SOF Week

Are Digital Pixel Camouflage Patterns Ineffective?

In a just published essay entitled, “Are Digital Pixel Camouflage Patterns Ineffective?” Guy Cramer, CEO of Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp takes on the recent meme that imagines all pixelated camo is bad because the US Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern is anything but.


While Mr Cramer takes a stab at it as well, I’d like to remind our readers that it’s foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water. UCP’s geometry is based on the highly successful Marine Patterns (MARPAT) which is a derivative of the Canadian Pattern (CADPAT). The exact same geometry is also shared with the US Navy’s AOR patterns. It’s about coloration, and in the case of UCP they got it wrong.


Guy Cramer believes in the effectiveness of pixelated patterns so much that the submission he developed with ADS Inc is based on the technology but with some more advanced enhancements. Read Cramer’s Essay here –

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33 Responses to “Are Digital Pixel Camouflage Patterns Ineffective?”

  1. Eric says:

    I truly believe that the “digital” patterns would be much more effective if the patterns and pixels were much larger. At a distance, they all just look like a solid color. The pattern needs larger areas of solid color to really break-up the outline of the object it’s intended to conceal. Yes, it will look funny up close (aesthetics should not be part of the discussion), but it will be better camouflage.

    • BpSitRep says:

      Agree with you Eric.

      • CAVstrong says:

        A: Almost all modern camo patterns (including Multicam) are “digital”.
        B: isn’t the whole point of pixelated patters or even all camo to blend together at a distance. Unless you’re wearing something like Real Tree the pattern itself isn’t going to be what hides you but rather it will be how colors blend together and with into the background at a distance that will hide you.

        As much as it pains me to say this. As much as I would love to get some color new camo gear to wear around post I really think the prudent COA at this point is to have all US Military forces adopt Digital Woodland and Desert as their primary patterns. The Army and Air Force can wear ACUs in digital Woodland in the Summer with brown shirts and boots and Desert in the winter ( The Air Force could even go with the original Black/grey navy pattern year round if they wanted instead). The Navy/USMC can wear the combat utility uniform in desert with Od green shirts during the summer and woodland in the winter.

        Make OCIE coyote brown with ranger green webbing. I am sure there is a company out there smart enough to make reversible kit (magazine pouches and what not) in both patters. Or a reversible chest rig to help hide/break up the solid brown body armor color.

        We could use the AOR patterns as secondary/auxiliary patterns, and contract hyperstealth to develop a plethora of unique colorations and patterns based on the basic MARPAT/CADPAT (even Air Force Tiger Stripe) designs. Each one created for a specific country/region/ environment that can be printed using Ghostex or Deceptex techniques and issued for specific small scale ops or missions.

        ADS will like be contracting to produce the majority of the new uniforms/equipment.

        Crye will release their Army submissions and continue to make a killing in the SOF market and with other nations around the world.

        Kryptek will likely become very popular with hunters and outdoorsmen.

        Brookwood’s…..well..,they may be SOL.

        In this way we can economically equip all of our military with a standardized modern, and battle proven camouflage patterns, in a professional and uniforms manner. But this nonsense behind us and move onto bigger and more important projects. Like better como gear, more fuel efficient vehicles, better body and armor and weapon systems, and most importantly more and better tanks.

        Wow….I may have gotten carried away there. But oh well, at least my brilliant and clearly completely original idea is out there for the world to see….and likely ignore….

        (SSD feel free to delete this if you want)

        • Haji says:

          The one thing you left out is ultimately one of the biggest deciding factors in the whole scenario: politics.

    • Marcos says:

      1st gen digital pattens like CADPAT/MARPAT/AOR were designed to be effective from 50-300m. desert CADPAT uses larger areas of color that make it effective out to 600m

  2. Greg says:

    No, UCP and it’s choice of color for its pixels was ineffective, not Digital Pixelation in general. Nice try though XD

  3. BpSitRep says:

    The thought process on camo is still dating back to WW2 and Vietnam as well. We’re not fighting in jungles en mass, nor the woods of Europe. Think out of the box for a change!!! Where is most warfighting taking place? Cities!! Urban areas. Again….said this on so many websites….take a mock up small town, green grass, nice painted houses, stores….etc, new automobiles….then blow it all up and LOOK AT THE DAMN RESULTS of color, shapes, patterns, shadows. Same color would probably blend into any ‘green’ woods environment too. Germans in WW2 hid pretty damn good wearing their heavy solid gray and green uniforms. SpecOps are the only ones that really need the ultra pixel camo uniforms. Regular forces, give them the results of the blown up town experiment.

    • CAVstrong says:

      Beware of “Flashblindedness” just because we have been fighting urban wars against criminal and organizations for the part ten years, doesn’t mean will will continue to do so in the next ten.

      The conventional forces still have their place on the modern battlefield. As cliche as it seems, warfare itself has changed very little over the last 10,000 years. Yes we have added new technologies and dimensions (air power) to war, but an Abrams company charging across the open desert still serves the same basic role as an Enlgish Heavy Cavakry unit charging across a field.

      • bob-on-the-fob says:

        Look at demographics and urbanization trends world wide. A majority of future conflict will be in urban centers.

        Have you noticed how very few have fought out in the open, not even nation states like Libya, but instead chose to use urban terrain and human shields as much as possible?

        Future conflict will look allot like Israel’s recent wars, not like WW2 with mass cav.

        • CAVstrong says:

          Yes all war tends to take place in an around urban centers, because that’s where people live, that’s where resources and political powers are concentrated. You’d never fight a war in the middle of the Sahara or the antarctic plain. There is simply no point.

          Urbanization is nothing new, in fact historically speaking it seems to be cyclical. People move to cities, they get over crowded economies collapse, people move out of cities….

          There may be some future conflicts like Israel’s Wars with the Palestine Authority. However, just like the Six Day War, the Yom Kipur War and any conflict against a state like Iran, North Korea or any other Non-Failed state would be more conventional with major conflicts avoiding urban areas.

      • Greg says:

        Verry true

    • majrod says:

      Cities are not all the same. Besides different parts of the world’s inpact on physical appearance/layout there’s the fact that inside a medium-large city there is great variance e.g. city gov’t center, residential vs. commercial areas.

      Going from a city gray urban area, to a residential area (red brick to shingle/lawn) and then to the shopping mall is an incredible challenge for any camo.

  4. pixelmania says:

    Thanks for using “pixel” and “pixelated “.

  5. Emm says:

    Guy Cramer mentions “AOR Universal” in the article. Does anyone have more information regarding that? Thanks.

  6. Extm4frog says:

    I may be the most confused one out here. If there are any new patterns adopted for US Army or any other branch that is not currently already in supply, how will that be paid for and where will it impact DOD’s budget that is required to be reduced by 1 trillion dollars over the next ten years? If anyone states it will only impact shipbuilding or new jet manufacturers, etc…big negative as I am seeing it on a command level now with core requirements.

    If a new pattern is chosen that requires a new color implementation will that take away some of the budget for other core improvements such as armor, technological equipment, etc (I understand it would only be in the billions but in todays downturned economy, billions is turning out to be a lot of money).

    Looking at the casualty reports from both Iraq and Afganistan, are CASREPs dictating that the KIA’s and WIA’s are from their specific camouflage ineffectiveness or is it from IED’s, motorized movement, urban patrols (ambush) and base attacks?

    If there are patterns that appear to be effective and the sources already in the supply system (both stock system and commerical), such as the MARPAT, AOR 1, AOR2 and OCP, would another improved camouflage pattern improve the CASREPs from the current conflicts we are in?

    I do recall in the NSW sniper course, we would always reinforce to all students “movement kills” and would put them in a stalking field with three color woodland field camouflage uniforms and make them stalk without detection. Naturally, they would veg-up but it was a point that your movement would be the first to get you detected and compromised versus woodland versus three color desert. I guess that sort of ages myself being it was a discussion of woodland versus desert…

    My .02 is I want those defending us to have the best that we can offer, but I also want it to make fiscal sense; if the improved camouflage does not reduce KIA and WIA and takes away from other core requirements, it is possible that the individuals will have to come out of personal money for the other requirements they feel they need for mission success.

    • Martin says:

      It all depends on how it is implemented. The army is going to be replacing uniforms through the course of time and if they phased in the new patterns there wouldn’t really be any cost at all. Of course that is unlikely because the couple of years of having people in the same formation wearing different uniforms would have sergeants major all over the place having conniptions. You are also making the assumption that huge cut in the defense budget is actually going to happen. There isn’t any reason to assume the folks in Washington will actually do what they say they are going to do. This is the same crowd that votes every year to not cut medicare payments to doctors and have for decades even though all their budget projections require it.

  7. ER-DOC-OPS says:

    I have long questioned the effectiveness of an unnatural pattern. My concern is that such camo looks effective in pictures of guys in various environments because they are just that- PICTURES, which are, by their nature, “pixelated.” I am interested to see how effective these patterns are when viewed on high res monitor like the new retina display macbook pro.

    • Army Doc says:

      You do realize that your eyes are actually made up of tiny pixels right? So that technically speaking our vision is “pixelated”?

  8. Strike-Hold! says:

    Going back to the points people have raised about the context of modern conflicts:

    As well know, soldiers today find themselves operating in a variety of environments, and on a variety of missions. Don’t forget the Balkans, East Timor, Sierra Leone or Rwanda (among others) – not exactly “desert” environments. So a pattern that works well in rocky or semi-arid terrain is not going to be optimal in these locations at all. And most of the armed operations in these locations did not take place in built-up or urban areas.

    On the other hand, arid and semi-arid areas account for one third of the earth’s surface land area and cover most parts of the developing nations in the world including Latin America, most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a large portion of Eastern and Southern Africa and parts of India and South East Asia. (ICRISAT 1998). And it is also these parts of the world which account for the vast majority of the world’s current conflicts.

    But tests and analysis run by NATO, as well as the practical experience of forces engaged in these areas, has shown that standard “desert” or “transitional” patterns also work well in the urban / built-up environments in these areas – becuase the building materials used typically match the colors of the surrounding arid / semi-arid terrain close enough that a specific, seperate camouflage coloration isn’t necessary.

    Besides that, no individual camouflage pattern is going to work for soldiers riding around in big trucks, Hummers, LAVs, MRAPs, etc.

  9. majrod says:

    Great story, links and comments. Refreshing!

  10. Eric says:

    Going back and looking at the report from the 2010 Natick testing Cramer talked about, they mention a Desert Brush, and a “Multi Brush”, now I believe that Desert Brush is in the first photo in this article, but has any seen the Multi Brush pattern?

    • SSD says:

      Unfortunately, I think some of the identification names are incorrect. This is across the board, on all reports.

      • Eric W. says:

        Gotcha, so you think they’re the same then?

      • SSD says:

        No, I just think that what we consider a certain pattern are referred to by other names in the reports. There is a whole brush family.

  11. Eric W. says:

    Ok thanks, will do.