Colour Guide for Painting Desert British Infantry

Desert Rats

Colour Guide for Painting Desert British Infantry

By James Brown

The dust-coloured Khaki Drill fabric of the British Army’s tropical uniform was rapidly bleached and faded by the desert conditions. To reflect this, I have chosen quite a pale finish. I have started with a black undercoat because this approach is familiar to most painters. Feel free to use a white or coloured undercoat  – some people prefer it, particularly when dealing with light colours.

Paint references are for the Vallejo Model Colour range.

British Desert Uniform
Flesh (faces, arms, hands and legs)

Flesh Stage 1: 875 Beige Brown

Stage 1: Beige brown (875)

Flesh Stage 2: 860 Medium Fleshtone

Stage 2: Flat Flesh (955)

Flesh Stage 3: 955 Flat Flesh

Stage 3: Basic Skintone (815)

Face Detail

5-o’clock shadow is a quick, easy way of giving a miniature’s face added character and realism. I used a very thin glaze of 816 Luftwaffe Uniform WWII, mixing much more water than paint. I also used a similar technique to apply a hint of 984 Flat Brown to the lower lip.

5 o'clock shadow wash/glaze: Luftwaffe Blue (816)

Lip wash/glaze: Flat Brown (984)

5 o'clock shadow example 5 o'clock shadow example




Base coats

Bayonet Scabard: Black (950)

Water bottle and entrenching tool handle: Beige Brown (875)


Stage 2

Stage 1 Rifle Butt: Flat Earth (893).
Stage 1 Bayonet Handle: FGerman Camo Medium Brown (826).

Stage 2

Stage 2 Rifle Butt highlight: Beige Brown (875).
Stage 2 Rifle metal: Oily Steel (865) + German Grey (995)(50/50)

Stage 3

Stage 3 further Rifle Butt highlight: Light Brown (929)
Stage 3 Rifle metal highlight: Oily Steel (865)


Stage 2

Stage 1 Socks: English Uniform (921).
Stage 1 Boots: Black (950).
Stage 1 Shirt and pants/shorts: Khaki (988)
Stage 1 Helmet: Dark Sand (847)

Stage 2

Stage 2 Socks highlight:  Khaki (988).
Stage 2 Shirt and pants/shorts highlight: Iraqi Sand (819)
Stage 2 Helmet highlight: Pale Sand (837)

Stage 3

Stage 3 Shirt and pants/shorts: Dark Sand (847)


Adding a few paint chips to the helmet is a good way of making your figure look a little battle-hardened. Carefully paint small chips and scratches, first with German Grey (995), then with Oily Steel (865). If the chips look too stark, you can soften the effect with a very light drybrush of Pale Sand (837).