Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Painting Purgatory: More Thoughts on Color

A couple of weeks ago (while I was gone on vacation) there was a painting class taught by Mathieu Fontaine at a relatively nearby LGS. I wasn't able to attend obviously, but some of the people on a local painters yahoo group posted their thoughts and learnings from the class which made for fascinating reading. Now I should point out that the people on this yahoo group are pretty serious painters, many of which have won awards and/or been studio painters. So when these guys kick around tips, I pay very close attention. It also helps that I get to talk with some of them at least once a year at events like KublaCon. Matthieu of course is a fairly well known multi-GD award winner and teaches masterclass workshops quite frequently. I wish I could have attended the class, but the highlights from the yahoo group will have to suffice. So what are some of those highlights?

Shading color choices: When picking a color to shade with, choose one that is one step in either direction from the complementary color of what you are shading. And don't use black. - I've talked about this before, but this refinement is an interesting revelation for me. When you combine complementary colors together, they tend to cancel out each other's intensity. So for example, if you are attempting to shade blue, rather than add red to the blue to create a shading color, use orange or purple. This will help preserve the color intensity better. And of course, using black or the straight complementary color will just dull down the overall appearance of the color. Depending on what you're trying to accomplish of course, this might be an appropriate option.

7-8 color palette: Sticking with a more limited pallete can actually make for a better end result. - The concept here is pretty straightforward actually. By limited the number of colors used, you create more harmony in the overall composition. The trick here comes in the form of picking the right colors such that the end result is still dynamic and interesting to the eye. Some people have even done a more limited pallete with remarkable results, such as Eric Johns' famous Ramos which was painted using just 3 colors.

Use warm/cool to emphasize depth: Warm colors appear to "pop out", while cool colors appear to receed. - This is an old traditional 2-D technique, but applies equally well to 3-D painting for miniatures. There are both physical and psychological reasons for this, but warmer colors (yellow for example) tend to feel closer while cooler colors (blue for example) tend to feel farther away. Consider this painting. The yellow-ish figure appears closer despite the fact that physically she's oriented farther away. The same applies to minatures, and I've used this technique with my highlighting sometimes, especially faces. Using a warmer tone for highlights will help the surface appear closer, while using cooler tones for shading will make those shades seem to receed even farther back.

There's so much to learn about color that it's impossible to learn most of it without making a career out of it. Still, for us humble painters looking for tips, there is a lot of simple color theory that can be applied without too much effort. No doubt I'll have more posts on the topic in the future as I continue to unearth more of these little gems.

Interested in books on color and composition? Here's some suggested reading:
Color and Light: A Guide for Realist Painters by James Gurney
Digital Texturing and Painting by Owen Demers
Interaction of Color by Joseph Albers


Mike Howell said...

Wonderful! Thank you for posting this.

FilmExile said...

Thats a very interesting post. I'm a novice painter and new to colour theory. It looks like its something I'm going to have to look more deeply at. Thanks.