How to Paint Tiger Camo

Brendan McGuigan

Tiger camo, or tigerstripe, is a type of camouflage that originated during the Vietnam War, so named because of its similarity to the stripes of a tiger, which help camouflage the animal in jungle environments.

Although never officially used by the United States armed forces, it continues to be widely used in theaters of war around the world. Painting tiger camo yourself--on a gun, on boots, on clothing or on a vehicle--is relatively easy and takes but a few simple steps.

  1. Paint a base color layer onto the object you want to cover in tiger camo. This first color layer will eventually be the color of the tiger stripes themselves. If the object you’re painting is the color you wish the stripes to be, you can skip this step.

  2. Wait for the base layer of paint to dry completely. If you try to rush through this step, your stripes will come out spotty, so give the paint a full day to dry if needed. If you are in a hurry, use spray paint, which will dry more quickly.

  3. Apply strips of masking tape to the object you are painting in the shapes of tiger stripes. Make sure to vary the width and length, and try to get sharp points at the ends of the stripes. Keep in mind that the tape is masking what will eventually be the stripes themselves, so the colors will look inverted: your tape covers the base color, which will make up the stripes, while the paint still showing will eventually be a different color.

  4. Paint a second color layer onto your item. This color will serve as the background field to the stripes. Most commonly the background for tiger camo is a light green, but you may wish to experiment with brown, gray or any number of other colors.

  5. Wait for the second layer of paint to dry completely.

  6. Remove the tape, revealing the original base layer in the shape of tiger stripes.

  7. Tip

    You can also create a three-toned pattern, such as light-green, black, and brown: After Step 3, paint on a color that you want to serve as a minor tone, such as brown, let it dry, and then mask over that with especially thin pieces of masking tape. Continue on to the next steps as instructed.