H.M.S. Hood Today - Scale Models & Miniatures of Hood
Paint Schemes of H.M.S. Hood, 1920-1941
Updated 20-Dec-2016

One of the most common questions we are asked is "what colour was H.M.S. Hood?". This article endeavours to answer that question. It is intended to assist modellers, artists and animators in preparing accurate renditions of Hood.

Sources: The following information is based on the research of many people, most notably that of Mr Dave Weldon of the H.M.S. Hood Association. Dave is a true expert on the subject, having spent most of his life researching the ship. We are also deeply indebted to the colour/camouflage works of Alan Raven, the research of Dr. Bruce Taylor and the wreck exploration of David Mearns. Lastly, a special thanks to the veterans for their recollections as well as the owners of well-known and private photo and film collections, both monochrome and colour, for the contributions their holdings were able to impart.

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Getting Started
Hood wore derivatives of two very basic paint shades/schemes during her 21 year career. Her colour depended on her assignments, locations, etc. Therefore, before you can paint your model or colour your artwork, you first need to determine "when" you are modeling the ship. Specifically, what time frame, configuration or specific event is the model is to represent? Once you know this, simply select from the desired time range/period listed (in blue) below. This will display the various specifics for the shade/scheme worn during that time period.

Important Things to Remember
We advise modellers and artists to follow only these instructions if they wish to avoid some of the most common mistakes. With this in mind, we ask you to pay heed to or at least be aware of the following:

1. Please do not rely upon kit painting instructions, photos of completed models or paintings/artwork. One can never be sure of the level of research conducted, or, the degree of accuracy imparted into the final product. This even applies to the models and paintings we feature on our own web site - these items aren't displayed necessarily because of accuracy, but simply because they depict Hood. Our goal is not to judge people's work, but to encourage modelling and creation of artwork of Hood.

2. Please do not "guesstimate" colours from old black & white photos. This is because there are numerous factors which tend to make film unreliable: First is the type of film that was used. Orthochromatic film was sensitive to bluish light. As a result, when processed, blues tended to look lighter and reds tended to look darker. Panchromatic films were more balanced, but the problem is that we have no way of positively knowing what film type was used for old photos. The matter becomes even more complicated when one considers additional factors such as the reflective/absorption properties of the ship's paint(s), weather/environment/lighting, the camera's settings, original development/processing work and later scanning and processing work! The result is that a "paint job" could look much lighter or darker than it actually was. So, judging precise colours from black and white photos is often an exercise in futility. Even colour footage is not always reliable (as this example image clearly illustrates). It too is affected by film type, settings, age and transfer/scanning issues.

3. Colour Footage is not always precisely accurate. Old colour footage also had/has its share of issues. It too is affected by film stock, camera settings, the environment, original processing/developing, age and of course modern scanning/transfer and digital processing. Indeed these latter items can be particularly problematic. For an example of processing gone wrong, simply view this image of Hood.

4. Don't assume paint was always perfect. While its true that the Admiralty had exacting specifications for paint, it didn't mean that the things were always precise or perfect. The real world has a way of interfering: First, paint stocks could vary from depot-to-depot and ship-to-ship. This meant that sailors often had to make-do and/or improvised somewhat with whatever was on-hand or could be appropriated. Second, there were possibly mixing errors from time-to-time. Third, sometimes painting was done in sections or as patch-up work. So, what you see in one photo may look different than what you see in another.

5. Not all areas of Hood are well documented. She IS famous but that doesn't mean that everything about her was recorded or remembered! This is particularly true for the wartime years. As a result, it is nearly impossible, even for us, to correctly identify the exact colour of every object on the ship. Because of this, there may be some hypothetical assessments involved (in other words an educated guess). If we are not 100% certain of something, we will let you know in the text below. When and if new information does come to light, we always try to update this article accordingly.

6. Its YOUR Model, you make the decisions. Our intent is to help people create accurate renditions of Hood. At the end of the day however, its your choice to do as you please. You are certainly welcome to employ some "artistic license" here and there. Remember: As long as YOU are happy with your work, THAT'S all that counts!


Colour Scheme Specifics

I. January 1920 - June 1936 & June 1939 - Early 1941: Pattern 507B Dark Grey (Home Fleet Shade)

During these time periods, Hood was painted in the Royal Navy's Home Fleet standard dark grey shade. During the first few years of her career, this was a pure dark grey. The formula was changed in the mid 1920s to include a tinge of blue. The paint was somewhat glossy during peacetime years due to the inclusion of enamel. A matte variation of the colour (known as Pattern 507A) was introduced around the start of the Second World War. This variation was less reflective than standard 507B and therefore looked duller and darker.

Regardless of official designation, Hood wore this colour for most of her career, to include but not limited to, the Empire Cruise of 1924 and her time with Force H in 1940.

Suggested paint match: The following are matches for the Admiralty Dark Grey in use during most of the inter-war and early war years (exact or very close directly from the bottle). This list is alphabetically sorted and contains both enamels and acrylics. Please note that we chose the links at random (we do not prefer one retailer over another). You may be able to find some of these locally or through a preferred retailer of your choice:

Click the following to enlarge:
Colour Footage of Hood Painted in Admiralty Dark Grey
Above - Colour footage of Hood from late 1939.
Note the contrast between the overall dark
grey, the white foretop mast and the portside
red signal light.

Colour Footage of Hood Painted in Admiralty Dark Grey/AP507A
Above - Another view from 1939. Here, one can
see the extreme contrast between the dark grey
and things such as blast bags and White Ensign.

Corticene on Admirals Signal Platform
Above: Corticene on bridge.

"Semtex", a rough textured non-slip deck coating was used around gun mounts on Hood's metal deck from December 1937 on. (Note: According to the ship's books, ADM136/13, Vol 3, semtex was applied specifically to the "covered working space of 4" H.A. Guns at Stations 161-205 port & starboard"). The usage MAY have have eventually expanded to other areas of the metal portion of the Shelter/Boat Deck as more weapons and ready use lockers were added. Semtex supposedly started out as a creme colour, but soon grew dirty and dingy due to its texture. The final colour would be a dull grey or brown (or darker if it were painted over). Its also likely that dark grey non-slip paint was used.


II. June 1936 - June 1939: Pattern 507C - Light Grey (Foreign Stations)

This was the standard colour for Royal Navy ships assigned to foreign stations, including the Mediterranean Fleet. This colour was a light grey with a blue tinge. Many people have mentioned that this was the colour in which H.M.S. Hood looked her absolute best. It appears to have been somewhat shiny/glossy (but of course, this wouldn't come out right on a miniature of the ship). The hull and superstructure were painted in this shade (see the image below/right for a rough approximation of this colour).

Suggested paint match: The following are matches for the inter-war Pattern 507C (exact or very close directly from the bottle). This list is alphabetically sorted and contains both enamels and acrylics. Please note that we chose the links at random (we do not prefer one retailer over another). You may be able to find some of these locally or through a preferred retailer of your choice:

Click the following to enlarge:
H.M.S. Hood, late 1936, wearing AP507C
Above: Hood in AP507C, 1937/38.

H.M.S. Hood Decks Whilst Wearing AP507C
Above: Hood's unpainted teak decks,1937/38.

H.M.S. Hood AP507C Details
Above: Details of Hood's Mediterranean colours.

H.M.S. Hood Dark Horizontal Surfaces
Above - Note the dark horizontal surfaces to
include lower flange of funnel.

H.M.S. Hood Lower Hull Circa 1938
Above -1938. Hood's lower hull.

H.M.S. Hood Spanish Civil War Neutrality Markings
Above: Hood's Neutrality Markings.

Paint trim aboard Hood circa 1936-38
Above: Hood's Paint Trim

Personal accounts of crew indicate that this may not always have been the case; some areas around guns may have been partially covered in corticene or in some form of temporary matting. There is no proof to back-up the claims of corticene, but it is highly possible that matting could have been used temporarily/as-needed. We do know that from mid December 1937 onward, portions of the un-planked decks abreast the funnels were coated in semtex (described earlier in this article). It would initially have been light in colour but would have quickly become a dingy grey or brown. It may also have been over-painted with dark grey.

2. Anchor cables were generally painted white (we have seen some photos in which they are a darker colour though). The anchor cable capstans and hawse pipes were painted hull colour (Pattern 507C), but the actual anchor cable plates (that the chains ran along/sat upon) were dark grey.

3. The ship's name was polished brass.

4. In various areas trim was painted in a darker colour (see the photo to the right). Examples of this are along the edges of the breakwaters and as a strip of paint along the lower portions of bulkheads/walls (similar to moulding one sees where floors and walls meet). The exact colour is not known, but based on recollections, it could have been a medium grey. Of course, at even the most common modelling scales, one would probably not see this trim effect.

5. Weathering did of course, occur, but was minimal. She was frequent repainted and was particularly "smart" and shiny at this point in her career. More on this below.


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III. January - Mid-May 1941: Variation of Pattern 507B - Dark Grey (Home Fleet)

Hood in Light/Dark Paint Scheme, Spring 1941
Above- Hood colour variations, Spring 1941
From January to mid May 1941, Hood temporarily wore a multiple coloured paint scheme. For the most part, the ship was painted in overall Pattern 507B, with the following exceptions:

Again, the rest of the ship appears to have been painted Pattern 507B. We're not certain what the reason for this temporary "paint scheme" was; it could have been anything from a deliberate but incomplete camouflage attempt or experiment to mismatched or patchy paint work. It could just as easily have been some aborted attempt to paint the ship an entirely different shade.

All we know about this variation is that it was only seen in photos from Spring 1941 and that it was no longer in use when the ship sailed to find Bismarck.


IV. Mid-Late May 1941/As Sunk: Pattern 507B - Dark Grey (Home Fleet)

The last documented painting of Hood took place on 12 May 1941 (per the journal of Midshipman Philip Bucket). It is possible that additional painting took place between then and the time the ship left to engage the Bismarck. This would not be uncommon as the ship's paintwork was frequently cleaned and touched-up during times spent in port. As the log was lost with the ship, there is no way to determine the last day she was painted. There are, fortunately, photos of the ship en route to engage Bismarck which provide a very good idea as to the state of the paintwork. What is known is that the previous two toned look was abandoned in favour of a uniform grey.

Suggested paint match: The following are direct matches for the Pattern 507B used at this point in time (exact or very close directly from the bottle). This list is alphabetically sorted and contains both enamels and acrylics. Please note that we chose the links at random (we do not prefer one retailer over another). You may be able to find some of these locally or through a preferred retailer of your choice:

Click the following to enlarge:
Hood Painted in AP507B
Above - Hood en route to fight Bismarck.
She's shown here wearing AP507B paint.

Hood Painted in AP507B
Above - A colour image of Hood circa late 1940.
She looks a bit blue due to the film stock.


Hood Painted in AP507B
Above - A colour image of Hood circa late 1940.
She looks a bit blue due to the film stock.

Hood Painted in AP507B
Above- A view of Hood's unpainted focsle teak
decking in late 1939. It remained unpainted.

Hood Painted in AP507B
Above- Hood being painted AP50B in 1940.

Hood Painted in AP507B
Above- Painting the ship in 1940. Note the
unpainted teak decking.

Hood blast bags were hull colour in 1940 and 1941
Above: Hood's 15" Gun Blast Bag in 1940/41.

Hood in Light/Dark Paint Scheme, Spring 1941
Above- Hood colour variations, Spring 1941

2. White markings were located on the lower rear sides of each HACS Mk III* director (extending from the sides just aft of the rangefinder arms and going all the way around the rear and reaching as high as half way up the director structure). This marking was on all three HACS directors (two on the bridge and one aft). Click here to see a photo.

3. Hood was extremely busy and frequently at sea during her last months. Although she was cleaned and painted fairly regularly (the last recorded time being 12 May 1941...about two weeks before her loss), her busy schedule still resulted in a certain degree of wear and tear. So, some reasonable weathering (bow wave chipping, streaking from soot, rust and salt/spray effects on focsle and forward quarter deck, etc.) would be beneficial. More on this below.

4. If modelling Hood during the Battle of the Denmark Strait, be sure to use one battle ensign. This was an extremely large version of the white ensign. This was flown from the large lower flag gaff on the mainmast starfish. Note: British warships commonly flew multiple ensigns during battle (a tradition dating from the days of sailing ships). In the case of Hood however, it is reported (by survivor Ted Briggs) that she flew just one ensign.

5. The ship's name was painted over in a dark grey or possibly black. For scale purposes, we recommend using dark grey.

6. Anchor cables were dark grey or possibly black.

7. From January to mid May 1941, Hood temporarily wore a multiple coloured paint scheme. For the most part, the ship was painted in overall AP507B, with the following exceptions:

  • A Turret & Gun House- This appears to have been painted a light grey colour (perhaps AP507C or a 50/50 mix of 507A and 507C).
  • B Turret & Gun House- This was painted dark grey (possibly AP507A).
  • Control/Spotting Top - This appears to have been painted dark grey.

Again, the rest of the ship appears to have been painted AP507B. We're not certain what the reason for this temporary "paint scheme" was; it could have been anything from a deliberate but incomplete camouflage attempt or test, mismatched or patchy paint work, bad paint stock or even one or more aborted attempt to paint the ship an entirely different shade. All we know is that this variation is only seen in photos from Spring 1941.

Fortunately, Hood was photographed (by aircraft) en route to engage Bismarck. The aerial photographs show that the ship had been repainted in a an overall medium grey (standard paint scheme for AP507B above). One of these aerial photos is included below.


Below- 22 May 1941. H.M.S. Hood is en route to her disastrous engagement with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. The grey areas of the ship are now a uniform medium grey.

One of the last photos of H.M.S. Hood, believed to have been taken on 22 May 1941


IV. Boats

Assorted views of boats. Click to enlarge.  
One of Hood\'s 50ft Steam Pinnaces, 1930s  Hood's boats, circa mid 1930s
One of Hood\'s seaboats.  Hood's 35ft Admirals Barge circa 1940
One of Hood\'s 35ft fast motor boats, 1941.  Rafts aboard Hood, 1940
Canvas covered boats aboard Hood, 22 May 1941

V. Other Considerations

Incorporate "Scale Effect": The colours used on a model or in artwork would not be as concentrated and therefore not as dark as on the full size ship as seen from the same exact distance. Technically, you are viewing the model/artwork "from a distance"- atmospheric effects would cause the model/painting to look a bit lighter than the actual ship would have appeared up close. So, be sure to lighten the darker colours just a tad with white or light grey. Of course, be sure not to overdo and make it too light (which is very easy to do). Use just a tiny bit of the lighter colour and it should work out fine.

A number of firms manufacture paints that are exact or close matches to the shades mentioned here. We realise that some of you would still prefer to "mix your own" though. In such cases, we suggest you purchase the Snyder and Short Enterprises "Royal Navy Paint Chip Set 1" - this accurate reference will allow you to make the best possible match all on your own. It contains all the colours you need for Hood.

Don't Overdo Your Weathering: Its true that Hood, like any ship, did have periods where her paint became heavily worn and she resultantly looked a bit worse for wear (sometimes minor, sometimes quite heavy); You'd see worn/chipped paint along the bow/hull (from wave action) as well as numerous small streaks from weather, soot, salt, rust and and so forth. The wood of the focsle and quarterdeck would also show some degree of weather (salt) at times. Of course, this would have been taken care of as soon as possible. Another area to remember is her lower hull. This would have shown signs of weathering and fading,

They key to weathering is not to overdo it if modelling her in peacetime. We only mention this because many modellers seem to overdo their weathering by adding tons of rust and gigantic grime streaks to their ship models. It may make the model look more interesting, but its often "over the top" and not historically accurate. Don't overdo it with Hood; a little weathering and streaking for effect is fine, but she should not be dripping rust from every anchor, life rail stanchion and bollard! During the inter-war years she was the symbol of the Navy and a showpiece, not a garbage scow!!! For wartime years, the weathering would be a bit heavier...but again, please avoid the urge to overdo it.

Are You Modelling Hood in Port or at Sea?: Depending on "when" your Hood is depicted plus, "who" is command, "where" she is and and "what" she is doing, there may be some slight variations in her general configuration for you to consider. The first thing to consider is when which will then tell you who was in command. From there be sure to use the correct flag (either Rear-Admiral or Vice-Admiral). If modelling Hood prior to January 1941, the admiral's flag should be flown from the foretop mast. If you're modelling the ship as in 1941, the flag was flown from high above the main mast.

In Port: Whilst in port, she might be flying a Union Jack from her bow jack staff (the only time it is referred to as such) and White Ensign from her stern. She might also have one or more anchors deployed and/or shackled. She would also have her various stairways deployed - two forward (abreast the bridge) leading from the focsle deck up to the shelter deck and four aft (near the ship's name) leading from the quarterdeck up to the enclosed focsle deck). There may also be boarding ladders positioned along the ship's quarterdeck. It was also common for her large side booms to be swung out in port. Her boats would possibly be uncovered (canvas removed) and even deployed. Her upper main mast (and foretop mast) may be retracted (depending on the location and if she had to pass under tall bridges).

At Sea: Hood would not have flown a jack. Both flag masts were usually removed and stowed (there were exceptions for short sorties). Her White Ensign would be flown from the mainmast jack staff. Her anchors were obviously retracted and her various stairways (the four large aft ladders and the two forward side ladders) would be dismantled/broken down and stowed.This last part will actually save you a fair bit of work as you would not need to prepare these very prominent ladders. During wartime she might be streaming paravanes. Lastly, at sea, her upper mast(s) would have been elevated to full height.

Happy Modelling! Please send us some photos for our Models Gallery!