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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Stevens

Do it Yourself Camouflage

How to Look Like a Highspeed Early GWOT-Era Fighter One of my favorite hobbies is collecting old surplus and modifying that surplus for practical use. I recently finished up one of my current mods and thought it would make a good sample for some homebrewed camouflage methods.

I started with a DPM smock from Varusteleka, back when they sold for around 20 bucks or so:

The smock looked like this when I got it

Starting out I moved some pockets around, removed six inches from the hem, replaced the zippered Velcro front with buttons, and added pockets for my hands. The camo was also a bit too light for where I’m from, so I decided to dye it a darker brown. I spent most of this last winter playing around with everything until it was all just right for what I wanted.

Here’s the end result of the smock before the paint

I decided it was too dark for my local area, but you can’t dye dark stuff lighter. Due to this fact, I buy a ton of khaki and tan-colored gear. As can do a lot more with lighter colors when it comes to making your own camo. In this case, I’d resort to an old trick we used in the military back in the early Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) era when no one could decide if gear should come in the ACU, DCU, or Woodland camo pattern. Many of us would make stencils out of government-issued file folders and the ubiquitous mesh laundry bags everyone preferred—since they didn’t get funky like the issued ones—and use those stencils to paint our gear more uniformly.

Fortunately, I still had some old file folders lying around. Mesh bags were, oddly enough, hard to find. Modern mesh laundry bags are made from this fancy mesh with tiny holes that would never work. After searching all of my local stores for around two weeks, I finally got with the times and ordered this mesh laundry bag from Amazon:

With my stencils, I like to go with vaguely leaf-shaped patterns. No need to go crazy on the designs: you’ll be overlapping them and doing other things to get more natural and unique shapes. I like to make around three stencils so two can dry while I use one, rotating between all three to keep them from getting too wet with paint. Play around with your stencils and don’t feel like your pattern has to be perfect: imperfection is kind of the point. It is essential to cut your patterns on the crease, for reasons I’ll explain later.

Chop up your mesh, then tape it to your pattern. If you use the mesh bag I linked, you’ll have plenty of extra material left over.

This photo shows the different stages of patterns I ended up with

I try to keep my mesh uniform: crease side up, tape side down. You want your mesh to be as close as possible to the item you’re painting to keep the mesh pattern nice and crisp. I use basic Krylon Camo paint that you can get from any Walmart. Krylon makes six colors: Black, Khaki, Brown, Olive, Sand, and Woodland Light Green. Since I already had brown taken care of for this jacket, I used tan and the two greens. For the most part, I stuck with tan and light green for my intended lighter pattern.

Start with light passes over your object, around six inches away from the item you’re painting. Begin in a less visible place until you get a feel for the process. In this step, you’ll see that if you keep the mesh farther away from the item, the pattern doesn’t show up much. Depending on how close you are with the spray can, you can also change the color of your paint from lighter to darker. This photo shows different passes with the tan color over one stencil to show the differences in your end product based on how you hold and position everything.

More than one stencil also allows you to layer those stencils for different patterns and more variety. You can even “rainbow” your colors on the design, using one stencil with two to three colors inside it. The big thing to remember here is that you really can’t mess up: nature is random and good camo should be too. Just don’t overdo the paint. Light passes are the name of the game. Your pieces will wear easier and look more natural because the fibers of the fabric can better absorb small amounts of paint. Don’t forget that you can always add more color and layers later if you think your items need more, but you have to get out and use those items a lot to wear off the paint that’s already there.

Here is where the crease comes in. For clothing, it’s easy to lay flat and paint one side at a time. Then just fold the file folder along the edge and hold it in place while you flip the garment over to do the other side. This technique gets you—in my opinion—a more aesthetically pleasing pattern that flows well from one side to another.

Almost finished jacket. I just need to paint the shoulders and hood.

The best part of DIY Camo is that your stencils get better with age, as the layers of paint make them more rigid. Keeping a few stencils and some cans of paint on hand will have you in good shape to “ad hoc camo” just about anything you own.

The human male has discovered his unkempt nest is the reason why he cannot attract a female mate

The paint will wear off over time, as I mentioned (this is a good thing because that means you’re using your gear). Constant use warrants maintenance: you’ll have to touch up the paint from time to time. I wouldn’t recommend washing painted gear with your everyday clothing. I generally don’t paint any gear that I need to wash a lot because the paint wears off much faster. Outerwear and bags or equipment are good DIY Camo candidates. If you’re not single—or don't want to become single—it’s also a good idea to paint on a drop cloth, so you don’t get messy painted concrete (like mine).

The human male has discovered his unkempt nest is the reason why he cannot attact a female mate

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