H.M.S. Hood Today - Scale Models & Miniatures of Hood
Paint Schemes of H.M.S. Hood, 1920-1941
Updated 16-Apr-2024

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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Research Background
For this article, we've done the research so you don't have to. Even so, some of you will undoubtedly wish to learn more or even conduct your own research. With that in mind, we can highly recommend the following link for excellent background information concerning Royal Navy colours and paint schemes: Original Research (Sovereign Hobbies) and HMS_Hood.pdf (shopify.com)

Getting Started
Hood wore derivatives/variations of two very basic paint shades/schemes during her 21 year career, and this largely depended on where she was assigned. 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 green) below.

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

1. ITS YOUR MODEL, YOU MAKE THE DECISIONS! Our intent is to help people create accurate renditions of Hood. Despite this, don't feel that you have to do everything we (or others) recommend. There are far too many "rivet counters" out there on the World Wide Web. Its YOUR model and its your choice to do as you please. You are certainly welcome to employ some "artistic license" here and there. As long as YOU are happy with your work, that's ALL that counts! If, however you wish to be as accurate as possible, please read on!

2. Please do not rely solely 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.

3. 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.

4. Colour footage is not always precisely accurate. Old colour footage also had 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 over-processed image of Hood. She's far too light (and too blue)!

5. Don't assume paint or adherence to directives/orders was always spot-on. While its true that the Admiralty had exacting specifications for paint and issued directives with regard to appearance, etc., it didn't mean that things were always followed to the letter. The real world had 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, sometimes painting was done in sections or as patch-up work. Third, Hood was a very busy command ship and what was done depended on her schedule...and the preferences of her commanding admiral/staff. So, what you see in one photo may look different than what you see in another and just because the Navy issued orders to do one thing, it may have been done slightly differently in reality. In short, no matter how well you research things or mix your paint, its unlikely you'll ever make things look exactly as they were.

6. Not all areas of Hood are well documented. We cannot stress this enough. Even WE keep learning more about her as time goes on! This means we periodically have to update this and other articles. Yes, Hood was/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.

7. Have realistic expectations. As the items above have demonstrated, its unlikely that anyone can truly ever create a 100% precise rendition of Hood. There are simply too many complicating factors. One can get "close" though (if one wishes).

Colour Scheme Specifics

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

Hood was painted in the Royal Navy's Home Fleet standard dark grey shade for the bulk of her service. 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 the standard 507B which it ultimately replaced.

Regardless of official designation, Hood wore the contemporary versions of the Home Fleet dark grey colour for her entire career except for her 1936-1939 assignment with the Mediterranean Fleet. Unless specifically called out below, the colours of the features in question are applicable for the entire timeframe.

Suggested paint match: The following are matches for the Home Fleet Grey in use during most of the inter-war and early war years (exact or close directly from the bottle). This list is alphabetically sorted and contains both enamels and acrylics. 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.

Corticine on Admirals Signal Platform
Above: Corticene on bridge (1934 and 1939).

Corticine on Shelter Deck
Above: Corticene on Shelter Deck (1938).

Brown-painted Features, 1925 Model
Above: Brown-painted Features (1925).

Possible exception: Although grey seems to be the most used colour, we can't 100% rule out a black bottom for some periods. As it stands, we've seen no confirmed written official evidence of black being used, but we have seen some "circumstantial" evidence: there are a couple of contemporary models built around this time (one of which was by the renowned model builder Norman Ough and is currently housed in The Box museum) that show the ship with a black bottom. Additionally, certain photos of Hood taken during her Empire Cruise of 1923/24 also suggest that the bottom MAY have been black for this mission (at a light load the bottom appears similar in shade to the black boot topping...but its just barely visible).

The one thing we can state CONCLUSIVLEY is that Hood NEVER had a red bottom. Learn more about Hood's underside colour here (link to Sovereign Hobbies).

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 very slight 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. 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, 1936.

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

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

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/Kicking Strip

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 or black.

3. The ship's name was polished brass.

4. In various areas trim (kicking strip) was painted in a darker colour (see the photo to the right). The exact height is estimated to be around 6 inches. 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 black or darker 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 usually minimal. She was frequent repainted and was particularly "smart" and shiny at this point in her career (except during some of her longer cruises). More on this below.


III. January - Mid-May 1941: Variation of 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/shaded paint scheme. For the most part, the ship was painted in overall Home Fleet Grey, with the following exceptions:

Again, the rest of the ship appears to have been painted a uniform dark grey. We're not certain what the reason for this temporary "paint scheme" was. Its not clear if this was a test, an aborted colour scheme change (i.e., camouflage test), or simply mismatched paint work. It is known that battle cruiser Repulse has been painted in an alternating light-dark scheme during this timeframe. Perhaps Hood nearly did likewise. We will likely never know

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. As Sunk (Mid-May 1941): Dark Grey (Home Fleet)

The last documented painting of Hood took place on 12 May 1941 (per the journal of Midshipman Philip Bucket). The ship was returned to her usual overall Home Fleet Dark Grey scheme. 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.

Sovereign Hobbies Hood Colour Reference
Above- Sovereign Hobbies' excellent colour reference for Hood as-sunk. Click to enlarge and/or visit their website to learn more

Suggested paint match: The following are matches for the Home Fleet dark grey used at this point in time (exact or fairly close directly from the bottle). This list is alphabetically sorted and contains both enamels and acrylics. 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 Home Fleet Dark Grey
Above - Hood en route to fight Bismarck, May 1941.
She's shown here wearing AP507B paint.

Hood Painted in Home Fleet Dark Grey
Above/Below - Colour images of Hood circa 1940.
Her colours are a bit off due to the film stock.
Hood Painted in Home Fleet Dark Grey

Hood Painted in Home Fleet Dark Grey
Above- A view of Hood's unpainted focsle teak
decking in mid 1939. Note the dingy colour of the corticene shelter deck.
Semtex coated deck aboard Hood
Above- A view of Hood's Shelter Deck. This shows
an area confirmed to have semtex.

Wood, corticene and semtex coated decks aboard Hood
Above- A view of Hood's amidships Shelter Deck, 1941.
This shows wooden planking (aft), corticene inboard
and semtex outboard.

Hood Painted in Home Fleet Dark Grey
Above- Hood being painted in 1940.

Hood Painted in Home Fleet Dark Grey
Above- Painting the ship in 1940. Note the
unpainted wood planking.

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

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. Despite this, she was painted shortly before her loss. As such, the weathering would note have been extremely pronounced. So, we recommend employing some reasonable light weathering (bow wave chipping, the aforementioned weather of her boot topping, 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 (@24ft in length). 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. There is conflicting information regarding a "kicking strip" for the ship as sunk.

7. Anchor cables were dark grey or possibly black. The anchor cable capstans, anchor cable plates and hawse pipes were painted hull colour.

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 Homefleet Dark Grey (see section IV 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 uniform.
Note how the area below the waterline is lighter in shade than the waterline boot topping itself.

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. We recommend consulting resources such as the in-depth Royal Navy paint research presented at Sovereign Hobbies or the original Admiralty records.

Don't Automatically 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. This is especially so if modelling a smaller sized model. 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 a prima donna/showpiece and the symbol of the Navy, not a garbage scow! Try not 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 staffs 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 stream paravanes (and zig-zag if you wish to build a sea diorama). During combat, her lower rails would have been lowered. 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!