Conventions in Painting – Colour

There is a major part of our hobby that for some of us may not get the attention we require, kind of like that household chore you procrastinate until the bath falls into your living room or something. This is one of those things that you can actually go into quite deeply and although at first glance seems pretty easy to grasp if you take the time to really examine things then you can be presented with a wealth of new information.

Of course I may once again be talking out of my posterior but I reckon I’m on the right track here and in order to suitably wow the audience here, I am going to give you a picture to kick things off;

No doubt many of you have seen this, or something like it, before. This is the colour wheel and is the basis on which colour theory stands. Luckily we do not normally go around painting monochromatic models. We use a variety of colours with which to bring our models to life. For some of us, picking colours is a major headache and this is where this little Wheel of Fortune can help.

While in some instances we feel bound to follow the “authorised” colour scheme for our models, much as it is with War of the Ring or Space Marine Chapters, there are other times when we want to express a bit of creativity and then struggle within ourselves to come with up a kick-ass colour scheme. Using the colour wheel allows you to pick your primary colour and then look directly across from it in order to find the colour that complements it. If you go either side of the Complimentary colour and look at the primary colours you will tend to find that these are the ones that will jar with the Primary colour you have picked. While using a secondary directly adjacent to a complimentary colour will allow you a measure of shading, highlighting and detailing options any of the other colours combined on the same model is likely to make your eyes bleed. I am sure we can all think of models that we have seen or perhaps even painting ourselves where the contrast is too stark.

There are various other versions of the colour wheel out there on the Intertubes, some of them deal with a mind-bogglingly complex array of colours, some are just the normal primary colours. You will also notice that black and white are not here, that is because neither of them are technically a colour, one is a combination of all the colours and the other is an absence of colour.

What I would really like to know is how it is you come up with a colour scheme for your models. Is it down to how fast you can knock them out? Do you always follow the “official” scheme? Or do you hit up your colour theory and plan out something that makes your guys look unique on the table?

One thought on “Conventions in Painting – Colour”

  1. I’m an artist by trade, only recently digging into Warhammer and War Machine. I’m not sure that I’ll ever actually make much of a hobby of it, but I can safely say that if I were to build my own little army to play with, I would absolutely *not* use the official paint suggestions. I would most definitely work from my color theory background and craft something as unique and appealing as possible. (And it might even be fun to do some truly greyscale monochromatic pieces just to show it can be done well.) I’ve even toyed with using Shapeways to make my own army miniatures… but that’s even another layer of devotion that I probably won’t ever get to.

    …there’s a lot to dig into if I were really to delve into this, and I could blather at length about what I’ve learned and taught about art. In a nutshell, though, yes, that color wheel is a great starting point, but there’s a LOT more under the hood if you really want to make something that looks fantastic. If I may, though, I’d like to offer a plea to use high saturation very sparingly. High contrast alone can be jarring, but layering high saturation on top of that can really assault the eyes.

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