Wednesday 25 April 2012

Colour Theory for miniature painters

Today's post is all about the thing above this text. The colour wheel and how it can make you a better painter with virtually no effort! Now, hopefully this should be going up automatically as Mulder, Mrs. PVP and I are all on holiday:

Mulder doesn't pack light...

So, on with the show. The colour wheel is a method of determining which colours work together. Essentially it is a circular rainbow with the colours evenly distributed. I bought one for reference but you can make your own by using the primary colours blue, yellow and red. Look at the blue and yellow section of the colour wheel above. The green directly between the blue and yellow is a 50:50 mix of the two colours. The turquoise next to the blue is 2/3 blue, 1/3 yellow. The yellow-green is the reverse, 1/3 blue, 2/3 yellow. This is true for all of the colours in the wheel. These are the hues of the colours. The lighter colours of each - extending into the middle of the wheel - are the shades. A shade is essentially adding white (technically called a tint) or black to the base hue. I don't recommend doing this to mix colours though. It's flaming hard to get right. Anyway, this isn't about mixing colours, it's about choosing them. The colour wheel has several ways to pick colours. Let's start at the easiest:
Analagous Colours

Analagous schemes are the easiest to work with. Essentially any two colours adjacent on the colour wheel will work nicely together. Technically you can use up to five colours in an analagous scheme but I would recommend that the outer two be tiny spot colours. In the example above you can see a nice green triad where the turquoise would be an excellent choice for edging and jewels. The red-purple pairing is classically what is used on Fire Dragons. This is easy but sometimes struggles to create contrast between areas of detail. That is where using the third colour as an edging between areas of detail works nicely.

Complementary Colours

Complementary - sometimes called contrasting - schemes use the colour directly opposite to the base shade to create complementary but highly contrasting schemes. They are used everywhere, take a look at a row of movie posters at the cinema sometime. I guarantee that the blue/orange complement will be used somewhere. This is an easy way to create very striking colour schemes for an army but you need to take care. These are such classic combinations of colours that a lot of them have very strong pop culture associations. The most obvious being the red/green combination. Unless you are very careful your army can look like christmas elves. This is where the more subtle version of Split Complementary (see below) comes in.

Triad Colours

Triad schemes are chosen evenly around the colour wheel. Usually they work best where one colour is a spot or edging colour and the other two are the main scheme. Care should be taken to avoid the primary colours as otherwise you will have that pre-school paint set look. Compare the two examples above to show that particular problem!

Split Complementary Colours

This is one of the more sophisticated options available and my current favourite. Instead of choosing the direct complementary colour to the base shade you use the colours either side of it. Essentially you are combining analagous and complementary schemes. You need to use both of the split colours though. Look at the example above. The "A" example has the turquoise/orange contrast and the blue/orange contrast above it. Now the turquoise/orange sort of works, but not quite. The blue/orange works much, much better. Now check out B, even using the pinkish red (a lighter shade of the red hue, see you did need to know the difference!) as a spot colour it just makes it work. This creates some lovely and unexpected schemes that are different but pleasing to the eye.

Tetrad Colours

Tetrads are hard, they essentially are formed of pairs of complementary colours. They can create very busy schemes with a gaudy look unless very carefully handled. Frankly I would leave this one to the interior designers and stick with a maximum of three strong colours on the model.

Well, that is the basics, there are many more elements. Balancing warm and cool colours on a model, using neutral shades to break up schemes. Contrasting textures, using metallics as colours. All sorts. I'll expand this guide in the future to include these options. But for now, we are done! Try using these principals next time you paint. I guarantee it will help you be happy with the finished result!


1 comment:

  1. Karitas, thank you for pointing out that I had managed to muddle Hue and Shade while typing! This was a genuine typo, I knew what I meant but fingers failed me!

    I have deleted your comment not because I thought it out of turn but because it is no longer relevent to the corrected post!