WIT Press

Shape Recognition For Ships: World War I Naval Camouflage Under The Magnifying Glass


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

157 - 168




1,358 kb


W. Bekers, R. De Meyer, T. Strobbe


Much of the experiments that led to the development of World War I ship camouflage were conducted on an intuitive basis or based upon pseudo-scientific work. As a result of this rather empirical approach, possible effects of the naval camouflage schemes that were developed against the background of submarine warfare on the Atlantic still remain unclear. So-called dazzle paint schemes were conceived to break up target contours and disclose the ship’s number, direction, speed and distance—thus complicating targeting through primitive stereoscopic range finders and periscopes used at the time. Digital image analysis provides helpful tools to assess the effects of dazzle painting techniques. By applying dazzle map textures to digital three dimensional models, different paint schemes can be examined and evaluated under variable atmospheric conditions. Shape recognition algorithms are implemented in an attempt to draw some conclusions about different dazzle designs. This paper provides a brief overview of the origins and methodology of dazzle camouflage. It proposes an experimental framework for ship classification purpose, thus exploring the possibilities of quantitative analysis of rendered computer images to evaluate possible effects of dazzle painting. The test results indicate some possible effects of the World War I paint schemes.


camouflage, dazzle painting, image analysis, shape recognition, World War I, naval history