The Institute of Heraldry (TIOH) is a US Army organization that is responsible for providing heraldic services for all branches of the federal government to include the US Air Force. This includes designing and producing official renderings of seals and emblems. TIOH has a 40-color palette that it used when designing and rendering emblems. This color palette can then be translated by manufacturers so they can produce patches using the appropriate military standard specification yarn.  TIOH in conjunction with the US Air Force also developed palettes for subdued, desert and Operational Camouflage Uniform (OCP) emblems.

The following tables show the official TIOH names for each of the colors, the yarn color, and the Pantone Management System (PMS) number. These are all from the TIOH. For the hex color code, the PMS number was converted on the Pantone website. PMS has different numbers for coated and coated, the hex values for coated were used in these tables.







The Institute of Heraldry Color Palette

The Institute of Heraldry (TIOH) color palette consists of 40 colors. These are not the only colors used by TIOH, as other colors are used for medals and ribbons, but are the ones specifically used for US Air Force emblems. When TIOH completes an emblem package, it includes a manufacturing drawing or “cartoon” used by approved insignia manufacturers to produce an embroidered patch. Each color can be matched to a specific military specification thread color using the “yarn” or “cable” number.

The table below is based on TIOH color palette provided with the emblem package and TIOH’s color conversion list. In addition to yarn/cable numbers, the table shows the corresponding Federal Standard and Pantone Matching System (PMS) color numbers. The Federal Standard number is used to obtain military standard paint for application on signs, aircraft, etc. PMS is a proprietary numbering system for colors used in graphic design developed by Pantone, LLC. By using the PMS number, you can use ensure you use the correct color. For the table below, PMS “Coated” (the color as printed on “coated” paper resulting in glossy finish as found in magazines) us used for the color swatch.  Clicking on the PMS number will take you to the Pantone website which provides conversion numbers for other color standards to include Hex, RGB and CMYK.

Swatch Color Yarn Pantone Matching System (PMS) Federal Standard
Black 67138 17038
Smoke 67201 425 16081
Silver Gray 67137 422 16492
White 67101 17925
Air Force Yellow 67103 116 13655
Yellow 67108 123 13538
Golden Orange 67109 1375 12300
Orange 67110 1655 12246
Marine Corps Scarlet 67154 185 11302
Scarlet 67111 200 11350
Crimson 67112 220
Brick Red 67113 202 11136
Garnet 67158 209
Maroon 67114 504 10049
Purple 67115 267
Brittany 67119 551 15526
Bluebird 67117 542 15092
Oriental 67172 285 15182
Light Blue 67120 5415 15177
Ultramarine 67118 Reflex
Cobalt Blue 67122 281 -15050
Flag 67124 282 15048
Old Glory 67178 280 15056
Grotto Blue 67165 3115
Teal 67121 3035
Mosstone 67127 377
Emerald 67128 369
Irish 67189 348 14120
Green 67129 357 14110
Spruce Green 67130 3302 14066
Bottle Green 67191 343 14109
Army Green 67131 553 14036
Olive Drab 67133 455
Natural 67192 454
Khaki 67193 452 13522
Buff 67135 465 10371
Bronze 67147 874 10371
Gold Brown 67194 471 12160
Spice Brown 67196 168 10075
Brown 67136 161 10055






USAF Subdued (later Woodland/Forest Subdued) Palette

The subdued (later woodland or forest subdued) color palette was formally introduced in the Headquarters, Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center Consolidated Base Personnel Office Letter (CBPOL) 79-002, dated 10 January 1979. All five colors used in this palette are in TIOH’s full color palette. It was initially used for subduing patches worn on the subdued utility uniform (Olive Drab fatigues) and later the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU).  The Air Force Clothing Division (later Air Force Clothing Office) subsequently issued Controlled Multiple Address Letter (CMAL) 95-32 (1 November 1995) and CMAL 01-02 (30 March 2001) which reaffirmed the palette.

Swatch Color Yarn Pantone Management System (PMS)
Black 67138
Flag Blue 67124 282
Garnet 67158 209
Spruce Green 67130 3302
Olive Drab 67133 455






USAF Desert Palette

The desert (later woodland or forest subdued) color palette was formally introduced by the Air Force Clothing Division (later Air Force Clothing Office) in Controlled Multiple Address Letter (CMAL) 95-32 (1 November 1995). All three colors used in this palette are in TIOH’s full color palette. It was used for subduing patches worn on the Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) and the Desert Flight Dress Uniform (DFDU). The palette was reaffirmed in CMAL 01-02 (30 March 2001).

Swatch Color Yarn Pantone Management System (PMS)
Black 67138
Khaki 67193 452
Spice Brown 67196 168






USAF Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) Palette

The OEF OCP color palette was developed for patches worn on the OEF OCP uniform. The OEF OCP uniform was formally adopted by the US Air Force for wear on September 29, 2010. Only three of the four colors used in this palette are in TIOH’s full color palette; bagby green is not part of that palette, but was already in use for US Army patches. This color palette was replaced by the OCP color palette in 2018.  It is important to note that the OEF OCP color palette differs from the current OCP color palette with “khaki” replacing “spice brown”.

Swatch Color Yarn Pantone Matching System (PMS)
Black 67138
Bagby Green 67204 399
Olive Drab 67133 455
Khaki 67193 452






USAF Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) Palette

The current Operational Camouflage Patter (OCP) color palette was formally introduced by the Air Force Clothing Division (later Air Force Clothing Office) in Controlled Multiple Address Letter (CMAL) 18-01 (20 September 2018). It is used for the OCP uniform to include the two piece OCP flightsuit. This palette was largely derived from the OEF OCP color palette which it replaced. For the OCP color palette, “spice brown”, which was used for USAF nametapes, replaced “khaki” from the OEF OCP scheme. Only three of the four colors used in this palette are in TIOH’s full color palette; bagby green is not part of that palette, but was already in use for US Army patches.

Swatch Color Yarn Pantone Matching System (PMS)
Black 67138
Bagby Green 67204 399
Olive Drab 67133 455
Spice Brown 67196 168






Palette Conversions

Color to Subdued (later Woodland/Forest Subdued)

Headquarters, Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center Consolidated Base Personnel Office Letter (CBPOL) 79-002, dated 10 January 1979. provided the initial guidance for converting color patches to subdued. It dictated the following:

  • Background –  (solid) spruce green or flag blue, (more than 1 color) olive drab
  • Borders & Scroll Letters – black
  • Scroll Background – olive drab
  • Red/Scarlet Colors – garnet
  • Major Design Elements – black
  • For emblem colors not listed – allowed unit commanders the authority to negotiate with suppliers to acquire thread colors which most closely conform to the subdued emblem concept

Beginning in the 1980s, TIOH started providing color conversions for all new or revised emblems it processed as part of the approved emblem package.

Controlled Multiple Address Letter (CMAL) 95-32 (1 November 1995) revised some of the guidance for subduing patches.  The specific guidance was:

  • Background –  (solid) flag blue or spruce green, (more than 1 color) contrasting subdued color
  • Borders & Scroll Letters – black
  • Scroll background – olive drab
  • Red Shades – garnet
  • All elements with the Same Color – convert to the same subdued color

This same guidance was retained in CMAL 01-02 (30 March 2001) retained the same guidance from CMAL 95-32 but also introduced the first standardized conversion table from full color to subdued:

Full Color Subdued
Swatch Color Swatch Color
Black Black
Silver Gray Black
White Spruce Green
Air Force Yellow Olive Drab
Golden Orange Olive Drab
Orange Spruce Green
Marine Corps Scarlet Garnet
Scarlet Garnet
Crimson * Garnet
Brick Red * Garnet
Garnet * Garnet
Maroon * Garnet
Brittany Spruce Green
Bluebird Spruce Green
Ultramarine Flag
Flag Black
Emerald Spruce Green
Irish Olive Drab
Green Spruce Green
Gold Brown Spruce Green
Brown Spruce Green

While the BDUs were phased out on 1 October 2011, TIOH continued to provide the woodland subdued conversion for new or revised emblems until 2020.

Color to Desert Subdued

Controlled Multiple Address Letter (CMAL) 95-32 (1 November 1995) provided the initial guidance for desert subdued patches. This same guidance was retained in CMAL 01-02 (30 March 2001).

Full Color Subdued Desert
Swatch Color Swatch Color Swatch Color
Black Black Black
Smoke
Silver Gray Black Black
White Spruce Green Spice Brown
Air Force Yellow Olive Drab Khaki
Yellow
Golden Orange Olive Drab Khaki
Orange Spruce Green Spice Brown
Marine Corps Scarlet Garnet Spice Brown
Scarlet Garnet Spice Brown
Crimson Garnet Spice Brown
Brick Red Garnet Spice Brown
Garnet Garnet Spice Brown
Maroon Garnet Spice Brown
Purple
Brittany Spruce Green Spice Brown
Bluebird Spruce Green Spice Brown
Oriental
Light Blue
Ultramarine Flag Black
Cobalt Blue
Flag Black Black
Old Glory
Grotto Blue
Teal
Mosstone
Emerald Spruce Green Spice Brown
Irish Olive Drab Khaki
Green Spruce Green Spice Brown
Spruce Green
Bottle Green
Army Green
Olive Drab
Natural
Khaki
Buff
Bronze
Gold Brown Spruce Green Spice Brown
Spice Brown
Brown Spruce Green Spice Brown