Using spray paint to make equipment IR safe?

If and when a fabric or pattern will camouflage in the NIR, depends on the environment. To take the following pictures, I modified a DSLR. I removed the internal NIR-blocking filter and attached a filter in front of the lens, that only allows NIR from 720nm to pass. More information to this can be found there: Pictures from equipment in NIR.
The subject of the thermal camouflage is not mentioned here. So it is only about near infrared.  

Bright or Dark tones?

Some people think for camouflage in the NIR you need to reflect as little infrared light as possible. This is why I will adress the question of bright or dark tones. If you wear low reflective clothing and stand in front of green foliage, you will look like in this picture.

But if you are in front of a dark background, you will blend in. The dark cloting is the Uf Pro Stiker X series in Olive. It is super dark in the NIR.

If you now wear reflective clothing, you will fit in with the vegetation. Here two synthetic jackets in olive. Also by Uf Pro.

Now one would need to know every environments NIR signature. But you can’t always select your environment yourself. Here another environment. Now with a jacket in german Flecktarn (Issued German Army camouflage pattern)

Here the same environment how you see it with the naked eye.

So no matter if dark or bright. Both can be camouflaged, if the right position is chosen. But here in Europe I had the impression, that a too dark tone looks less natural than a too bright one. So it’s better to glow “like a Christmas tree” than to be a black hole. Because the chlorophyll in the leaves reflects near infrared intensively.

Pattern or uni-color?

With uncolored and low or no contrast clothing, it is hard to disguise the silhouette and the shadows. This is why a pattern usually will perform a lot better than uniforms or equipment with just one color. But as you know you do not always have the choice. Equipment with IR treatment should have a close to neutral infrared color. Here for example a backpack with IRR colors (on the right) compared to a backpack without special NIR colors. Both by Tasmanian Tiger.

Because medium to dark tones help to disappear more within bushes and look more like the background. But of course this is also again dependent on the background. Now I places a backpack without IRR colors in the bushes. The color is olive. Now try to estimate how well it will perform in the NIR.

Here a picture above 720nm IR. With the bright vegetation it blends in quite well.

But when the backpack is placed on the ground somewhere else, it blends in less. On the right side of the backpack there is a jacket in Multicam Tropic. On the other side a jacket in Multicam Original.

Now the same position with an IRR safe backpack cover in German Flecktarn (by Tasmanian Tiger).

Here the backpack on my back but with the same backpack cover in Flecktarn with IR print. With the bright vegetation as a background it does not fit in that well.

Now the same position without the backpack cover.

From the IR reflectance the backpack fits in better without the rucksack cover. But with a camouflage cover the shape of the backpack is less recognizable. But if you now would like to hide it in the branches on the left, it would blend in better with the backpack cover. And this is how this environment looks for the naked eye.

EC Spray Paint by NFM to improve the NIR performance

I did not test the NIR colors from standard spray-paint from the hardware store. Because auf this and the nice colors of the NFM spay paint, I like to use this one. From non structured surfaces it is even quite easy to remove.
Now I took the EC Paint and sprayed a light pattern on the backpack. For this a light fog is not enough. You need to add a thicker layer of paint. The color will remove over time. How long it will perform, depends in the intensity of use. With the paint you can add small contrasts. Changing a pattern from desert camo to woodland camouflage is not really possible.

Here now the backpack with the paint job after it dried.

Here the backpack in front of a bright background.

Now the same position with a backpack cover with german army Flecktarn.

Now I also sprayed a pattern on a jacket (Delta ACE Plus Gen 3 in Olive). The jacked is not with a special NIR treatment and is bright in the NIR.

Now this sprayed jacked in the foliage.

Here in front of a structured background with also dark areas.

And here again.

To support my statement about dark tones, here a picture of the dark Striker X I mentioned above.

Closing word

You can indeed use spay paint to improve the NIR camouflage capabilities of equipment and uniforms. “IR-Safe” Equipment is not always the best camouflage in every environment – Especially when it has got only one color. Backpack-Covers and camouflage ponchos from GHOSTHOOD for example can be a good addition for this.

And I want to point out again, that this NIR photography is not a scientific method, it is more like a “gets quite close”-technique. Also the available light at day is mixed differently then the light at night. But my experience is, that this high resolution NIR pictures of this modified DSLR give a really good impression about how the camouflage will look at night through night vision devices. If you are more interested in this topic, feel free to check my NIR gallery.

I also made a picture about changing the color of tactical nylon with chalk and wallpaper color. This can be an alternative or a replacement for spay paint or EC paint.

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