Introduction: Make Your Own Camouflage

For one of my subjects at school, I had to find a client with a need, and meet that need. My animal-nut friend asked me to make his an item of clothing that would allow him to observe his favorite animals in the wild, without being spotted (by the animals presumably, because secretive animal watching is well.. odd)

There are plenty of 'ibles out about camouflaging things, usually paintball guns etc, and there are a couple of ones about ghillie suits.
What happens if you, like me want to make some wearable camouflage that isn't a ghillie suit, or some of the usual army surplus?

Hopefully this Instuctable will give you enough info for you to start designing you own camouflage

This Instructable is a work in progress, as I'm still in the process of making my camouflage item

#Updated 15/5/11#- Much more info now

Step 1: How Does Camouflage Work?

Before we get into the details of how camo works, we need to know what the different types of camo are.

Mimetic camouflage
-Mimetic camouflage mimics an object in the environment that it is in, usually by the use of colours or and/or shapes
-Stick insects are a prime example of Mimetic camouflage

Disruptive camouflage
-Disruptive camouflage disrupts, or breaks up the outline of a figure
-This involves only patterns and colours, not physical shapes
-This is what all just about all the camouflage patterns used by militarys around the world use, hence the name of some being DPM (disruptive pattern material)
-The patterns on some snakes act as Disruptive camouflage

Here's a quick summary of a few things you need to understand before designing an effective camouflage pattern
If you want to know more about these things, I've thrown in a few links at the bottom

Focal vision/central vision (If you sound smart you can use the medical term- Foveal Vision )
- Colour plays a major role
-100% of visual clarity in the range of focal vision
- Relies on conscious input; ie looking at things

Peripheral vision
-In humans, colour does not play an important role in P.V., only movement and contrast.
-Animals have better peripheral vision than humans
-Plays a key role in threat detection
-More rod cells in peripheral zones of retina causes peripheral vision to work better at night

The brain’s perceptions
-Brain is more likely to perceive something as an object or figure if it is one solid colour
-Black in the environment perceived as depth. Shadows are a source of the colour black, as well as distance (the air will gradually absorb colours, creating grey-black)

Making Camouflage work

Confusing focal vision
- Using colours in the pattern that are similar to, if not the same as the colours in the environment
- To a certain extent, using shapes similar to that in theenvironment
- Different colours breaking up solid colours and forms will limit the brains ability to detect the object

Confusing peripheral vision
-Using environment-specific colours will reduce the contrast between the material and the surroundings
-While peripheral vision relies on contrast, reducing the contrast between the colours in the pattern will negatively affect the foveal confusing properties.

Confusing/Altering the brain’s perceptions
-The ‘dithering effect’ can be implemented to create the perception of more colours, confusing colour vision more by increasing the pattern’s ability to blend
-The use of black or other dark colours will create a perception of depth, adding a 3rd dimension to design

More info on how camouflage works >here<
Info on Peripheral vision >here<
Focal vision >here<
The Dithering effect >here<
lnfo on German 'Flecktarn' (this will help explain the Dithering effect a bit) >here<

Step 2: Now It Gets Complicated

Physiology of Vision
-Cone cells in the eye detect colours
-Rod cells detect light intensities, but in monochrome
-Of Blue, Red and Green detecting cone cells, 11% are blue, 59% are Green and 30% are Red. This partially accounts for the fact that humans can perceive more shades of green than any other colour
-In low-light conditions cone cells do not function very well, thus causing human vision to be more monochrome than colour in the said conditions
-Various factors cause shades of brown and green to be perceived as the same colour at a distance. Furthermore, the resulting colour that is perceived by humans will depend on the environment it is in, therefore, greens would turn into browns in a predominantly brown/tan environment, and browns would be perceived as greens in a green environment.
-It has been found that a camouflage design composed of greens works in a desert environment because of the factors mentioned above. However, the colour difference will be easy to spot if a digital images were taken. This shows how the eyes and the brains perceptions will differ, sometimes greatly, from photo-simulations and digital imaging.

Psychology of Vision
-The brain’s method of converting shapes into objects is not fully understood. The leading theory is the Gestalt theory.
-This theory suggests the following factors among others contribute to the ‘formation’ of what is perceived to be an object-
-Positive and Negative spaces
   -Positive spaces are what could be objects, whereas negative spaces are the area between objects.
   -Camouflage aims to confuse the brain into thinking that a figure (Positive space) is part of the negative space.
   -Objects with similar size, shape, texture and colour tend to be grouped together. For example, many leaf shapes in close proximity  would be perceived as a tree or bush.
   -The use of inconsistent shapes and directions in camouflage will help confuse this function.
   -The brain tends to see complete figures or shapes, even if parts of it are obscured.
   -Camouflage confuses the brains into perceiving elements of the pattern as objects that are in the environment. For example, leaf shapes may be perceived to be a part of a bush, while darker colour would represent shadows.
   -Objects that appear to be connected are seen to be one object.
   -Match ups between shapes in the environment and shapes in the pattern would reduce shape cues.

The brain receives too much visual information to be sorted through in a sensible time frame. In order to speed up this process, the brain produces a “Saliency Map” which in effect, highlights the areas in a particular scene that a figure or object is most likely to be.Salient objects or figures are generally situated in the Positive Spaces, rather than the background (Negative Spaces). If a figure is very similar to the background, it will not become a significant point on the Saliency map, and is thus overlooked. The following factors contribute significantly to an object’s or figure’s saliency-

   -An object that is moving in a still environment will attract more attention.
   -Shiny or reflective objects will catch the eye, as there are generally very few reflective objects in a natural environment.
   -Shapes that are dissimilar to the environment or shapes that are known to be something i.e. a person will stand out.
   -Confusing the processes stipulated in the Gestalt principles will break up a shape, thus making it mush less likely to be perceived as a single object or shape.
-Colour and texture
   -Figures that are coloured in a way that does not match the environment will inevitably be detected.
   -A figure with careful colour match ups patterned in such a way that is close to the environment’s texture will it much harder to detect.
   -The brain can often determine shapes of a nearby object from the shadow it casts.
   -Camouflage patterns can do little to remedy this

Step 3: Colour Selection

This is obviously the most important step of the design process, and plays a very important role in whether you pattern works, or you just end up looking like an idiot.
This is especially true if you produce something with the effectiveness of the Universal Camouflage Pattern from a few years back. Since when did an assortment of greys blend into a green environment, or a dusty brown one?

You decide.

Criticism aside, here's the method I use for selecting colours-

-Find or take a picture of the environment you want to make a camouflage for. This could be a sandy environment like the beach or some desert, the woods outside you house and just about anywhere.
-Transfer the picture onto a computer and open it up on paint (assuming you are using PC)
-Click the re-size button and a pop up should appear
-Type in '1' in the 'Horizontal' and 'Vertical' boxes
-Click OK
-The picture should have turned really tiny
-Open up the re-size box again, but this time type '500' into the boxes, then click OK
-Repeat this step until you have the image size you want, for me I only do it twice in total

The Instructables Book Contest

Participated in the
The Instructables Book Contest