This is my model of HMS Dartmouth as she appeared in 1915 at the Dardanelles.
Camouflage on land is usually intended to conceal something. Camouflage at sea is not. A ship on the surface of the ocean is very hard to hide. If sun and weather conditions are not right it can be impossible. But hiding some characteristics of the ship could be done. It might be possible to deceive an observer about what kind of ship he is seeing, where she is headed, or how fast she is going. The design on Dartmouth was intended to confuse enemy gunners and make it harder for them to engage her effectively with gunfire. Later in the war ship camouflage was intended to confuse submarines so that they could not hit the target ship with a torpedo.
Ship camouflage using patterns for deception was a First World War development. Prior to that, there were attempts at concealment using different colors. Deception using false colors or false structures had also been tried. This section includes examples from several countries and is a dynamic display. That means I have included a few examples from some countries and will be adding more over time.
Photographs taken during the First World War were black and white. Color photography had actually already been invented, but was still mostly experimental. The most common film in use had a color bias towards red. Section in red showed up very dark, and blues were very light. There was also a film that had this bias reversed. This makes correct color interpretation of such photos difficult. Some of the original designs were done in color, or had a specific color key. Historically, this was because the Royal Navy camouflage section at Burlington House in London employed many female art students to copy the designs, and the students did not always use the colors specified by the camouflage designers.