How to Vanish: Part 2

Remember that camouflage does not make you invisible, especially when you are moving.  A human face is a dead giveaway to the trained eye against a heavily forested background.  Breaking up the pattern and removing the natural shine of human skin is a fundamental component of camouflage.

This article is part 2 of a series of posts (read part 1 of How to Vanish)

Although it may go without saying, I’ll mention it anyway.  If you plan to use a face cover then it hiding your faceprobably isn’t necessary to use face paint.  However it might be a good idea to use a small amount on any exposed areas such as around the nose and eyes.

Providing it is the correct application, some camouflage is better than none, or worse yet, the wrong camouflage.  There are a wide variety of face paints on the market today and that is a good or bad thing.  When I was in the military we had the face paint sticks that looked like overgrown crayons, worse yet they were a pain to use and even worse to remove.

If you select a compact that gives you a variety of colors, keep in mind that you should use only the appropriate colors and don’t use every color in the palate. Unless of course you are going to a party and your goal is to look like a clown.

Too many people try using the tiger stripe approach much like you see in the movie “CommandoArnold Schwarzenegger with the former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.  While this may look cool and flashy, it defeats the whole purpose of camouflage in a real life situation.  Also, if you are wearing gloves there is little need to camouflage your hands.  Use your own judgment here.

Again, some is better than none.  However it may make putting on and taking off your gloves a little difficult.  For now lets just cover the basics and try to keep it simple.   I use a compact with three colors in it: BLACK, BROWN & GREEN

The compact also has a mirror which is a good tool IF you need to use it for signaling or looking around objects such as trees, walls, corners, etc, etc…  If your compact has WHITE in it and your background doesn’t call for that particular color, DON”T use it.

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How to Camo Your Face

STEP 1: Starting with the areas around the eyes, under the nose, on the temples and under the face camolower lip I would use a light brown or tan.  This will draw attention away from some of the lighter areas on your body (ex: your eyes) and also help to break up the pattern of the human face.  This first step is where a lot of people go wrong by not making the area around their eyes large enough.  If the area is too small then it will draw more attention and look like two circles of the same color (eyes).

STEP 2: Next, in the areas between the sides of the nose and the cheek, on each side of the chin proper face camo applicationnear or starting at or near the corners of the mouth and in the center of the forehead, I recommend a medium green or olive drab.  These areas are important to break up your face pattern and are also areas of high shine due to sweat and facial oils.

STEP 3: In the areas over the eyes, the cheeks and on the chin I use how to camo your faceblack.  Remember, nothing in nature is black so don’t over do it.

Finally, using my fingertips I blend all of the edges together and over the ears and down onto the neck trying to get a feathered subtle blend from one color to the next, much like you would were it airbrushed on.  The purpose for this approach, as with any camouflage, is to break up the natural outline of your face, body, gear, vehicle, etc, etc…

When you are applying camouflage to the hands, this same approach should be used, insuring that the lighter colors are used in the recessed areas, a slightly darker color applied to the “middle ground” areas and the darkest colors over the highest areas.  Also keep in mind that if you are wearing glasses, goggles or a face shield you run the risk of giving off a “glare”.

In the near future we will cover camouflage for your gear, vehicle, base camp and more.  I hope this information has proved to be helpful.

In the mean time, be safe, have fun & stay prepared!

Photos by:
Dick Roster
FC Brake

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

31 thoughts on “How to Vanish: Part 2”

  1. Well written, sir. During recon flights in Viet Nam, my door gunners always kept a sharp watch toward the rear of the aircraft. You can train people to not look at an approaching aircraft – it is tough but it can be done. Teaching them not to look at the aircraft AFTER it has flown over seemed to be almost impossible. A face shining out of a uniform color field was a dead give away and it happened more often than you'd believe. Nice article.

  2. As a practical funtion the face cover is quicker solution to apply, quicker to shed, easy to carry, packs light, and has longer usefull life.

    If I ever had to use one outside of hunting, I would anticipate that it would be to hide quick and then to try and blend back in with others or get home fast like nothing had happened.

  3. I would agree that face cover is a quick solution, however it can be limited in it's function. I have a bright orange face mask for hunting, that would stand out like a soar thumb in a tactical situation, and I can't change the color of it. Face paint on the other hand is a little time consuming to put on correctly and definitely to take off, however in most places in North America with a little blending you can match the colors of the environment, even as the season change, and with white, well that's good for winter.
    Now if you do plan on using face paint remember the compact styles go quick, always seemed like we never had enough green. So stock up on them or go with the NATO paint stick, and use your signaling mirror to put it on.

  4. Nice review of cammo techniques. Don't forget the OxyPads to get the camo stick off!
    Mention was made that glasses and goggles create a risk of glare. That is especially true for some less expensive and poorly selected eyewear. Even though I don't need corrective lenses, for me, eye protection is a must…day or night. There are just too many tree limbs, flying glass, dust and sun for me to risk a scratched eye. The good news is that there are plenty of matte frame glasses and goggles on the market with non-glare (should really be called minimum-glare) lenses that will provide quality eye protection. Your local optometrist can make corrective lenses for popular brands. Quality tinted lenses can camoflauge the whites of your eyes, but 'cool' shades will make you visible for miles.

  5. Nice piece. It is often said by hunters that "every deer in the woods thinks all men are stumps, but every wild turkey in the woods thinks every stump is a man." This is why it is so critical when doing camo for turkey hunting to wear a face mask or paint up but also cover the hands as well. Then and the most important point is do not move. Camo breaks up a human outline in cover, or helps it to blend in, but not if you move. Ironically camo worn in the south is mostly a fashion statement as deer cannot see into enclosed shooting houses so popular here. Good camo matching the local habitat, keeping motionless, and playing the wind can work every time.

    • That's the real solution right there; not moving. I can disappear in jeans and a tee shirt by hiding behind some dense foliage and not moving; you just got to know the terrain.

      Also, a tip for seeing in the dark- especially people, when they're moving. Look up.
      Specifically, a little above where you want to see. Something to do with the rods and cones in our eyes, looking above an object makes it stand out more in the dark, and movement is easier to see.

  6. Very good article and explained in good detail about the face! Personally, i'm not into face painting. The only materials I use that are bought are clothes that are the basic color for that season or environment.( camo for woodland, white for winter,etc.) My clothes are the base and I use the environment that i'm in to camo the rest of me. Mud, grass, leaves…I know that you get more dirty than using the makeup but hey its the outdoors and there is no better camo than mother nature. Remember that motion kills! Camo helps but not if your moving around. Thanks for the article!

  7. This is an often overlooked aspect in survival scenarios. IMHO one of the best ways to practice this art is to still hunt. If you can successfully stalk animals (even if you don't kill them) you will do well when hiding from most humans. Look at one of the most talented snipers in USMC history… a country boy hunter named Carlos Hathcock. If you are not familiar with him, he was a master at fieldcraft. I varmint hunt year-round to keep my skills honed and help neighboring farmers by minimizing their losses. I bagged an elusive groundhog yesterday with my trusty .17 HMR. He was heading towards my garden which was going to be an all you can eat buffet. YMMV.

  8. so, not to nit pick, but people keep saying nothing in nature is black… there are a lot of things naturally black. black cats, black dogs, my german short hair has black in parts of her coat, black bears, black squirrels, deep shadows, rocks, things that are decomposing, snakes, scorpions, birds, (the occasional ninja sprinting/flying through the forest ;~) ) bats, racoons, and more. i can understand the overuse of black being bad, but im glad to see it used in this article in a positive light. everything in moderation. just a thought…

  9. Excellent info. This is an art that is often forgotten. I learned camouflage and concealment many years ago and have used it on many occasions on missions. Learning where to place colors is important to keep down the sheen on highlighted places on the face and hands. On many occasions I have used camouflage paint and a ghillie suit and had people pass within 3 feet of me and not notice anything.

  10. burnt cork … take a piece of natural cork, say a stopper from a wine bottle, not the screw cap type, y’all but the real live oak
    cork and light it on fire and use it like a piece of coloured chalk to cover the shiny spots ..make sure the coal isnt still burning. you can do this many times using the same cork. light it up, and apply as needed to darken the facial tones…dont get it in your eyes and it washes off with soap and water. also if you mix some of it with vaseline 3 to 1 , it makes a dark camo cover whick will come off with facial cleanser, for those ladies in the know

  11. Surplus cami sticks are $2 to $5. The paint lasts a long time and gets in your pores. Hard to apply when cold. We used to soften it with bug juice. A squirt of juice in the palm, rub the stick around until you get enough paint, then apply with a finger.
    Stay in the shadows if possible. Direct sun or light can double your visual size because of your shadows. No matter how well camouflaged the face creates distinct shadow patterns.
    Movement is one of the easiest ways to be seen. Have to scratch your nose, grab your binos, get a drink? If you have to move use the 10 second rule… Move very slowly while counting to 10. Slow movement is a lot harder to pick up than faster movement.
    If you are trying to stay hidden from animals they have a much better sense of smell… Stay down wind of them when possible.
    Good hunting!

  12. Remember, if you have any reflective surface (glasses, binoculars, scopes, anything) if the sun is hitting it, you ARE reflecting somewhere. Maybe to your target, maybe not but you ARE reflecting. I saw a marine sniper use a paper tube taped over the end of his scope to keep the sun off the lens. Good idea. If your hat is shading your glasses from the sun, they won't flare either. Be aware of sun angles and never let the sun hit your scope/glasses.

    • Thanks for the tip, being bound to glasses I'll have to start taking hats along with me where ever I go (just in case) or stock up on the contact lenses.

      • Hats are good for a whole host of reasons besides just glare – sun/rain protection for example. Still, if you are using something other than a hat it is something to be aware of.

      • ChristianRebel,
        Contact lenses are interesting. I've never worn them but I'm curious about how tough it might be to keep them sanitary post TSHTF. My sister wore them (decades ago so the technology has changed) but she was always having problems with here eyes due to debris or infection from the contacts. Anyone have any experience with contacts in the field? I'd like to know what you think.

        • Sorry it took so long for the reply, for some reason I was never notified through e-mail and just found your comment now.

          I'm no "expert" on contact lenses but I've had a few conversations with my eye doctor about them. Usually the infections are caused by one of two things 1. Bad maintenance and poor cleaning habits or 2. Cheap solutions that are used to bath the lenses (i.e. the infamous Bousch and Lamb solution that allowed infections to grow)

          It may be a couple of dollars extra but it's worth the comfort and lack of health risks to get the solutions made by Alcon (often more notably labeled Opti-free or Replenish). You'll really have a time trying to keep this stuff in stock since basic health practices dictate that you change the solution you keep the lens in fairly often to ward off anything nasty from getting into your eye but it's such a small amount of solution and if you get a big enough bottle you may not even notice it making a significant dent in supply. Stocking up on the stuff for long periods of time should be no problem since the expiration date is for about 2 years.

          As for the contacts themselves if you're interested (and for all survival purposes considered) I'd recommend Air Optix Night and Day lenses. They're super comfortable and they safely last up to a month of wear, you can even sleep in them. I just got a box from my eye doctor and the expiration date for the lenses isn't until 2016, factor in that a pair last for a month and you've got some lenses that are easy to stock up on! Granted they are expensive but in my mind the price is worth it considering all the "performance" you're getting out of them. However they do sell regular Air Optix (I haven't tried them personally so I can't tell you how comfortable they are) that aren't meant for sleeping in but still last the whole month and are $10 less than the "night and day" kind. Plus the more boxes you buy the more of a discount you get (America's Best is the cheapest I've found at the moment for bulk buying, plus you can get discounts and free eye exams if you join one of their eye care clubs) Generally eye doctors will give you a trail pair of contact lenses before you buy lenses to see if you like a particular brand, so you can try and "shop around" to see what's the most comfortable for you. If your eye doctor isn't willing to give you the shop around option than take whatever trial pair they give you (for me they gave me the most expensive on in the shop) thank them and go to they offer certificates for free trial pair of other lenses (the cheaper ones, but no lack on the performance). I only tell you this because, while America's Best might be "the best" with prices they're not the best with honesty. They flat out lied to me to get me to buy the more expensive lenses. So like I said shop around, if you like the idea of being able to sleep in the lenses then go for the night and day, if you plan on taking them out before sleeping then by all means save some money and just get the day wear month long ones.

          And if it helps with your decision at all contact lenses are the best way to boost your eye sight past 20/20 vision. (The doctor found out that I can see 20/10 in contacts, considering without glasses or contacts I can't make out large writing past an arms length away that is a miracle of an improvement) just something to consider since eye sight will be valuable in a crap hit the fan situation.

          I hope that was a bit of a help to you CaptBart.

    • They sell shadow tubes for scopes now. They thread into the objective side and will limit the glare unless aimed directly at the light source. The one thing to remember when using a shadow tube, whether a cardboard tube or one sold at the local firearms store, is they will reduce the field of view through the scope.
      To combat glare from glasses, you can use a camo veil like "spandoflage" or a mosquito net. The drawback here is the silhouette is still somewhat intact and must be addressed with so "3d" additions, like leaves or making a ghillie type hat.

  13. Good article, but I want to comment on the stripes. I've studied this for many years and read many articles about camouflage, especially natural camouflage(predators/prey animals). Many predators, specifically ambush predators have stripes or spots that intersect their eyes, breaking up the pattern of the face. Most prey animals will freeze when they sense danger and immediately begin scanning the brush for any threat, many researchers believe that what they are actually looking for is the eyes, a face or recognizable pattern, hence the striping or combination of stripes and spots around predators eyes…it hides them even if the prey animal happens to look directly at them. Most predators will also not stare directly at a prey animal, they avert their eyes just ever so slightly, so that the prey will not pick up the eye pattern staring at them…this is what I was taught in my military training and have practiced over the years. Darken the light areas, lighten the dark areas and try to break up the actual outline of the eye, as humans are programmed to recognize human facial features, especially the eyes. never look directly at the face/eyes of your target if within a reasonably close distance, look slightly to the side, up or down. Thanks!

  14. Good tips, sir. I can see the advantage but I wonder about any effects on using a scoped rifle. Also, it seems to me that it might reduce the amount of light that gets into your eyes. Any issues on cloudy days or during twilight? It seems to me it might be like wearing sunglasses at night. Never having used it, I simply don't know and your opinion would be appreciated.

    • The same techniques, albeit with possible different colors, are still applied to an urban setting. There are trees and vegetation in the city and dull colors will normally help break up for the rubble pile as well. A dull, dark gray is normally a solid foundation color for urban but as with any camo, adapting it to your current surroundings are what makes it a great camo. Alot of the recon teams in Vietnam used spray paint over sanitized OD green fatigues to match their surroundings better than any "store bought" camo pattern.

  15. Remember the 4 S's for camo; Shape, Silhouette, Shine, and Shadow. I agree F.C., too many people watch a TV show or movie and try to mimic the "cool" camo patterns they see the actors wear.

  16. Camo is good for staying in the same place for hours but sometimes you just have to move and if you have to move and you have to stay concealed the best thing is to stay low and move slow and most of the time it is best to stay put. I have tried it all in the military and most of the times when moving and staying low we(a group of 8) came as close to the enemy as 3-5 meters observing for some time before either engaging or withdrawing from position. I would also recommend that if you really want to use camo go to a military surplus and buy some old uniforms and some personal camo nets(woodland, snow, dessert) the are awesome to make small observation posts if you are hunting and i have seen a lot of animals come within knife range of our little hide outs. Rules of thumbs be still, and stay as low as possible and if you have to move do it low and slow.

  17. Indeed, well written and thought out. I just use this karkee netting over my heat, alot like a gilli suit mask. Having said that, I've never had to use it actually. It's just in the prep kit…

  18. if you don't have access to camo face paint try using belacavas in neutral earthtone color. if you don't own any camo clothing just wear neutral earthtone colors. vary the color of each item such as a tan jacket, brown trousers, green shirt, and a similar colored bandana and hat would help to make you less visable. Dress according to the colors in nature around your region.

    • I said this because in all the westerns I've read especialy the Louis L'Amour ones all the Cavalry tended to dress in the standard blue wool field uniforms of the day and many scouts, frontier town lawmen, and cowboys all wore colors that blended in with their surroundings. I looked in a Western reenactor supplier catalog many years ago and except for some denim wear and dress clothing most work clothing came in shades of tan, brown, green, or gray.


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