Mini Painting Tutorial

TristramEvans

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The purpose of this thread is to walk through, as clearly as possible, one method of painting miniatures that is a (relatively) quick way of producing high tabletop standard miniatures without requiring any degree of skill, experience, nor artistic talent. This is just one method of painting miniatures, and I make no claim that it is superior to any other, just that I think it's one of the easiest approaches for those who are hesitant about painting miniatures, or daunted by a large back catalogue of unpainted lead/plastic, and maybe hopefully even provide some new tricks for old hands.

I'm going to do my best to start out with to make this as generic as possible to apply to pretty much any typical 28-32mm scale miniature, with whatever hobby materials are readily available. To that end I'm going to be covering in-depth certain subjects that will not apply to every mini (such as armour and fur), but this is simply to cover all bases. Ultimately, not counting priming, a single mini painted using this method can be completed in less than an hour once you are comfortable with the techniques described. Just last week, using this method, I completed a Warcry warband in around 2 hours.

To start off I am going to assume that the reader has a basic knowledge of how to assemble and prep a miniature and is familiar with basic techniques such as drybrushing, washing, etc. If this is not the case, please feel free to speak up at any time and I will describe the specific processes and terms used.
 

TristramEvans

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Part I - Zenithal Priming

Zenithal is a term referring to the effect of light when the sun is at it's zenith during the day, meaning that light is cast directly from above. This is a particularly advantageous approach to lighting a mini that will more often than not be viewed from above on a gaming surface. Zenithal Priming has become popularized in recent years by the airbrush community, but I'm going to assume that, like me, you are not going to be using an airbush (I do own one but it sees very little use as I do not find it an enjoyable method of painting, TBH).

The purpose of Zenithal Priming is to establish a miniature's shades, mid-tones, and highlights even before you touch it with the paintbrush. Though the process is longer than simply priming, the extra effort at this stage will make the actual painting stages much quicker and easier.

To Zenithal Prime a mini, you will need three spray cans - one black, one grey, and one white. While spray primers can be purchased from any hobby shop, these tend to be very expensive (averaging $20 a can). A suitable alternative from a hardware store or auto supply shop can generally be found for a third or less of this price. If going this route there are three things you should look out for -

*Make sure that the spray can is clearly labelled as a Primer, and not "spray paint". These are often kept together on the same shelf, but the Primer will provide the "tooth" necessary for paint to cling to, is formulated to go on thinner, and will not "rub off" as easily once dry.
*Make sure that the Primer is described as "sandable". This indicates that the surface is durable and has the best possible aforementioned "tooth"
*Make sure the colours are "matt" (preferably "ultra-matt") and not glossy.

Once you've mounted the mini on it's handle, the first thing you are going to do is prime it completely black, just as you would prime any miniature. To specify, this means, wearing gloves and a dust mask/breather, in a well-ventilated area (garage or outside if possible), hold the mini by the handle approximately a foot and a half in front of the spray can and make periodic passes with the spray from all angles until the entire surface is covered. By "passes" I mean here that after a good shake of the can (quality primers will have an agitator inside that you can hear rolling about when you shake it, often called 'rattle cans' for this reason), start the spray to the side of the mini and run it across swiftly. This is to prevent overloading the mini with paint that may obscure fine details. Usually you'll want about 3 passes from every side, and from the bottom and top.

Once you've finished priming the miniature black, let it dry. Depending on the heat, this can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. Personally I will prime a bunch of minis at once and then leave them overnight. If I know I am going to have a day off or some free time for painting, I will generally get my priming done the evenings beforehand before bed, just so I have them ready and waiting to pick up and go when the time is right.

Now take your grey primer, and setting your miniature down (typically in a cardboard box), hold the spray can at a downward angle of around 45 degrees to the mini, and slightly further away than before (around 2 feet). This time you'll only want to do two passes, just to the front and back (unless the miniature has particularly wide sides). Keep the angle as much as possible, you don't want to accidentally re-prime the entire mini.

You do not need to wait for the grey primer to dry for this final step.

Now take the white primer and hold it directly above the miniature and just a tad further away than before (about 2 1/2 feet), and make a single quick pass over the mini's top. (Maybe two passes if you feel the spray was too thin, but you'll quickly visually be able to tell if this is necessary)

And once again, let the mini dry. When finished, it should look something like this:



Here's a good video illustration of the process (just ignore the stuff afterwards):

 

TristramEvans

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Step II - The Face

The face is generally going to be the main focal point of any miniature, and as such it's worth giving a bit of extra attention. Depending on the direction it was facing, it's downward slant, or if it's overcast by a hat, hood, or helm, it may have not caught the brightest of the Zenithal spray, so I will at times go in with a brief white overbrush. An "overbrush" is like a drybrush but a bit more paint is left on the brush, so midway between how one would normally apply paint and drybrushing.

If the skin of the mini is pale or caucasion, a nifty trick at this stage is, instead of overbrushing pure white, mix the white with an olive (2 parts olive/1 part white). This is something that comes from classical oil painting techniques - caucasion flesh tones over olive really makes them "pop" and gives them a lifelike glow, There's a bunch of colour theory behind that I won't go into right now but it's an option worth experimenting with (I'll also do this for the cleavage of a particularly busty mini).

Now let's tackle arguably the hardest part of any miniature - the eyes.

I'm going to give a few options here depending on your tastes or skill level, but either way the first step here is going to be to "black out the eyes". This means pretty much what it sounds like, paint in the eyes with black or very dark grey (such as Vallejo Dark Rubber). If you feel really uncomfortable painting something this small you could instead apply a dot of black wash to either eye. In this case my recommendation would be Vallejo's Dark Grey wash. Just applying it as a small dot in the center should cover the eye.

The easiest option at this point is to simply leave the eyes blacked out. In many cases, especially with human minis, this looks just fine on the tabletop (even moreso if this figure is one infantry member of a unit).

But if you want to attempt the eyes than the first method is to take an ivory or other off-white (you don't want pure white for this as it will look odd), and then using your smallest brush with sharpest point, carefully place a dot of paint on either side of the eye, leaving a black iris in the centre. Try your best to get the sides even so they don't look cross eyed.

The other easy option is to carefully use the ivory/offwhite to paint in a small oval-shapped slit in the eyes. In both cases, you want to retain the black outline, but if you mess up you can always go in and fix it (that's why we are doing the eyes first). Once you have a pleasing eye shape (and the paint has dried), use a 0.13 mm or 0.18mm rapidiograph pen to dot in the irises. Rapidiograph pens can be found at Michael's or any other art supply shop for a few bucks. Kol-I-Noor is the best known and most widely available brand, but Microns are just as good and generally cheaper. In a pinch, you could use a sharpie pen, but I don't recommend this as it's not archival ink, meaning the colour will fade over time.

pen_samples.jpg

If using this last method, the biggest issue you might have is the ink rubbing off if the eye is brushed or handled at any point. As such I recommend immediately afterwards (allowing about a minute for the ink to dry) going over each eye with a very thin amount of Testor's glosscoat. If this seems too shiny, don't worry, we'll be using dullcoat at the very end of painting that will knock thateffect down. However, in some cases the shiny effect of the glosscoat is quite striking, so you may want to leave it.

That's it for tonight, next couple parts tomorrow evening.
 
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K_Peterson

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Seems like a good thread to sticky?

I've never attempted eyes, but I'm going to pick up a radiograph pen and try it out with the next painting project. Seems like you'd get more accuracy and steadiness with one than a brush (at least, with how comfortable I am with a brush).
 

Brock Savage

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@TristramEvans when you continue your tutorial I'd like to hear your .02 on lighting. If I don't paint using natural light my colors invariably look a little off unless I'm using a tried and true formula. Help!
 

TristramEvans

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@TristramEvans when you continue your tutorial I'd like to hear your .02 on lighting. If I don't paint using natural light my colors invariably look a little off unless I'm using a tried and true formula. Help!
Hey, just got home was going to continue in a bit. When you say lighting, do you mean creating the artificial light source on the mini itself or the light that you paint under?
 

TristramEvans

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I mean the light that I paint under.
OK yeah, the pigment of paint is going to look totally different under different light sources, with Natural Light providing the purest colour. I'm lucky now that my current painting area/study has a great big window facing east, but for years I was in the darkest little basement apartment. Luckily there is artificial solutions. I guess first question is do you have access to an Ikea?
 

TristramEvans

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To expand a bit, generally speaking, what you are looking for in a painting light is something that gives off a nice, clean tone, meaning not too far in the warm, yellow end of the light spectrum, or too far into the cold blue end of the colour spectrum. Either extreme will affect your colour perception, and can trick your eye into thinking that the paints you are using are something they are not. Standard incandescent houselights are very warm in tone ( because they're created by heating up a tiny filament that creates more heat than light). Fluorescent bulbs otoh are very blue in colour (as that light is created by sending an electrical current through a gas filled tube to excite the molecules). Neither method creates a form of light that approximates natural sunlight.

What you'll want are LED "Daylight",bulbs which basically mean they produce light in the 5000k to 6500k range. This is the sweet spot of lighting, as far as painting is concerned, with this range allowing our eyes to see colours on our palette and miniature w/o them being tinted or colour shifted.

As a warning though, don't just look for the word, "daylight", on a bulb, as that's become a marketing term like "organic", or "all natural" for foods.

This is the first consideration, the second is that you want to always be using two lights and different angles - one primary light source, and one to cancel out the shadows. As long as yoiu've got the right bulbs, it doesn't matter if one is a desk lamp and the other a standing houselamp, or what have you. But the ability to alter the position of at least one of the lamps is quite advantageous, especially if you can get it shining directly above ypur painting surface.
 

TristramEvans

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I mention Ikea as they have basically everything you need at a good price, When I was in that dark basement, I used (and still own and use, especially at night) one FORSA work lamp on my desk (https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/p/forsa-work-lamp-black-80146777/) and one RANARP floor lamp (https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/p/ranarp-floor-reading-lamp-off-white-90231303/).

You don't need those kinds specifically, but I've found them a godsend. Whatever lamps you are using though, these are the bulbs you want:

 

TristramEvans

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also, don't confuse "lumens" with "kelvins" Lumens refers to the brightness of a bulb, "Kelvins" is colour temperature, and this is what's important for painting
 

Brock Savage

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Sweet. I hope I didn't derail the thread but that info was helpful; I usually paint late at night or very early in the morning when wife is asleep.
 

TristramEvans

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Part IV DRYBRUSHING

Drybrushing can be a bit of a messy endeavor, but it's the best method for particular surfaces on a mini, so it's best to do before getting to the painting so any mistakes can be corrected or covered up. In particular we're going to be drybrushing two specific elements that may be on your miniature: armour and fur.

If neither of these apply to the mini you're painting, you can skip these steps. However, likewise, if these represent 75% or more of the surface of your mini, (such as a Knight in full plate or a giant rat, for example), then you're better off probably skipping the zenithal priming altogether. Again, here I must acknowledge this is not a one-size-fits-all method I'm describing. It would be largely pointless zenithal priming a skeleton, as it were, unless you were going for a showpiece. A great tabletop quality skeleton can be done with a simple combination of washes and drybrushing, which I assume probably everyone knows (but, on the offchance anyone doesn't let me know).

However, assuming your mini only has a bit of armour (such as a breastplate) or fur (such as on a cloak) this part is for you.

What's important to note here is the reason we will be handling these surfaces differently from the rest of the mini is that light reflects differently on metal and fur surfaces than on skin or clothes.

The first step in both cases is that, like the eyes above, we are going to "black out" any of these parts on the miniature. For standard steel or iron armour (or the fantasy equivalent of your choice), this literally means black. Carefully (because you don't want to mess up the zenithal prime you've worked hard to create on the surrounding areas) paint all the areas of armour black. If there's a particularly difficult edge, the best approach is to lay down the brush slightly away from the edge of the armour and then gently "push" the paint forward to cover the surface. A bit of flow improver (roughly 1 drop to 5 parts paint) will help with this, but you don't want to dilute the paint too much with water so that it becomes runny.

For other metals (like Gold or Bronze) you'll want to use a dark brown instead (brown makes gold in particular extra shiny). For fur, the choice of colour you use is largely up to you based on the finished colour scheme you want, but by default a dark brown is generally going to be fine. Most natural fur, even those that appear white or grey, has a brown tone to one degree or another.

Let's cover all the steps for armour first however, and then go on to fur.

Once the areas of armour are blacked out, choose your metallic of choice ('ll post my recommendations at the end, but any variety of "gunmetal" is generally good), and prepare a very light drybrush. The most common pitfall regarding drybrushing is having too much paint on the brush - a good rule of thumb is if you run the brush on your thumb (or any piece of skin, I tend to use the back of my hand) and leave a visible mark of paint, there's too much on the brush. When drybrushing a piece of plate armour, the best approach is to start in the top middle and "scrub" the area in small circles rapidly, almost like you are burnishing or polishing a piece of metal, gradually working outwards. Reload the brush as needed, but be patient and careful each time that you are wiping the majority of paint of the brush.

For chainmail, you instead want to quickly and lightly brush across the area in the opposite direction of the links.

Next, you want to do a thick ink wash over this area. For steel/iron you'll want a black wash, unless you want a rusted look, in which case use a brown or sepia. Use a brown or flesh wash for gold or bronze (Citadel's Reikland Fleshade Gloss is particularly good for this). Now here's the tricky bit: you want to cover the area in the ink wash (being very careful not to get any on surrounding areas, so best to work in small sections at a time), and then before it dries entirely, but it's dried enough to be sticky or tacky to the touch, take the tip of a sponge and lightly dab away the wash from the center or top center of each plate, For chainmail, wipe down in stripes to give it the impression of folds.

Wanted to type up more tonight, but it's getting very late and another long day tomorrow, so I'll save fur until then, and then we'll get on with getting on painting the mini proper.
 

Brock Savage

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I thought I knew everything about drybrushing but the "scrub" technique and final ink wash + sponge are completely new to me. Looking forward to your next post, you are motivating me to get off my ass and set up a dedicated area for painting.
 

TristramEvans

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Fur is handled similarly to armour, in that it's a combination of washing and drybrushing. Because there are innumerable shades of furs, however, I'm going to go over the process individually for 3 types; brown, grey, and white, and one should be able to extrapolate to apply this process to other colours.

For brown fur, first you want to go over your blacked-out (or browned out, as it were) area with a dark wash, either a black or dark brown. Citadel Nuln Oil or Army Painter Strong Tone is good for this. Once this has dried, you want to do a heavy drybrush of a medium to light brown (your chosen midtone). Giving this a moment to dry, now do a diluted wash with a brown or sepia (around 1 parts water to three parts ink). Again, wait for this to dry, and then do a very light drybrush with a tan or sand colour, concentrating on the tips of the sculpted fur.

For grey fur, it is pretty much the same process, except we're not starting with a wash. Do a heavy drybrush of grey first, then a dark wash. Once dried follow this up with a heavy drybrush of grey mixed with a bit of white. Then a diluted wash. And finally a very light drybrush of white.

For white fur, follow the same steps as grey fur, but end with a heavy drybrush of white instead of a light one.

To be clear here what do I mean by a "heavy" vs "light" drybrush? This is not about how much paint is on the brush, with all drybrushes you want a minimal amount of paint as described above regarding armour, otherwise you will get a "chalky" effect. It's about how hard you press the brush onto the surface. For a heavy drybrush you basically want the brush in direct contact with the surface, pressing down as you move back and forth rapidly. For a light drybrush, you instead want to only breeze across the surface, with no pressure applied.

For this reason, while I use a flathead brush for heavy drybrushing, my preferred tool for a light drybrush is actually a an old makeup brush I pilfered from my GF,

It's also important to note that it's vital during this process to let the washes dry completely in between stages, otherwise you'll just be mixing the paints and spreading around this brown concoction.

At the end of this tutorial I'm going to go into some more advanced techniques to take this even further if you want really realistic fur, which basically involves extending the process described, and doing concentrated washes in certain areas, but I'll just note now that if you want to do "stripes" on the fur that look realistic, the best way to do this is to paint the stripes on with an ink wash. This will take about 3-5 passes, the first time you may not even notice an effect, but by the third time redrawing the stripe with the wash the contrast will be striking.

OK, so enough about that tangent, next let's get to painting the mini!
 

TristramEvans

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I thought I knew everything about drybrushing but the "scrub" technique and final ink wash + sponge are completely new to me. Looking forward to your next post, you are motivating me to get off my ass and set up a dedicated area for painting.
I find the fantasy wargaming/mini painting community to be a bit insular. A lot of the more interesting tricks and techniques I've picked up tend to come from the historical side of the hobby.
 

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STEP 5 - THE FACE (Again)

Reiterating that the face is usually going to be your focal point, we're going to put a bit of extra care in it. So, as a general guide, we're looking for something like this picture from Prometheus:


prometheus_main_660.jpg

The highest highlights on the brow and nose, the mid-tone on the top of the cheeks, mouth area, and chin, and the shade forming a sort of wide "H" with the cheeks and chin and directly under the nose.

With the previous overbrush, depending on the sculpt of the mini, you should have a decent guide in place that looks similar (if not, or the overbrush covered everything, that's OK. As you can see it looks dramatic enough with the eyes left black, but if you did the eyes, this will only serve to accentuate them.

So, we are going to start with the shade colour first. I'm not going to specify here, as there's multitudes of skin tones, especially in fantasy, and this technique is pretty universally applicable, though again, at the end, I'll probably give my list of suggestions/preferences.

This technique is easy and fast but it's going to take some explaining, as it's probably a bit different than you normally handle paint. What we are looking for basically is the highest intensity with the most control.

Take your dark tone and lay a drop on your palette. Now, take about an equal-sized drop of water and lay it on the palette next to, but not touching, the paint (maybe around 1/4 inch / 5mm away give or take). Now what you want to do is very slowly, using a circular motion with your brush, draw the water up to the paint and very lightly let it seep into the water. The minute it contacts the water it should start gently flowing in, and just use this to rake the paint in with light circles of your brush. Just be very gentle and as the paint swirls into it, continue mixing in the water puddle. Don't ever actually stick your brush in the paint, just allow the paint to seep in as your circular brush strokes spread out the puddle. Periodically take your brush and test the consistency a little ways away. You want it to be vibrant but transparent, the best frame of reference being like if you were to use a highlighter pen on a newspaper. Basically coloured water,similar to a wash.

Once you've got the right mix, we want to get rid of most of the water, otherwise it is going to act like a wash. So what we do is load the brush from this puddle and then lightly touch the tip of the brush onto a paper towel. This will draw out the majority of the water from your brush, and leave you with what is essentially concentrated pigment, which is what we are going for.

Now place this in the areas you want shades. Your brush will unload the most pigment and the end of any brush stroke, so you want to lightly guide it towards wherever you want the deepest areas of shadow. So, for example, the cheeks, start at the bottom of the face and lightly guide it up to underneath the cheekbone. This will probably take about 3 brushstrokes per area. Focus on under the cheekbones, across the top of the chin, under the nose, and right below the eyes (moving towards the nose), again referring to the picture above as a general guide.

Now we're going to repeat the same process for the midtone, but in this case draw the edges just a bit into the areas already shadowed.

Finally, for the highlight, while you can follow this same process, if you want them to be a bit more dramatic, simply paint a "t" shape" up the nose and across the brow and then lightly touch the chin, maybe the outside cheekbones to taste. If the contrast is too stark, then take a wet brush and simply feather the edges of the highlight into the midtone.

Once you've let this dry, you can finish up the details such as painting in eyebrows (you can again use a rapidiograph pen for this depending on their size) and lightly staining the lips (just the lower lip for males, both lips for females).
 

TristramEvans

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Just so you guys know, I haven't forgotten about this, but it's the first week back to school so I've been swamped. I do have the next two posts semi-completed on docs though, and will get them up this weekend. Doing a brief overview of colour theory and how it applies to miniatures, before getting into the painting process, which is actually quite simple (we've covered all the complex stuff already), just a bit different than the standard approach as we're basically just tinting to allow the zenithal highlighting we did to do all the work. After that I'll talk a bit about some simple but really nice-looking basing options, and from there on out I'll be periodically posting some more advanced techniques.
 

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PART VI COLOUR THEORY 101

So, just before we get into the final painting, it's worth taking a minute to talk about colour choices, and how those effect the overall look and impact of a figure. Colour Theory is a pretty complex subject, so I'm just going to hit on the basics here, starting with the colour wheel.

Colour-wheels-with-names-1024x377.jpg

I'm betting pretty much everyone here was exposed to the colour wheel at some point in school. Red, Yellow, and Blue are the "Primary Colours". Mixing those together, you get the "Secondary Colours" orange, green, and purple, and so on. A favourite subject of elementary art class teachers and a popular poster for kindergarten classrooms.

And it's complete bullshit.

Colour in reality is formed in two ways: by light (actually the human eye's manner of perceiving light, but that's deeper down the rabbit hole than we need to go), and from the absorption of light. The technical terms here are Additive Colour and Subtractive Colour.

Additive Colours are generated by light, and the Primary Colours of light are Red, Blue, and Green. This is the colour source used by TVs and computer screens (if you're close to my age or older you may recall the big projector screen TVs s that had a large red, blue, and green bulbs to create the picture).



In the Additive Colour Wheel, red and green combine to form yellow, red and blue combine to form magenta, blue and green combine to form cyan, and all the primaries mixed together form white.

additive-color-wheel.jpg

Of course, since we're not painting minis with lasers, this isn't very useful to us.

The colours formed by minerals, pigments, and dyes (essentially the components of any material you might be painting with) are examples of Subtractive Colours, those formed by the absorption of light. This is, as the name implies, the exact opposite of Additive Colour, and thus the Primary Colours are Magenta, Cyan, and Yellow (a trio you may recognize if you've ever dealt with ink cartridges for industrial printers).

main-qimg-bd06a1161bce72a8e427270381fcca94.gif

Likewise, here magenta and cyan combine to form blue, cyan and yellow combine to form green, and yellow and magenta combine to form red. Black is the total absorption of all light, just as in Additive colour it is the absence of all light.

Extending this to include tertiary colour transitions we get the Real Colour Wheel (often referred to as the CMY colour wheel)

colour_count_and_discover_cmy_wheel_poster_uk-re92630fa98ec48a4abbbbd76b7374cfe_wzz_8byvr_540.jpg

OK, but besides mixing paints, how does this help us? Well, because Colour Schemes...
 

TristramEvans

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Even if you know nothing about colours or colour theory, you will innately get the sense that something is off when something is painted without use of a colour scheme. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but something about the mini will seem jarring or garish. This is because not all colour schemes are created equal. We are, on an instinctual level, affected by colour combinations. This is a very deep-rooted aspect of human psychology, and it's here where you find Colour Theory crossing over with other scientific and Behavioural Science disciplines. But we don't need to go into all that, the good news here is there are some very simple and straightforward rules you can follow to make sure that your paint choices are pleasing to the eye.

"Pleasing to the eye" is a colloquialism that essentially means balance and harmony with colours. This means pretty much the same thing as it does when applied to music, and in fact music overall makes a really good analogy to colour. If you want to get twee about it, you could say "colour schemes are to the eyes what music is to the ears". I'm not sure who you would say this to, or why, (maybe you're trying to chat up a hippy?) but you could say it.

Balance can be explained much more literally though. Imagine you have a physical colour wheel, maybe printed up on some cardstock or something. And you positioned this on top of a a ball in the centre. And then for each colour you used in a colour scheme you placed a small stone atop that colour. Well, obviously if all the stones are on one side of the wheel, it's going to topple over. so you want stones on opposite sides to achieve balance. The colours that make up this balance are called Complementary.

In other words, to find the compliment for any colour, all you need to do is find the colour opposite it on the colour wheel. For example, green is the compliment of magenta. red is the compliment of cyan, and so on. The most basic colour scheme you can choose is one main colour, and one secondary complementary colour.

mixing-warm-and-cool-colors-mixing-cool-and-warm-colors-in-decorating.jpg

However, this form of balance is a bit unstable. If either is moved in slightly the wrong direction to one side or the other, the balance is lost and the wheel topples. There is a solution to this, but we'll talk about that in a sec, for now a much sturdier balance is achieved by a Colour Triad.

A Triad is a scheme of three colours equidistant apart on the colour wheel, forming a triangle. The simplest example of this is the three Primaries, magenta, cyan and yellow. But green, red and indigo is also a triad, as is purple, orange, and aqua.

as.jpg

But let's take this a step further and say you have an imbalanced scheme that you want to balance out, or you want to "reinforce" a balance to make it more stable.

This is where Colour Harmony comes into the picture.
 

TristramEvans

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K, before we get into harmony. real quick let's talk about Neutral Colours. Neutral Colours are "cheats", in that they exist outside of basic colour schemes. They "go with everything". This is your blacks, whites, greys, and browns (brown technically isn't neutral, but it can be used as such, mainly because we accept it as natural, because it combines so many other colours). We also treat metallics as neutral (again, they aren't really, but for our purposes can be treated as such. I may get into metallic colour schemes when I go into the more advanced stuff). To reiterate: you can use any Neutral Colours with any colour scheme, and this will likely cover mainly incidental or accent items on your figure - belts, boots, gloves, hats, armour, necklaces, etc.
 

TristramEvans

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Colour Harmony is defined as "the manipulation of lightness and chroma within a given selection of hues so that all colors contribute to an intended visual effect." Again this is a pretty complex subject, so we're just going to focus on one small practical aspect of it. Specifically, Saturation and Temperature.

Saturation refers to the purity of a colour. The colour itself is referred to as a Hue. This is the most basic description of a colour - red is a hue, cyan is a hue, etc. A hue in it's purest form is considered fully saturated. Fully saturated colours are intense and vivid, but also read as unrealistic. This is why "fantasy colours" in paintlines tend to be more saturated than "military/historical colours".

The Value of a colour then refers to it's location on a scale from full to no saturation.

There are three scales of Value referred to as Tones, Tints, and Shades, achieved by the addition of Neutral colours grey, white, and black.

A Tone is achieved by adding increasing amounts of grey to a colour.
A Tint is achieved by adding increasing amounts of white to a colour.
A Shade is achieved by adding increasing amounts of black to a colour.


1200px-Tint-tone-shade.jpg

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Colours harmonize when they are variations of a hue within the value scale. or the same value, regardless of hue.

Colours harmonize more, the smaller the hue difference between/ them (analogous harmony), and the smaller the value difference between them, regardless of lightness or hue (chromatic harmony). Moreover, colors harmonize more when lighter valued and/or more saturated colors occupy a smaller visual area than darker and duller colors, in proportions equivalent to the degree of color differences among them.

Harmony is visually pleasant, looks natural, and subtly implies a relationship between the various parts of a miniature. But it's also boring and doesn't hold the eye's attention. Our mental process is hardwired to ignore harmony, the way that unless you are focusing on them, your perceptions will filter out the details of the natural world around you.

So in order to call attention to the details of a 28mm miniature, to make it visually interesting and stand out when viewed on a gameboard, we combine harmony with Contrast.
 

TristramEvans

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So, contrast is partly informed by balance. Complimentary colours on the wheel will provide a degree of visual interest. But balance and contrast is also formed by another dimension of colour, Temperature.

Basically, this is just a division between Warm and Cool colours.

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Warm colours are considered vivid and energetic. These include red, orange, magenta, and yellow. If you think about the colours that make up fire, you aren't too far off.

Cool colours are considered soothing and calm. These include blue, indigo, and violet. If you think about the colours associated with water, again you're pretty close.

In actuality, any colour can have a Warm or Cool variation. The spectrum of greens and purple stradle the line, but there is such a thing as a warm blue and a cool yellow. But you generally won't need to worry about that, we can discuss that more in advanced techniques.

The important thing to keep in mind in regards to colour temperature is to approach it in broad strokes. The easiest way to balance this is between a figure and it's base. If the figure is primarily cool colours, then it will look much better on a warm base, and vice versa. As far as the neutral colours go, for these purposes it's best to consider white and brown as warm, and black and grey as cool.

One final neat trick to keep in mind is that our eyes perceive Warm colours as moving towards us and Cool colours as moving away from us.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER


Basically, taking a few moments to plan out the colour scheme for your mini and base is just going to push it that much further without actually needing any painting skill. I'm a big advocate of the "three foot rule" in regards to painting, meaning, generally speaking, any mini used in a tabletop game is in the majority going to be viewed around 3 feet away by participants. There is a very real phenomenon where would-be painters will see a bunch of professionally painted show minis online, and easily get frustrated and discouraged with their own efforts by making an unfair comparison. The thing is, most of those Crystal Sword and Golden Daemon winners are meant to be viewed a few inches away from the eyes. They look really good when professionally photographed or in a lighted display cabinet at eye level, but they actually don't look that significant were you to plop them in with a bunch of minis on the tabletop. Getting to the point where you can have a beautiful and immersive experience in a game is a bar way lower that anyone can easily achieve.

Anyways, enough theorywank, time to get this mini finished...
 

TristramEvans

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So I want to apologize that I've been late on continuing this thread - the rest IS coming, but unfortunately mid-terms caught me a bit by surprise and the majority of my free time has vanished. I even had to cancel all my gaming for the next few weeks. I'm in a special program where what would normally be 6 years of studies at most schools is condensed to 2 years (and a final big, 3-day long test) to become a chartered accountant. It is considered one of the most difficult programs in the country, with only 21% of participants graduating, and this semester is intense, with me taking 16 classes (with an average of 3 hours homework for each of those classes). That essentially means 3 weeks of mid-terms and then 2 weeks before I start taking Finals. It's during those 2 weeks I plan to finish up the first part of this series.
 

Brock Savage

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No worries man, real life comes first. Thanks for the heads up. If you could touch briefly on basing I'd appreciate it.
 

Bunch

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So I want to apologize that I've been late on continuing this thread - the rest IS coming, but unfortunately mid-terms caught me a bit by surprise and the majority of my free time has vanished. I even had to cancel all my gaming for the next few weeks. I'm in a special program where what would normally be 6 years of studies at most schools is condensed to 2 years (and a final big, 3-day long test) to become a chartered accountant. It is considered one of the most difficult programs in the country, with only 21% of participants graduating, and this semester is intense, with me taking 16 classes (with an average of 3 hours homework for each of those classes). That essentially means 3 weeks of mid-terms and then 2 weeks before I start taking Finals. It's during those 2 weeks I plan to finish up the first part of this series.
God damnit! I want my updates! I find your putting yourself ahead of me, some random internet wierdo, unacceptable. If you continue this behavior I can only see you ending up as a CPA instead of an unemployed blog writer. So disappointing.
 
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