Adding a Dash More Colour
I mentioned a little while back that I’d been doing some thinking about colour theory when it comes to painting my miniatures. I think it was inspired by watching the instructional DVD by the painting legend Jeremie Bonamant Teboul. In it he spends a bit of time discussing colour theory and how he goes about choosing colour schemes and shading hues/tones.
Great DVD by the way, highly recommended.
Anyway, so it got me thinking about how I might use alternate hues to provide richer looking colours on my miniatures.
Colour Theory 101
I should probably explain some terminology come to think of it. Afraid it’s going to get a bit technical.
One of many colour “models” – or ways of describing a colour – is to break it down into its component hue, saturation and lightness.
Another important topic is that of the colour wheel and complementary colours.
I won’t go into details of how it’s constructed, but what we need to know here is that if you pick a hue around the ring of the colour wheel (such as blue), then the hue directly opposite (ie orange) is known as its complement.
Finally, colour hues can be classified as cool – eg greens, blues – or warm – such as reds or yellow. An interesting thing to note is that when we perceive colours in a painting, say, cool ones will tend to recede and warm ones will tend to stand out.
Classical painters have been exploiting this for years and there’s nothing to stop us miniature painters doing likewise.
I’ve simplified a whole lot of colour theory there but it should be enough to be getting on with.
Now traditionally people tend to start out shading their miniatures by adding small amounts of white or black to their base colour to get their light or dark shades. Before long though one realises that adding black paint tends to give muddy colours and start experimenting with adding different hues to the mix.
One good example might be shading a red with a dark brown, and highlighting it with orange.
So let me demonstrate with a few abstract examples I knocked up in Photoshop:
Here I have created two spheres, the one on the right is limited to just one hue. Looks nice enough – especially if we were able to paint such a smooth blend on the mini – but I’d say that the sphere on the left is much richer.
This is because I added complementary hues – beige and red-purple – into the highlight and shadow respectively.
Here’s another couple of examples where I’ve used different hues to select a colour range that might work for leather, and a fleshtone:
Colour Scheme Designer – A Useful Online Tool
Not long after watching that DVD someone pointed me at an excellent web tool for choosing colour schemes. It’s designed for selecting colours for websites but is also really useful for picking colours for shading.
What I’ve found is that by incorporating complementary colours into the highlights and shadows I can get those richer and more visually interesting shades.
Instead of taking the directly opposite complement I’ll shift a little to either side on the colour wheel. Basically, I try to select the warmer of these complementary hues, lighten it right up and blend up to that for the highlights on the mini. I’ll then select a dark version of the cooler complement and use that for my shadows.
Here’s how I ended up with the colours for the cyan example above. Firstly I identified my midtone (cyan) on the colour wheel. Then selected the “triad” scheme – this gave me the two complementary hues I was after. I played around a bit with the settings for saturation and lightness and ended up with the following colour swatch:
You can see that the top 50% is my initial hue, with the bottom half representing variations of my two complementary hues. I opted the warmer light beige and the cooler dark burgundy colour.
Putting it into Practice
So how did I put that theory into practice then?
The cyan example I’ve cited above was used to some extent on his apron and gloves.
Additionally his purple shirt was highlighted to beige and shaded to turquoise.
Another example can be seen on Baby Kade’s teddy (right). Here I used quite a saturated blue-green in the shadows.
So, that concludes this epic post discussing some basics of colour theory and my explorations therein. I’m only really scratching the surface and experimenting at the moment so I’m sure there’s plenty I’m getting wrong or not properly understanding.
Anyway, I hope you’ve found it interesting and useful and I’d love to read any thoughts you have on the subject.