How Does Military Camouflage Work?

military-camouflage-work Credit: MILpictures by Tom Weber/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Military camouflage works by using disruptive patterns, which involve broken-up patterns and contrasting colorings, to make it harder for the human eye to recognize edges or shapes of the object being disguised. It is modeled after animal patterns and colored to match the region of use.

The goal of military camouflage is crypsis, the ability to blend into the background, or mimicry, the ability to make one thing look like something else. Military camouflage grew in importance as rifle technology improved the range and accuracy of the weapon and its use became much more important to the survival of soldiers and vehicles. Some of the earliest military camouflage was used on seafaring ships as early as 360 A.D., when Roman scouting ships were painted with blue-green wax, making them more difficult to see in the distance. Ghillie suits are designed to provide both crypsis and mimicry by using coloration and disruption to create the illusion that the suit has a bushy or leafy texture. Other modern additions to military camouflage include metal alloys and coatings designed to better absorb light, pixelated patterns inspired by neuroscience findings, and adaptive fabrics that use optical equipment to change colors to match their surroundings.