Insider 4-30-2012

In my last blog, I discussed the basics of color theory. In this blog, I’ll define different color schemes used in art and design and then show you how to apply this knowledge to miniature painting. We should begin by noting that color schemes should be dictated by color harmonies. This is how colors work with one another to create a pleasing color scheme.

The basic color schemes are defined as follows:

Primary: Use only the primary colors in your painting. The colors available to you are red, yellow, and blue.

Secondary: Use only the secondary colors in your painting. The colors available to you are purple, orange, and green.

Tertiary: These are colors created by mixing primary and secondary colors together to get an interval between the two. For instance, mixing red and purple gives you a red-purple. Mixing blue and green gives you a blue-green.

Now, applied to minis, these schemes could be quite garish, but you can make it work. For instance, you could use a primary color scheme on a Cygnar army by beginning with blue, adding red for the trim, and then using gold as the main metal color. That uses red, blue, and yellow (in the form of gold metallic paint).

Other color schemes include:

Analogous: These are colors that sit next to each other on a color wheel. This includes the tertiary colors on a color wheel as well. So, if you’ve chosen blue, you’d also be using purple and blue-green. If you use red, you’d also be using magenta and orange.

Triadic: Uses three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel, such as purple, green, and orange.

Split-Complementary: A variation of the complementary color scheme; it uses the colors on either side of the complement. So, if you choose green, instead of using red as the complement, you’d be using orange and magenta.

Tetradic: Uses two sets of complementary colors. For instance, orange and blue and red and green used in a single composition.

Square: Uses four colors that are evenly spaced out on a color wheel. For example: red, blue, green, and yellow.

When contemplating a color scheme, it’s best to pick one or two colors for the main colors in your piece. This will depend on what you want to convey with your mini. Your color choices may differ if you want to convey that the mini lives in a cool climate versus a hot climate.

Remember, miniatures don’t have a lot of surface area, so you don’t want a lot of colors competing together. Once you’ve figured out your two main colors, use color harmony to determine colors for accents and small details. This will help your mini pop. The color will keep it interesting and keep the viewer’s eye moving around the mini. What you want to avoid is the viewer’s eye going to one spot and staying there.

Strictly speaking, black, white, and grey are not colors. They are either the absence of color (white) or the presence of every color on the color wheel (black). However, they can be worked into a paint scheme to provide an optical rest area. Black, white, and grey are neutral and do not compete with colors. Breaking up surfaces with a neutral will keep the eye moving through the piece. The eye will always be looking for the next spot of color.

Next blog I’ll show you some examples of different color schemes on the same mini and explain my decisions for the colors I used.