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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting Purgatory: Speed Painting Is The New 40

So I discovered today that the new blogger editing interface doesn't protect me from my own html editing mistakes and screws up the layout if I don't close tags properly. Lovely. Anyway, now with that mini-rant out of the way, here's my latest update.

A while ago I was planning to start a series of posts about speed painting, but that project sort of burned out quickly. However since that time I've noticed a lot of revitalized interest in the painting community in terms of painting armies quickly but still having good results. Dipping has been around for a while, but to be honest I can't stand the idea of it. For one thing it still requires the longest effort of painting which is getting solid base coats. Another reason is that if you ever want to strip the model, you're out of luck. And finally, I just have a personal revulsion to the methodology (no offense meant to dippers out there).

However, glazing and washing are techniques that get you similar results but can save you time over the dipping method depending on how you go about it. When I was painting many of my Cryx models, I used glazes and washes over straight white primer and found that I got a lot of good results. There is a catch though. These techniques can sometimes leave you with less consistent look to the surfaces, but that may or may not be a benefit given the model and your own style preference. Personally I like the variation in the surface colors because it gives a more natural look. There are times, like when you are trying to simulate enameled metal, that this breaks the visual cues of the material being implied.

In a recent No Quarter article, studio painter Matt DiPietro demonstrated the "underpainting" technique and it seems to be getting more and more attention. My first link to share is Adary's Scrapbook where he's been making attempts at this technique with good success. If you look closely at the last photo you can see how the black undercoat darkens the tone of the color in key places (like knees and fabric folds) where light wouldn't be hitting it as much. My second link is to a tutorial on Hand Cannon Online by Ghoul (who is an amazing painter). He gives a very good description of the process and paints a whole unit. He also gives some very educated history of the technique from well before miniature painting.

Seeing a revitalization of "old master" techniques being used in miniature painting is pretty interesting. As I continue to listen in to various painting communities, I encounter more and more of these sorts of things happening. The past is ripe with knowledge and experience, we just have to tap into it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Painting Purgatory: Reflections

I know there isn't a conspiracy against me, but sometimes it feels like it. I got back from a month long vacation out of the country just a few days ago. During that time there were contractors working on remodeling the kitchen and dining room of our townhouse. In order to accommodate that effort, everything got moved out of those areas into the spare bedroom, garage, and whatever other space we could make. The project was supposed to be much further along, but due to extensive dry rot and foundation problems the project is way behind schedule. So our 3Bed/2.5Bath townhouse is more like 1.5Bed/1.5Bath, which is a pain especially with an 18 month old. Anyway, this has put a serious freeze on any painting activities for the time being while the work gets finished. So even if I can't get any proper painting in, I can catch up on a month's worth of reading from the painting community and spend time posting some of the other ideas I've had for blog posts. Honestly, I had forgotten what a stress relief painting is for me. It'll be nice to have our house back to working order, but equally nice will be the ability to clear out my painting space properly so that I can get some good cathartic relaxation in. In the mean time, I'll be posting a bunch of random thoughts about painting inspired by the catchup reading I'm doing.

So the first item that struck me as interesting was a very recent post on the Wyrd painting forums here. It's a discussion about how to tie a group of models together theme-wise. There's some beautifully painted models in that thread, but the discussion itself is pretty interesting. There's as many ways to tie together a group of models visually as there are to paint a model. There's obvious methods like a uniform color scheme across an entire army which is one of the most common. Other folks have used unified basing to bring together disparate models. I myself used this for all my Cryx "pirate" type models. And then, as is beautifully exampled in this post, a couple key colors can be used for elements of every model in the group to tie them together visually while not making them overly similar. Now these are just some simple examples, but there are plenty of others. Another example is my friend Lance's Lava Trolls, which are tied together by a visual theme of fire. Now what method you use depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the similarity (or dis-similarity) of the models being painted. This thread on the Wyrd forums was more relevant than other games since the Wyrd crews tend to be much more varied in style. In any case, the discussion here got me thinking about creating a unifying look to a group of models, particularly in light of starting a Skaven army soon, so I thought I'd share this with folks out there.

So what do you do to create a uniform look to a group of models? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!