MERDC Painting Templates

MERDC Painting Templates

MERDC Painting Templates
With Chris Townley

This Article was written some time ago and while the MERDC scheme hasn't changed the amount of vehicles sure has so we've updated this article with downloadable templates for WWIII: Americans!

Last week Aaron took a look at the MERDC (Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center) scheme. This is the camouflage pattern that we chose to paint all of our Team Yankee US vehicles.

The thing I found particularly interesting about this scheme is that the template is the same regardless of the theatre of its use, only the colours change. The benefit of this is that it makes it relatively easy to paint your vehicles in a historical scheme.

Of course, the downside is that all of your vehicles (of a type) need to look roughly the same. Realising this, I decided to take what many might consider the path of most resistance, coming up with some painting masks that would let me cut out either the Forest Green or Field Drab sections (I’m painting a force in the Winter Verdant MERDC variant, like the Battlefront studio US models pictured in the Team Yankee book) and airbrush that colour over a base of the other one.

MERDC Painting Templates
The MERDC Templates - UPDATED for WWIII: American

Before I could start making masks that I could use for airbrushing I needed to find out what colours are meant to go where. Aaron was kind enough to lend me his book on MERDC and some internet searches gave me a wide variety of material – thank goodness for the internet and large scale modellers!


Here you can find PDF versions of our painting templates. Sean has turned the drawings into versions that are correctly scaled for our models so you can print them and have them sitting next to your model while you paint.

Make sure you tell your PDF viewer to print them at actual size and not shrink to fit

MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
AAPV7 MERDC Template HMMWV-M2 MERDC Template HMMWV-MK-19 MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
HMMWV-Stinger MERDC Template HMMWV-TOW MERDC Template IPM1 Abrams MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
LAV-25 MERDC Template LAV-AD Air Defense MERDC Template LAV-AT-TOW MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
LAV-M MERDC Template M1 Abrams MERDC Template M1A1 Abrams MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
M1A1HC Abrams MERDC Template M2A2/M3A2 Bradley MERDC Template M2/M3 Bradley MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
M48 Chapparral SAM MERDC Template M60 Patton MERDC Template M106 Mortar Carrier MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
M109 Artillery MERDC Template M113 Transport MERDC Template M163 VADS MERDC Template
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
M247 Sergeant York AA MERDC Template M551 Sheridan MERDC Template  M901 ITV MERDC Template 
  MERDC Painting Templates  
  M270 MLRS MERDC Template  
MERDC Painting Templates
All MERDC Templates
Where did the M1 Abrams template come from?
When we decided to paint everything in MERDC we felt that, although strictly historically the M1s in 1985 would have been painted in all-over Forest Green, the army would look a lot more cohesive and iconic if they all matched. No official US Army template was made for the M1, so we made ours by extrapolating from the M60 template.

Sean has coloured the PDF vehicle templates in the Winter Verdant colours. So for different MERDC pattern variant, just substitute the colours as appropriate. 

MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
Winter Verdant Summer Verdant Tropical Snow, Open Terrain
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates
Snow, Trees Arctic Grey Desert Red Desert
How did I make my masks?
I started out with the M113, because it met a couple of important criteria:
  • I needed a decent number of them, once you include a Mech Platoon, ITV Platoon, VADS Platoon and potentially Mortar Platoon in a force.
  • It’s a box with tracks! The templates work much better on nice flat sides.
MERDC Painting Templates
My first plan was to get some thin clear plastic sheet, overlay it on a print-out of the MERDC template, and cut out the appropriate bits. For the M113 I chose to cut out and spray the Field Drab, after initially basecoating the whole vehicle Forest Green. However, I found that in practice, clear rigid plastic was just too tough to cut precisely enough, even in very thin sheets. In our stationery cupboard I found some clear plastic document wallets made out of a nice soft plastic and therefore easy to cut. They were not very rigid, though, so I ended up building a frame out of some plastic card.
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates

This worked admirably, and the frame held the mask in place on the vehicle, making it easy to spray that face of the vehicle, quickly move the template to the the next one, spray and so on. Then I would grab the template for the next side and keep going. I did find that the front and rear faces had so much stuff on them that it was difficult to make a mask for them. So for these two faces I used blu-tack to make a mask instead.

Using this method I was able apply the Field Drab to six vehicles in about an hour, including blu-tacking the front and rear faces – not bad, compared to painting the pattern freehand!

Paper masks
I sent my original template to Evan (our sculptor) to try out. He took a simpler path, where he just printed out the template, cut out the Forest Green areas and then folded the paper it the vehicle. I had considered this approach, but my original concern was the durability of the paper versus plastic. I wanted my templates to be reusable over as many vehicles as might be needed. But Evan's experience was that as he airbrushed the model, the dried paint actually helped to add rigidity to the mask. He found that with a couple of very small pieces of blu-tack were enough to hold the mask on to the model, leaving his hands free for easy airbrushing.
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates

Cutting a paper version is definitely a lot faster. Whilst I have not yet tried it through to completion, I experimented with cutting one out for this M109, and it was pretty quick. As you can see, I have decided to combine the paper mask and blu-tack, as the majority of the surface is nice and flat.

Once again, I would blu-tack all the vehicles I planned to paint in one goe, to help keep them looking the same. Plus, you do not want to be fiddling around with wet blu-tack and transferring paint everywhere.

MERDC Painting Templates

Painting MERDC

Painting MERDC

You can find out all about the distinctive MERDC camouflage pattern here...

Tips for using the masks
Commit to the process before finishing your assembly.
Certain items – cupolas, MGs etc – will get in the way and make it very difficult to lay the mask over the vehicle. So I would avoid or delay gluing them on to the vehicles if I was going to use a mask. I still hadn't made up my mind about using masks when I assembled my first vehicles, and now my M106 Mortar Carriers are going to present a challenge, as they have their baseplates and cupolas attached.

Print twice, cut once.
Planning is your friend. Before basecoating the vehicles, take a close look at the templates and work out what sequence of colours will work best. For the M113s the Field Drab areas seemed like the best choice to cut out, whereas for the M109s the Forest Green seemed like the best choice to cut out, avoiding a mask consisting of four or five tiny pieces. Decide on the sequence that will work best for you. But definitely try cutting some masks out first before you deploy the paint. It is also worth having a second, intact template printed, to guide you with painting the Sand and Black areas later on.

Always make sure you leave a frame around your masks (i.e. make the masks bigger than just the painted area) this way you wont get overspray on the other faces of the vehicle.

Paper or plastic?
They both have pros and cons. My plastic templates will last forever, but cutting them out did take a lot of time and effort: two or three evenings of thinking, planning, as well as some trial and error. With the benefit of practice, I am confident I could now do a set for another vehicle type it in an evening. Paper is less durable, but much easier to work with. Cutting a set of masks for the M109 out of paper only took me about an hour, once I had decided how to sequence the colours.

Blu-tack is your friend.
If you decide to use paper maskes, use blu-tack to help stick them down, so they don’t blow off with the air flow from the airbrush or let too much paint overspray underneath. You can also use it to mask fiddly areas where a paper or plastic mask is too much trouble – in which case, don’t forget to blu-tack all of your vehicles in one go, to save time and to make it easier to keep all of your vehicles looking consistent. 

Take the pressure down.
I turned my compressor down quite low to avoid the mask flying off or, in the cases where there was equipment making the mast sit above the vehicle, reduce overspray making its way under the edges of the template. 

Masks won’t do everything.
There are just some areas where the masks won’t work – like the rounded corners of the M109 turret. My plan is the mask the top of the hull and turret, and side of the hull, then use blu-tack the rest.

If you put the turret on hull (once painted) you can blu-tack the turret sides and use the turret top and hull side to help make sure your colours start and end in the right places.

And of course, once your templates have done most of the work, you can always use good old-fashioned freehand painting (airbrush or brush) to fix up any messy or incomplete areas.

What's next?
Finally, paint the Sand and Black strips on and you are done, ready for weathering, washes or whatever else you want to do.

MERDC Painting Templates

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to at least try experimenting with the masks. I am certainly sold on the idea for vehicles where I think I will be painting a decent number of them, as the time invested up front pays dividends later. Especially since I now have plans to paint some New Zealand M113s in the Red Desert scheme!
MERDC Painting Templates MERDC Painting Templates

Happy modelling!

~ Chris.