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CRYE MULTICAM WATER
12/22/06 - We're all familiar with the results of Water Transfer printing - the process is in use all around us on many common items. Hunters use it on their mossy oak or woodland-coloured shotguns and ATVs; it's used to put faux woodgrain and carbon fiber on car parts, graphics on cell phones etc. Water Transfer printing is essentially a process that transfers an ink pattern onto a 3D surface/object. There are some limitations to the process of course, depending on the material and complexity of the item.
Here's the Water Transfer process in a nutshell. Before
dipping, the item must be prepped, similar to prepping for painting.
The surface must be completely clean and free from oils, and sometimes
a chemical etch is used. A primer or base coat is applied if necessary,
often using one of the base colours (the lightest) in the pattern.
Crye has been working with the Water Transfer film company for over a year, to get the colours and pattern correct. Shown below is my Gentex TBH helmet that I sent to Crye as a guinea pig for the process a year ago. The helmet was dipped by Dynamic Finishes, but Lakota Industries will be doing the individual custom work as DF was set up more to do large quantities. The wait was worth it; pattern looks spot on. The helmet has a rough, sandpaper-like finish with little bits of stuff all over it, which wasn't the ideal surface for the Water Transfer process. If you look closely, there are tiny pinhead sized spots over individual bumps that were missed, but I was surprised at how well it turned out, in spite of the rough surface. It's probably a worst-case example, so you can be sure that items with less surface texture will turn out just fine. Obviously, the less surface variances, the better. The finish on the helmet is completely matte, and looks painted on.
An important note: Crye Precision is not involved in the coating of parts beyond licensing coaters to use official MultiCam film. Crye Precision does not do any coating or take orders for MultiCam coating projects. All MultiCam coating work is done directly by licensed coaters. All orders should be placed directly with the coater. All technical questions should also be addressed to the coater.
Update 6/26/07 - Lakota-Industries will be doing custom Crye Multicam water transfer printing. Shown below are some items I sent to Lakota Industries to get dipped; my modified Safariland 6004 and a kydex knife sheath. I took apart the 6004 and only sent in the holster, leg panel and thumb break. The coated products came out very nicely. I should caution that the transfer film can crack when put on flexible parts like the thumb break if subjected to bending. The thumb break was coated when it was flat, but when bending it into a 'U' shape, the film developed hairline cracks on the outside (not visible in the photos). For flexible parts, either coat them in their normal bent state, or leave them uncoated. The holster almost disappears against the Crye Combat Pants below. *Update* Lakota is no longer doing MultiCam water transfer printing. Please visit this page for information.
ARMY ACU CAMO PATTERN
7/13/04 - The U.S. Army recently announced its Army Combat Uniform which is a BDU with new features, and a new digital camo pattern. There has been a lot of speculation about the pattern recently, and the only pics I've seen aren't against very useful backgrounds. I took some photos with a 4"x4" swatch of the ACU material. The swatch I got is a 50/50 NYCO lightweight ripstop material. From my own observations, there are only 3 colours. The base colour is a light sand - just a bit lighter than the lightest shade in the desert MARPAT pattern (see left pic below). There is a medium grey that is almost an exact match with the level 5 PCU soft shell jacket. The dark grey is like a slate grey. I see no hint of green in any of the colours. (edited to add: Invista, who is producing the Cordura® ACU fabric, states that the colors used in the pattern are as follows:
The digital pattern 'pixels' look identical in size to MARPAT, but with different colour distribution and concentration. Lacking a larger piece of material, I took some pics of it next to a rolled up desert MARPAT boonie and a woodland MOLLE medical pouch, and placed them against a few different backgrounds (sorry, not the greatest, but it's the best I could do). This is by no means conclusive - the ACU colour might work quite well in some environments. This is just a comparison of one 4"x4" swatch to some items of similar size. TIP: It's easier to see how well they blend in by looking at the thumbnails or moving back from the screen.
7/15/04 - Ok, here are some pics of the ACU swatch with swatches of the Crye Precision MultiCam fabric. It's difficult to use a small swatch of MultiCam as a representation of the pattern because the base shades of MultiCam change depending on what region of the material is used. This serves to break up the entire silhouette, and works from greater distances while the tighter pattern works up close. That's why I've included two swatches in the pics - one more green and the other more brown. More details on Crye MultiCam coming. Note that direct sunlight also 'washes out' the colours of the fabrics in the pics as the swatches are flat and 2-dimensional without form or shadows to help them blend in.
7/14/05 - Wow, almost a year to the day since the above post. Anyways, someone wrote me and asked about equivalent pantone colours for the ACU pattern/colours, and I contacted Natick and asked them about it. Here's what they had to say:
9/7/04 - Everyone's heard of DUPONT Cordura®, but what's this Invista company that we're starting to hear about now? Invista is the previous textile fibers and intermediates division of DUPONT, now held by a privately owned company. It is the worlds' largest and fully integrated fibers company with a stable of brands including LYCRA®, STAINMASTER®, CORDURA®, COOLMAX®, TEFLON®, POLARGUARD®, and many others. I've paraphrased some information provided to me by Invista below:
"CORDURA® the brand has been around a long long time and is the number-1 military fabric. 725d is Invista's newest offering which meets the MIL-43734 specification for performance while reducing fabric weight by up to 20%. 725d fabric + SDN webbing is specified for the USMC ILBE backpacks printed in Woodland MARPAT. Two other new products from Invista are explained below:
SDN = Solution Dyed Nylon. Color pigments are added to the polymer prior to melt extrusion/spinning to produce a colored yarn. The color is permanent and intrinsic to the fiber and is highly resistant to fading and/or abrasion. The color pigments absorb Near Infrared Radiation (NIR) and reduce the signal from NVG's to within military specification limits set forth for each background. Nylon is inherently reflective and in certain light shades (ie; Tan-492 for 3-day desert), cannot be adequately covered in a piece-dye process to meet both shade and NIR specifications. SDN has the added advantage of providing a smooth and dull dye look which reduces glare and shine (ie; important to snipers) and has excellent lot-to-lot shade uniformity. SDN provides a consistent and uniform look between fabric and webbing. The Interceptor ballistic vest for the US Army (webbing only) and the USMC (shell fabric + webbing) is currently specified SDN. CORDURA® SDN fabrics and webbing are currently available in COYOTE 476, Camo Green 483, Desert Tan 492 and Black.
EP = Enhance Polymer. Similar to SDN, small amounts of "Pixie Dust" are added to the polymer prior to spinning in order to reduce the NIR signal to within specification limits. Different from SDN, EP fabrics are piece dyed to the end-use color requirement. The current version of the US Army OTV ballistic vests use EP piece dyed Tan 492 CORDURA® fabric overprinted in the 3-day desert pattern and SDN CORDURA(R) webbing. Conventional nylon, CORDURA® or other, cannot be adequately piece dyed to meet NIR specs without using EP technology in certain light shades. Piece dyed fabrics are more subject to fade and abrasion as compared to SDN and it is very hard to meet NIR specs in light colors. In dark colors NIR can be met, but the reactive dye stuffs required for the NIR often result in a streaky/heathery fabric appearance."
7/14/05 - INVISTA has developed 500 and 1000 denier CORDURA® to match the Army's new Foliage Green-504 Color requirement. Foliage Green is the stand alone color that matches the new Army Universal digital Camo pattern. This new camo pattern replaces both Woodland and 3-Day Desert Camo and is intended to improve the flexibility of the uniform and equipment because it is now to be used across desert, urban and woodland environments. INVISTA's new Foliage Green CORDURA® is a perfect match for both shade and IR when combined with the new Universal pattern or in standalone equipment and webbing. Because the fabric is Solution Dyed (see above); the colors are permanent with excellent lot to lot color uniformity and the fabric has an improved-flat and non-shiny appearance. For more information, please contact:
CRYE PRECISION MULTICAM CAMO PATTERN
CLICK HERE TO GO TO MY CRYE PRECISION PAGES
Comparison of MultiCam and ACU patterns. Seen below are some comparison photos showing pieces of MultiCam and ACU fabrics against different backgrounds. The MultiCam fabric was large - about 6'x5', and the ACU fabric was about half that size. In a couple of pics, we've included 3-colour desert and woodland. You can see that the ACU fabric is takes on a 'bluish' shade in sunlight, which is too cold against some backgrounds. The MultiCam, takes on a warmer hue. From other peoples photos, the ACU seems to work reasonably well in the desert, but it's far from being a 'universal' pattern. Tip: go back and forth between the thumbnails and the full size photo to 'vary' the distance.
DESERT CAMOUFLAGE TEST
Moron JR and I went out to the desert and I brought along some different camo shirts to test out their effectiveness against a couple of different backgrounds. The different patterns we tested were: Rhodesian (more for brush than desert, but thrown in for comparison), US 3-colour desert, US 6-colour 'chocolate chip, British desert DPM, and new digital desert camo.
Tip: when you open up the full size pics - stand up and start stepping back from your computer screen to 'increase' the distance from the pics. You'll get an idea of how well the different patterns blend from different distances.
|Shirts on plain old sand||
Against a sandy/earth background
Draped over bushes
Placed on a rock background
Same rock, just farther back
|In just about every test, the digital camo was more difficult to see than the others. This was because the digital pattern blends the different shades gradually, when seen from afar, making the transition between colours less abrupt. The Rhodesian pattern was too green and dark for this particular terrain, but may work well when there is more brush. The 'chocolate chip' worked better on rocks and earth than sand, as the brown blotches would show up against a light background. 3-colour was a bit light here, and would work better in a sandy, low desert as opposed to a rocky, high desert environment. The Brit DPM worked quite well, as the amount of dark blotches are balanced well with the lighter colour and neither one was overbearing (as in the US 3-colour), plus it wasn't as dark overall as the Rhodesian or 6-colour 'chocolate' blotches. The digital camo worked best here overall, neither being too light, nor dark. The digital pattern was disruptive enough to break up sharp edges and create an illusion of texture.|
MARPAT - A Personal Tale - From one of the designers of the Marine Pattern camouflage
On 9/22/03, out of the blue, I got an email from a fellow asking me
about the cut-down brim on my MCCU boonie hat on the patrol
page. He introduced himself as Ken Henley, former Sergeant in the
Marine Corps, and "one of the two Marine snipers that designed
the pattern and color scheme for the new MARPAT combat utility uniform
for the Marine Corps". As you can imagine, that was quite exciting
for me (as I find the design philosophy behind gear and uniforms fascinating),
and after explaining how I cut down the brim in my reply email, I threw
in a note saying "If you ever have the time or the inclination,
I'd love to hear any anecdotes or behind the scenes stories of your
involvement in the development of the pattern." I didn't expect
much of reply, so I was very plesantly surprised when he wrote back
with his story (over the course of a few emails and correspondences),
which he has kindly allowed me to share. (Ken is now a Law Enforcement
Officer in Texas). Here it is (thanks again Ken):
"It all started around February of 2000. I had just been transferred from Scout Sniper Platoon 2/2 at Camp Lejeune to TBS in Quantico, Va. as a combat instructor (training new lieutenants just out of OCS). I had gained a great deal of experience and training with STA 2/2 and had gotten a Purple Heart from being wounded during an embassy reinforcement in Monrovia, Liberia in May of 1996. I had tons of ribbons and medals for being just a Sergeant (E-5) and the Purple Heart on top of that sort of made me a novelty around the place. So when two Captains from MarCorSysCom solicited TBS for me to give a lecture on camouflage for them to some students at the University of Virginia who were working on some new design theories for camouflage and colors in textiles, TBS gave them free reign of me for a few days. The guys from SysCom were impressed with me at the lecture and tried to steal me from TBS to help them work on some of their projects but since there was not a billet for me in their T/O&E, they had to "temp loan" me on an as-needed basis. I did some work for them on the camouflage helmet cover (a commercial one that would take the place of a scrap piece of IR netting), the new lightweight helmet, and a few other programs.
When General Jones, the Commandant at the time, sent the directive to SysCom to develop a new and improved uniform for the Marine Corps...the guys at SysCom came straight to me. At first I thought, "Cool, no problem...I'll just check out some current patterns, maybe tweak some color schemes and be done." Boy was I wrong. SysCom flew me up to Natick and put me in touch with two of their civilian textile engineers that ran the current uniform program. There, they had gathered samples of just about every kind of after market cammo pattern you could think of. I spent about a day with them explaining to them how "wrong" most after market hunting camo patterns are. I told them about negative space, how the eye uses templates to identify objects...etc etc. In talking to them about negative space, I told them that the best type of camouflage pattern is one that looks...like nothing at all.
I basically chose 3 patterns out of the 150+ that they had. One was the classic Vietnam issue tiger stripe. Another was a contemporary commercial tiger stripe. The third was an old Rhodesian coloration of the old version of British DPM. We took the samples down to Fall River, Mass. to a company that fabricates printing screen rolls for fabric textiles. There, they had their own computer shop that could do just about anything under the sun with graphics and color schemes. We scanned the samples onto their computers with a huge table-sized flatbed scanner. They brought the samples up on the screens for me where they were able to separate each color pattern into its own image file. After doing that, we could change color schemes and actually edit portions of the patterns to our liking.
Since this was the first trip up there, we were just trying to get some ideas flowing. We changed the color schemes of all three patterns and printed them out on some production sample paper. Everything looked good at that point and I thought we had even possibly found a contender in the modified pattern and color scheme we had gotten out of the Rhodesian DPM. The color scheme was great, it was more functional and the color blotches had been reduced in size which made the pattern work better. However, after that trip was over and I sat looking at the patterns more, I realized that I needed to be thinking outside the box and that there was a lot bigger picture to what it was that I was doing. This uniform would be taking the Marine Corps into the 21st century. Marines would be depending on this uniform to do something that no other uniform has truly done to date...conceal them in a great variety of surroundings and vegetation types. This uniform would be taking my fellow Marines into battle. My fellow Marines would be wearing it on foreign ground, depending on this uniform to do its job. When I had an epiphany and imagined a squad of Marines wearing this uniform in combat in some far off rat hole, and that the very design of its pattern and color scheme could save a life...I changed gears completely. This uniform not only needed to actually WORK, it needed to be unique . It needed to be something that the Marine Corps could call its own and that would single Marines out. It was then that I knew I could not do this by myself.
Being stationed at TBS in Quantico, I had easy access to a pool of fellow snipers just down the road at the sniper school. I went over to the school and talked to the SNCOIC (editor - we'll call him 'Gunny H.' for PERSEC) there with whom I had been in the same battalion with in Somalia in 1993. I told him all about the program and that I needed some more people to help me brain storm. He was enthusiastic about it so I told the guys at SysCom about it. They agreed to let us work together and brought the crew from Natick down to listen to a presentation from us at the sniper school. We all sat around and brain stormed a bit with the rest of the sniper school staff and even the current class that was attending the school. We also took the RARE opportunity to tell the people who design our gear, what REAL operators who actually use and abuse the equipment they design wanted, what could be improved, and what was absolutely not needed.
SysCom then sent us both back up to Fall River.
We looked at the patterns that had been done on the previous trip and
tweaked the color schemes a little more. 'H' had found a color swatch
from the Ralph Lauren paint
We arrived at the design of the pattern by having the girl create a "snow" screen on her computer to simulate that of a TV with no reception. She then went in and sectioned out areas of the pattern to which our colors were then added. It took a good bit of refining and pattern modification, but by the second day it came out good. We tweaked the colors just a bit more, printed out a sample, and were done.
Next came the test phase. Natick had uniforms made in what we decided would be two main test patterns. Two uniforms were made out of the modified tiger stripe we had made. Each of the two had the some of the color areas reversed for variance of effect. The same was done with the digital pattern. The uniforms were then taken down to Quantico and tested in a wide variety of vegetation, always using the current issue uniform for control. Sunlight, shadow, dawn, daylight, dusk, night, grass, bushes, trees, shrubs, wood piles. You name it, we tested it there and at all different distances with naked eye, optics and night vision. It was hands down. The digital pattern blew the others away in every single test we did over a two day period. At that point it would be decided that the digital pattern would be the one used in the new uniform.
As far as the use of colors and the dyes used to print the colors to fabric...that was a considerable portion of our testing as well. We tested the patterns in different levels of light, at different ranges, with the naked eye as well as varying powers of optics. We used night vision with and without IR illumination. We used red lens filtered light, spot lights and regular old Mini-Mag lights. We also got the uniforms wet to simulate a wet Marine who has been sweating heavily or been in the rain. This was very significant as the wet fabric test is what helped make MARPAT so superior. Almost all of the other patterns tested as well as CADPAT failed miserably when wet compared to MARPAT. Wet fabric, at night through night vision painted with IR light is in my opinion one of the best tests for a pattern. So many patterns just appear as a solid black mass in this setting. MARPAT doesn't.
The next phase of testing would be for a desert pattern. We took another trip to Natick and modified the color scheme to better suit a desert uniform. Most desert uniforms either work great in high desert with rocky areas, and suck in sandy areas, or just the opposite. Three variations of desert color schemes were produced and taken to 29 Palms, Ca. for testing against the current 3-color desert uniform. A version of the pattern and color scheme was identified that worked best in both rocky areas as well as sand. Once again, it blew the current issue uniform away.
Having decided on both patterns and color schemes for the new uniform. Our job was done. The actual cut and features of the uniform would be developed and tested by the textile engineers by taking our input on what should be changed and their own ideas and issuing uniforms to units in the field for testing. Before the end of our last trip to Fall River, and I am pretty proud to claim this for myself :) I had the idea of placing USMC into the pattern design. 'H' thought it would be good to also put in the eagle, globe and anchor with it, just like the iron on decal that we used on our uniforms. The engineers agreed and so it was done on the computer.
That was about all the use Natick and SysCom had for us on the new uniform. They got the new cut and design of the blouse and trousers done and ready for development. I wish they had asked us before they decided to make the boonie cover brim so damn wide, but oh well. They did, however take our advise on the suede desert boots as a universal hot weather boot and that went into production. The rest is sort of history so to speak. The sad irony is that I got out of the Corps in Feb. of 2001 to become a cop. I never even got the chance to wear the uniform that I had been the first to help design since the first uniforms did not hit the fleet until the end of that same year.
I do have to admit that a huge lump rose in my throat the first time I saw CNN and they showed a platoon of Marines wearing desert MARPAT in combat at Nasirya. I cant put into words the sense of pride that I felt seeing my fellow Marines, who also just happened to have been from my old regiment, wearing "my" uniform in combat. When I saw some pictures of scout snipers in MARPAT, I was even more proud. Then, when they were interviewing Marines in camp "Coyote"...well....that was just the icing on the cake.
That is the official story on how MARPAT came about and how we did it. Hope it was entertaining to you to a degree as well as informative. Don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have and feel free to share the info with your friends.
*Note: I will officially dispel the current circulating
rumor that the Canadians helped "advise" the Marine Corps
on the design of MARPAT. At no point in time in any shape, form or fashion
did we consult, solicit or even ask a modest opinion from the Canadians.
Any Canadian CADPAT designer who wishes to make the claim that the team
I was on consulted with a member of his design team or associates in
ANY way is welcomed to request my email address via this site and I
would love to see him have the courage to confront me with that claim.
At no point in the design process did I ever lay eyes on a Canadian,
speak to one on the phone, read any materials on CADPAT, send or receive
an email from a Canadian, or anyone associated with them in any way;
and I can also say the same for the other members of the team. I understand
that the Canadians are proud of CADPAT and I do not wish to take anything
away from that. However, the only thing that MARPAT lends its origin
to from the Canadians is a small 6" x 6" swatch of cloth the
Canadians let us have, or as the Canadians would now state as "shared
the technology with us".
For additional info, here's an article on the conceptual background of the MARPAT pattern and another article on camouflage considerations written by 'Gunny H'.
9-9-04 - I've received some emails from Canadian readers; expressing how some of them feel that the U.S. has understated/downplayed the role of the Canadian's involvement/assistance in the development of MARPAT. In the interest of showing the Canadian side of the story, here's a link to a series of articles written about it: CADPAT & MARPAT development
5-4-10 - Here's a link to some comparisons of different camo patterns, including CADPAT and UCP. The illustrations show distinguishing markers and patterns that are hard to ignore. Chicken or the egg? I leave it up to the reader to decide.
We all know what the different camo uniforms and gear look like during the day, but what about at night through night-vision goggles or IR illumination? It's pretty amazing - objects made of different materials that look like the same colour under daylight can look completely different under IR illumination. Look at the 'various items' picture below. The DOAV vest looks completely black under regular lighting, but through NVGs under IR illumination, the nylon takes on a much lighter shade. The rubberized shoulder pads appear black, though. Under IR illumination, the camo green Kifaru pouch on the left and the black DOAV look exactly the same. How an object looks under IR illumination in darkness depends on the emissivity of the material - objects of the same colour can look different under IR illumination. See this pic of a black glove made of different materials below:
Some cloth materials 'wet out' and turn very dark when wet. However, under IR illumination, the camo pattern can still be visible (depending on the material, of course). I'll be getting some more swatches of different materials soon - stay tuned.
When it comes to buckles - black buckles will stand out quite a bit,
even if the cordura is of a dark (under natueral light) shade. The National
molding IR buckle looks to be lighter under IR illumination. You can
see that the IR buckle and the Camelbak buckles are almost the same
colour under white light, but there is a big difference under IR illumination.
I'm also surprised that the enamel painted buckle appeared so dark,
when under white light it's almost tan. (I got
an email from Tireiron who did some experimentation with buckles too
- here's what he wrote:
Note: all pictures were taken using my OD coloured poncho liner as a background, through PVS/7B NVGs, using the built-in IR illuminator only.
The point that I'd like to bring up is to make sure that you're aware of how you look under IR illumination (if you have a job in which that might be of concern). That OD vest may blend in well with your woodland cammies, but under IR and through NVG's, that vest could appear very bright against your BDU's or a dark background. It just may be enough to give your position away. Just check out that OD Israeli vest on the Brit DPM shirt.
|US Woodland, 50/50 NYCO, wet/dry||
Woodland MARPAT, wet/dry
Brit tropical DPM wet/dry
Buckles showing IR buckle