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First Look Review
Printed Sworl Camouflage
Autmn Leaf version.
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by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]

Originally published on:


There were 3 types of finishes applied to the Oeffag built Albatros D. wings in 1918.

1. Plain bleached and unbleached linen.
2. "Brumowski Distribution" - upper surface only.
3. Preprinted Sworl Camouflage - upper surface only. It is believed that this pattern was used originally on "oriental" large area rugs.

Here we will discuss the factory printed "sworl camouflage pattern" used was produced by J. Backhausen & Söhne (sons) and was printed manually on huge tables measuring 40 meters (80 meters if the factory had the space) by silkscreen method in three colors, from lightest color to darkest. In this set called the “Autumn leaf” the 3 basic colours are present A fourth color is thought to be seen, and is caused by the intentional overlap of the orange and dark red colours areas in the manual screening process. This is a measure used to deal with the registration problem caused by movement/mis-alignment and the method to slightly overprint the adjoining edges of the pattern. This is called "trapping" in modern printing parlance. This info came from Max Wirth who was on the board of directors for the Swiss Air Force Museum, as well as being the head of a Swiss textile dynasty whom O'Connor interviewed and consulted with many times.

Mr. Wirth also said that the pattern was too complex for the printing machinery of the day and that is why the hand screen printing method was used instead of the roller machine printing of the time. Also, he said because of the time expenditure of the labor that it took 3-4 days to produce 200 meters of cloth. That meant that the fabric never would have been available in any great quantity. Applied to an aircraft it was said to resemble an orchard of trees from above. It is more likely that the various colours might adapt to the human eye depending on atmospheric conditions.

To Clarify

The term "sworl" could be applied to the "handpainted" attempts but the lack of uniformity or consistant pattern would in my humble opinion not qualify. That is why they called it the "Brumowski Distribution". Someone obviously tried to hand paint the sworls and they might have been attempting to recreate the "printed fabric pattern" free style. It would be like the Germans using splotches of paint to imitate the hexegons of the preprinted Lozenge 4-5 color.

Beginning in mid-1918 the autumn leaf was applied in small batch groupings of the late production 253 series. Because of the method of production the real fabric was only available in small batches. I believe Dr. O'Connor's studies list the 253 series airframes that are confirmed by photo images.

Bag contents

1 sheet 5 ¼ X & 8 inches with ¼ inch blank border around the perimeter of the sheet.

I have been acquainted with the owner of FCM decals in Brazil, Felipe C. Miranda for almost nine years. He is dedicated to bringing a quality product to model makers. One of his earliest attempts at WWI aviation subjects was the autumn leaf version of the Austro-Hungarian Sworl fabric in 1:48 scale. The historical information available at the time was far less advanced than we have today. His instructions are less than detailed but you do get a plan view.

How to apply

They are typical in their make-up of waterslide silk screen paint based decals. Their worst problem can be slightly raised surfaces. But the method that you use to lay them down makes all the difference.

First, do yourself a favor and spray the strip you are working from with a clear gloss. Once this begins to dry it bonds the surface and when dry to the touch will keep fracturing on the edges to a minimum. Also, if you use clear lacquer plan on using this strip within 12 hours of the application.

Second, remember always use a "new" blade to cut the sections of the strip. Do not use scissors on this type of decal.

Third, always use hot water to submerge the cut decal section in. Work one piece / section at a time.

Fourth, lay down liberally a decal setting fluid (Microscale blue script on the bottle).

Fifth, Move the decal section in place and after a few minutes roll the brush you applied the setting fluid with - over the decal and smear any excess fluid out over the adjacent areas.

Sixth, add liberal amounts of decal solvent or Sol (Microscale red script on the bottle). I usually hit the decal at least twice or even three times. When the decal wrinkles its working - Don't Touch the Decal At this Point.

When you get good at this you will be able to lay down upto three decal sections at one time with very pleasing results.


Air Aces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1914-1918 - Dr Martin O' Connor - Flying Machine Press, 1986. *ISBN0-9637110-1-6.

Austro-Hungarian Aces of WWI by Christopher Chant, Osprey Pub. Aircraft of the Ace #46.

Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of WWI - Peter M. Grosz, George Haddow & Pieter Schiemer - Flying Machine Press, 1993. *ISBN 0-9637110-0-8

C&C international – Vol. 19, spring and summer issues, "Markings and camouflage of Austro-Hungarian aircraft in WWI (Oeffag Albatros fighters)by Dr Martin O' Connor.

When contacting manufacturers and publishers please mention you saw this review at AEROSCALE
Highs: Unique subject matter. Good colours for the type.
Lows: Out of Production, Developed before modern research found better details.
Verdict: Good quality decal product.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: #001
  Suggested Retail: $9.95
  Related Link: website
  PUBLISHED: Nov 08, 2011

About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. All rights reserved.


Greetings Stephen, I've used FCM decals in the past, with very good results – these sworls look very good from your pictures. Do you know of any manufacturer that do them in 1:32 at all? Best Regards Mikael
NOV 07, 2011 - 10:08 PM
Hello Mikael! No one has them out yet. I am surprised that someone (Eduard) has not come out with a conversion to the Roden kit. But here is the word from FCM. "Hello Stephen, Thank you for the information. My WW1 decals are out of stock at this moment, only the hand painted sworls are available in 1/72 scale, now printed by Microscale and very superior in quality of the previous edition still printed here in Brazil. . . Some time in the near future I intend to return with WW1 series including 1/32 scale for Roden / Wingnuts kits. Felipe C. Miranda FCM Decals from Brasil" LINK [email protected] [email protected]
NOV 08, 2011 - 02:37 AM
Thank You Stephen – that's hopeful news indeed! Mikael
NOV 08, 2011 - 03:42 AM

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