Italian National Colors

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This page outlines the colors used in the roundels and on the rudder of Italian WWI aircraft, as measured by comparisons to surviving fabric and paint samples.

Recent restorations have shown a certain latitude [in color] existed. The green, in particular, could be very light.

— Alegi, Windsock Datafile 128: The SIA SP.2 & SP.3 [1]

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Note that WWI Italian aircraft frequently had the colors in the opposite order, with red on the outside and green in the center. This would especially be true of French-built aircraft used by the Corpo Aeronautico Militare, where repainting the center dot with green was easier than repainting the entire roundel.

Roundels appeared only in late 1916 on the fuselages of the third batch of Nieuport 11s of Macchi production, but more months were to pass before roundels became commonplace. There was an exception for some new type, like the SAML and the Pomilio, tractor biplanes similar to enemy models that had roundels everywhere, including the nose.

French built aircraft were drawn from the production line for the French air force, so they arrived in Italy with roundels applied. The Spad 7 that first reached Italy in March 1917 usually had a roundel added on the fuselage also. The problem of the correct position of colors was not particularly appreciated: generally roundels had Green as the outside color, with the exception of the early Spads and of other French-built aircraft. No other official instruction on insignia is known until late 1917, when British pilots deployed to Italy remarked that Italian reconnaissance airplanes carried no roundels on the top wings, or when they did, the order of colors could vary.

So the command issued an order to paint roundels on wings and fuselage, with Green outside and Red inside (the actual document doesn’t seem to have survived) creating in later years the wrong opinion that until 1917 Italian aircraft had roundels with Red outside and that they inverted the colors in early 1918.

Besides the order and the requests of the allies, the fact remains that Italian individualism played its part also in the final year of the war, and many airplanes went on flying without wing roundels. It is doubtful to which amount the official order had effect, as it was by itself of doubtful interpretation, so much that a letter has survived in which the commander of a reconnaissance Squadriglia at the beginning of 1918 answered that he was ready to paint roundels, but he asked "in which order" the colors had to be applied.

— Gentilli, Iozzi, and Varriale, Italian Aces of World War I and their Aircraft [2]


Green/Verde Bandiera Italian National Markings
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 28E6[1]

CIElab 56.88,-14.5,21.86
rgb #7d8f62

Beauti-Tone Cactus Valley (C43-2-0752-3)

Behr Pesto Paste (S370-5)
Behr Tuscan Hillside (PPU10-2)
Dulux Garden Path (30GY 31/202)
Sherwin-Williams Leapfrog (6431)
Valspar Garden of Paradise (6002-4B)

Vallejo Khaki (70.988) ?
Green/Verde Bandiera Italian National Markings
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 27E7[1]

CIElab 52.17,-25.83,20.49
rgb #598758

Beauti-Tone Four-Leaf Clover (C34-3-1563-4)

Behr Fern Canopy (M380-6)
Benjamin Moore Grassy Fields (2034-30)
Dulux Frog Pad (50GY 23/280)
Sherwin-Williams Garden Grove (6445)
Valspar Woodlawn Promised Land (5007-6C)

TBD
Green/Verde Bandiera Italian National Markings
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 26E8[1]

CIElab 49.41,-38.54,14.67
rgb #22855b

Behr Exquisite Emerald (P420-6)

Benjamin Moore Nile Green (2035-30)
Dulux Amazon Leaf (90GY 16/354)
FS595c 14120
Sherwin-Williams Argyle (6747)

TBD

White is white.


Red/Rosso Bandiera Italian National Markings
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 9B8[1]

CIElab 55.59,48.87,33.26
rgb #dc5d4e

Beauti-Tone Endless Possibilities (A21-2-1081-3)

Behr Japanese Kimono (PPU1-5)
Behr Dash of Curry (M170-6)
Benjamin Moore Raspberry Blush (2008-30)
Dulux African Tulip (30YR 25/463)
RAL 430-4
Sherwin-Williams Quite Coral (6614)
Valspar Terracotta Red (2004-3A)

TBD
Red/Rosso Bandiera Italian National Markings
Reference Color House Paints or Standards Hobby Paints
Methuen 10B8[1]

CIElab 52.58,55.43,30.00
rgb #d94c4d

Beauti-Tone Lipstick (A19-3-1444-3)

Behr Pinkadelic (P160-5)
Benjamin Moore Bull's Eye Red (2002-20)
Dulux Strawberry Patch (10YR 22/483v)
FS595c 21400
RAL 440-2
Sherwin-Williams Gladiola (6875)
Valspar Whipped Strawberry (1006-1A)

TBD

Background and Caveats[edit]

Note: As always, there was frequently variation in paint color, weathering, varnishing, etc., so this is just a general guide. Unless you've got a high-end, wide-gamut monitor in perfect calibration (and who does?), do not trust the colors you see on your monitor! Instead, visit your local paint store and see if you can find paint samples like the ones listed and then match your hobby paints or mixes against those. The goal is just to "get close enough" for your own tastes.

Color matching was performed with the 1989 Methuen Handbook of Color and a Nix Color sensor.

References[edit]

Citations
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Alegi'08, p.35.
  2. Gentilli, p.446-447.
Bibliography
  • Gregory Alegi, Windsock Datafile 128: The SIA SP.2 & SP.3. Great Britain: Albatros Publications Ltd., 2008. ISBN 1-902207-82-3
  • Roberto Gentilli, Antonio Iozzi, and Paolo Varriale, Italian Aces of World War I and their Aircraft. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2003. ISBN 0-7643-1664-8
  • A. Kornerup & J.H. Wanscher, Methuen Handbook of Colour, Third Edition. Great Britain: Methuen London, 1989, ISBN 0-413-33400-7