powder is no good for snow. And secondly, if you try to remove it by vigorous rubbing (for 'vigorous' read 'annoyed') it gives the underlying paint a lovely sheen, which can be left as is to depict a polished paint surface, or worn/burnished metal etc.  Subsequently, I also discoered that it aided in the application of enamel washes and decals.... bearing in mind that acrylic paints and gloss varnishes weren't used in military modelling back then.

So, I'm wondering if these 'new' burnishing/buffing products are actually worth the expense, when a small bottle of Johnson's baby talc will last a lifetime!




ps, I am now using acrylic inks for a lot of my work, and can highly recommend Daler Rowney's Birdwing Copper and Bell Bronze acrylic inks for those particular metallic finishes. I haven't tried their other metallic inks yet, but assume them to be just as good.

Edited by Badder
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In simple terms, talc is powdered rock.  So the fact that it's a fine abrasive shouldn't be a great surprise, although it is pretty much at the lowest level of the Mohs hardness scale: about the same as graphite.  But it is of course messy to use.  Once you've polished with it you have to remove it somehow.


Be aware BTW that inhaled in sufficient quantity it is considered extremely harmful, and in the US its use around infants is discouraged.  There are occupational exposure limits and surgical-type dust masks don't keep it out.


There are a number of polishing products for car modelling including some ultra fine abrasive cloths.  Tamiya have something called Lapping Film, of which the coarsest is 3000 grit.  Mr Hobby have Mr Laplos Polishing Cloth down to 8000 grit.  Albion Alloys have Micro Fine Assorted Sanding Film in 15000 - 60000 grit.  These might be a little more practical than talc and might work for polishing metallic paints.  I'm about to pack up my modelling stuff for moving house, so I'm not going to be doing any modelling until at least February.


Polishing metallic paint may not be permanent.  It may also oxidise itself and go dull.  Clearcoat appeals.

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Pop goes the brain again....


What colour were the tracks hung off the side of a KT?

Most modelers seem to choose black(ish) (oil blackened?) , or (semi) oversprayed with camo.

Apparently the transport tracks were red, as they were meant to be changed immediatly after de-training.


No finish, or oversprayed would seem to most logical to me, no finish as it deletes an extra step in manufacturing (the tracks it ran on didn't get any finish), and/or oversprayed with the camo colours (assuming the tracks were hung after the basecoat)





could white metal tracks be chemically coloured to a manganese steel finish?

Edited by Bozothenutter
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Hot oil blackening or black painting of spare links, possibly complete spare track sets also, seemed to be common.  I can't see that painting or blacking mounted tracks would serve any real purpose as it would wear off the wear points in minutes.  But it might have been done for cosmetic reasons.


Some tracks on museum vehicles of various nationalities appear - and I only say appear - to show signs of oil blackening.  However, many museum vehicles have either been fitted with replacement tracks or had their tracks painted, and so again are not necessarily trustworthy.  Which circles us neatly back to the difference between surface coating - be that oxidation or a coating - and the underlying metal colour.


As for the white metal question, I suspect not.  Sounds a little like alchemy to me!  However, I believe it would be possible to pigment white metal and resin tracks - and indeed injection-moulded ones - in a more appropriate colour.  Of course, if someone could be bothered to concoct the right paint colour instead of giving us yet more versions of colours already covered then we would be in a happier place.  But as I said elsewhere, the response from all of the Big Name paint companies was either nothing at all or polite disinterest.

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  • 9 months later...

Been looking into track colours again.

Some sleuthing pointed to drain covers being made of high manganese (aka mangalloy or hadfield steel)

Looking for pictures you 'll find everything from grey to almost coppery


Like this:


Or this




Sorry to revive an old thread!

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  • 3 weeks later...

That's not the first use of reddish-brown or other brown shades of plastic for track links.  Sadly I believe the manufacturers are assuming that tracks will be orange-brown rusty - which they will generally not be - so this will be a good base colour.


BTN's pictures illustrate precisely my point about the virgin metal colour, although it varies much according to the manganese content.  That's the sort of colour they should perhaps be moulded, or perhaps the milky coffee typical oxide shade.  They don't stay new and shiny for long except on the wear points.

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  • 4 months later...
On 10/31/2019 at 11:48 AM, Bozothenutter said:

Found another puzzlepiece.


according to panther1944.de Panther tracks were made from Niresit (Niresist)

looking for pics I found this:





Without a comparator for scale colour. The shade of colour is difficult to assess. It does look that dry rushing with graphite might achieve the sheen effect

Very interesting thread. Thank you all for your comments. 

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11 hours ago, AgentG said:

Model Master makes/made a color called "Jet Exhaust". It is a brown gold color with a tinge of gray. Perfect for drybrushing tracks.


That would do for just cast tracks, no idea if they got any type of coating (hot oil,  black oxide or such)

Interesting is the bright rusty colour they went after a while in the cellar

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  • 2 months later...

for those interested, I've found colours that come even closer.Have a look at Alclad II


their 'Jet Exhaust'(there it is again), 'Burnt Iron' and 'Exhaust Manifold' seem to give a range of shades to work with.

get some of their 'copper'as well, and you can tweak the colours even more!

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  • 3 months later...

Bumping this interesting thread as I am looking for ideas on how to tackle some Panther tracks. I don't want a factory fresh Panther but also don't want to cover it in mud etc. I have tried other numerous techniques but none that I am 100% happy with. The Tamiya dark iron is too dark although nice to have. I have drybrushed with oils, Burnt Sienna, and although gives that nice sheen is also too transparent to make a big difference.


Any other new tips and techniques that people have been happy with?

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32 minutes ago, Stef N. said:

Bumping this interesting thread as I am looking for ideas on how to tackle some Panther tracks. I don't want a factory fresh Panther but also don't want to cover it in mud etc. I have tried other numerous techniques but none that I am 100% happy with. The Tamiya dark iron is too dark although nice to have. I have drybrushed with oils, Burnt Sienna, and although gives that nice sheen is also too transparent to make a big difference.


Any other new tips and techniques that people have been happy with?

Hi Stef,

Have a look on Panther1944.de under tracks.

He has a link that was cleaned and the left in a damp basement with pictures of all states.

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