Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the Desk: "Go To" Colors

Everyone has them. There's those 4 or 5 paints that see more activity than anything else. They are your "go to" colors. The ones you fall back to for whatever reason. In the myriad of discussions I have with folks about painting, this topic came up the other day and it was suggested I post about it, so here it goes.

Whether it's personal affinity for a color, or familiarity with how a specific paint performs, painters will find their own specific paints that they like. These colors may change over time, but a painter will tend to favor specific colors for stretches at a time. Let's look at a couple reasons and examples.

Utility - Some paints just present a lot of utility to them. They have flexibility to them that enables multiple tasks to be done, or simplifies specific tasks. The GW wash Badab Black is an excellent example of utility. It's really useful for black-lining around surfaces, or shading metals. P3 Menoth White Highlight on the other hand is really handy for lightening up a color for highlighting purposes. Paints chosen for utility tend to cause specific effects, whether that be through they way they flow or the color tone they introduce, as with the two above examples.

Performance - Some paints just perform better, specifically in coverage and consistency. GW metalics for example perform very well over pretty much every other brand of metals in this area. P3 Khador Red Base is another good example for it's good coverage despite being a red tone, which typically has challenges with coverage. Paints chosen for performance tend to stay as favorites until a better performing paint is found to replace it. These paints are also less likely to have a specific impact to the painting style directly.

Affinity - This has to do with what colors someone likes, and it obviously much more varied than the above reasons. Different people just like different colors. There's certainly some psychology to play into that, but I'll skip such discussion here. Needless to say, paints chosen for affinity do not themselves directly affect the painting style, but allow the painter to express their own artistic style.

Whatever the reasons, it's good to know when you favor particular colors and why you favor them. It's a good exercise from time to time to set aside a go-to paint and try out something new. Doing so can be frustrating, but will ultimately make one a better painter.

Ok, now that the theory is aside, let's talk about my own go-to colors to give you some concrete perspective. I've included some pictures of my own models for reference.

P3 Sanguine Base
Sanguine Base has become a favorite color for me for a couple reasons. Firstly, the rich red color gives a feeling of warmth, but provides more than just a typical red color. Second, I like how well it covers and blends. It's a tone that works well for shading both blues and greens. Here on this Raek is an example of using the Sanguine Base to shade the light blue flesh given a sense of warm flesh on the undersides.

P3 Coal Black
Coal Black has long been a favorite for me. I once read a tip from of not using black to shade with because it appears less natural. I experimented with using Coal Black instead and fell in love with the results. It provides a deep cool blue tone to shadows which has become a staple effect for me. I've found that VMC Dark Sea Blue is also a good substitute for P3 Coal Black. The two aren't exactly the same, but close enough that the dropper bottle format from VMC provides an added level of convenience well worth the tonal shift. Here on Kraye's horse, I used Coal Black to shade to create a cooler contrast with the base.

P3 Bloodstone & RPP Blood Black
Ok, I'm cheating a bit on this one by lumping two together. Both of these are rich brown colors. Bloodstone in particular is a complex color. Blood Black has a rough equivalent to P3 Umbral Umber which I had used previously before I found the RPP color. Although they are ideal colors for working leathers (as exampled on this Death Marshall), I find that they are useful in a number of areas, including both subtle and deep shadings of greens.

P3 Cryx Bane Base
Cryx Bane Base is more of a utility color than an affinity for me. I use this color for everything from gray cloths to rocks to flat steel plates. It has a rich greenish gray color to it which I've found that works well with a number of schemes. Here on this Vassal I used it in the deeper shading of the robes to provide a little harmony with the yellow and red colors. I have to say that I'm really fond of how well this particular paint blends, particularly using the 2BB method.

Using them together...
It's not uncommon for me to use more than one of those colors on a single area. On this Ravagore's chitin for example, I used Coal Black, Sanguine Base, and Blood Red in washes and 2BB to bring out the surface characteristics of it more. The colors are not applied uniformly though so as to create plenty of character to the chitin.

So what does knowing this do for me? Well predominantly my go-to colors are dark shades. I tend to work my way down from lighter colors and shade down more than highlight up from dark colors. Knowing this helps me to plan my colors and process better. I will often start with a base coat that is somewhere around 75% brightness of my overall look and work from there, although sometimes I'll even work from a white primer base and only shade down, working special highlights in as needed. In any case, knowing what your go-to colors are and how this affects your style can help to better develop your use of color.


David said...

My go-to paints have traditionally been umbral umber, gun corps brown, and cryx bane highlight. Ember orange and sanguine base are likely going to be added to that list.

Heiki said...

One of my go-to colours would be VGC Silver which seems to me the most reflective of metallics, more than GW Mithril Silver or P3 Quick Silver. For similar purposes (highlighting), VMC Metal Medium is also great.