Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Creating a Colour scheme. Part 1 of 3

Having decided to write a series of tutorials on my Kastelan Robot I quickly realized that, before I get to all the fancy stuff, I need to go right back to the beginning. Colour is a fundamental part of miniature painting and a good understanding of how colour works is key to creating and controlling contrast.

No pressure then! 

Please note that our (devilishly handsome) model is not picking his nose.
He is pondering the mysteries of colour theory. Although this might
explain where he get's his snot green from!

Colour Theory.

To be honest this subject could easily fill a book so I’m going to keep things as simple as possible (here’s hoping) and explain my personal approach to colour and colour schemes.

That’s a very important point to stress because I’m not claiming that anything I write about here is the ‘only’ or the ‘best’ way of doing things. In the same vein, I’ll try to be clear, concise and consistent with the terminology I use and explain it where necessary. But you may well encounter different terminology from other sources. So please remember this is my way of doing and saying things, no more and no less.

First of all we need to understand the nature of any given colour if we are going to use it successfully. To help us do that we can describe a colour in terms of four values or characteristics. They are Hue, Saturation, Tone and Temperature.


Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple are examples of hues. The order I’ve listed them in relates to their position in the spectrum and on the Colour Wheel. The different hues contrast with one another in various ways depending upon their position on the colour wheel.


This is a term used to describe the intensity of a colour. A saturated colour will be rich and vivid while a desaturated colour will be washed out and pastel.


This refers to how light or dark a colour is.


This refers to whether a colour is warm or cool. This can be quite complicated because the relative temperature a colours will be dependent on context. For example while red is most definitely a warm colour a purple/red is cool next to an orange/red. But the Same purple/red would be warm next to a blue.

It’s important to remember that all aspects of colour contrast should be considered in the context of an overall colour palette.

The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel is a reference tool that can help us to understand the relationships between different hues. You may well find more complex versions elsewhere but the basic example I’m showing here has served me well since I was 14!

The hues are arranged around the wheel in a specific order that relates to their position in the spectrum. The three primary colours red, yellow and blue are at equidistant points with the intermediate shades between them. We go from red to yellow via orange, from yellow to blue via green and from blue to red via purple.

Adjacent hues are considered to be in harmony with one another. A colour scheme only using hues that sit next to one another on the colour wheel is called an Analogous Color Scheme.

Technically speaking analogous hues are three hues next to one another on the colour wheel. But for my own purposes I consider any adjacent group of between two and five hues to be analogous.

However, as hues get further apart from one another on the wheel they become less harmonious and more contrasting. Hues that are directly opposite each another are considered to possess maximum contrast and impact. A colour scheme using hues that sit opposite each another on the colour wheel is called a Complementary Color Scheme.

While it’s possible to use a solely analogous or complimentary colour scheme it’s also possible to include a combination of hues that features both types of contrast within the same colour scheme.

Analogous and complementary schemes are both built around a contrast between hues. However you will also need to consider the saturation, tone and temperature of those hues. This can greatly alter the nature of the colour contrast.

For example a green and red directly opposite one another on the colour wheel, and of roughly the same saturation and tone, will have an extreme contrast. This may be too strong and visually confusing. That is what’s meant when colours are said to clash!

In the next example I’ve lightened and desaturated the green while the red has been darkened. This has altered the contrast so that, although still very bold, it clashes less.

In the final example I’ve further adjusted the contrast by making both colours slightly cooler. Both the red and green now have a bluer hue making them slightly closer on the colour wheel. They are still complimentary but are now also more harmonious then the previous two examples.

If you are familiar with my work you may recognize that final example was the basis for my Gutrot Spume colour scheme.

The strongest and most obvious colour contrast on Gutrot is that between the complimentary hues of red and green. As shown above I’ve chosen to use relatively cool versions of both colours; but there is more going on with my colour choices than a simple complementary scheme.

In addition to the turquoise blue/green I have used other warmer yellow/green hues and together they make up an analogous grouping of colours within the overall palette. There is a strong temperature contrasts between the warm and cool colours. But a more subtle temperature contrast also occurs between the warm & cool greens. Most of the colours on Gutrot are saturated but they are in contrast to the desaturated brown & greys on his base and equipment. The tonal contrasts between the colours are relatively understated.

By understanding the characteristics of the colours in my palette I’ve been able to balance what might otherwise be an overcomplicated and visually unclear colour scheme.

There are no rules about what type of colour contrast you should or shouldn’t use when painting your models. The important thing is that you understand the characteristics of the colours you are using. You are in control and everything that happens in a colour scheme should be there because you have chosen to feature it.

Coming next...

I'll take a look at colour palettes and how (from my point of view) they differ from colour schemes. Then I will describe how I go about building a colour palette for my projects.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Weathering a Kastelan Robot – Part 1.

I’d planned to keep the details of this project fairly close to my chest because I’m painting it for my next workshop ‘Dirt, damage and decay - weathering a Kastelan Robot‘. However, as the workshop has been postponed (for obvious reasons), I’ve decided to share my progress in more detail. I’ll also be posting a series of tutorials, focused on different aspects of the weathering, over the coming weeks.

Why a Kastelan Robot?

My choice of model for this project has been a long process. The weathering workshop grew out of my previous Abyssal Warlord workshop. That was focused on painting the amour and especially on texture and damage. I’ve been on the lookout for a model that:
  • had lots of armour/hard surfaces;
  • was lighter and easier to handle than the warlord (he’s very heavy!); and
  • was more economical to use as a workshop model.

I very nearly settled on the Easy To Build Primaris Redemptor Dreadnought. But then I took a closer look at the Kastelan Robots and they fit the pill perfectly! In addition to meeting my criteria they had the benefit of being particularly appropriate for a weathering workshop. The model represents a ‘huge ancient robot built ten thousand years ago’ so it’s more than likely to have picked up a scratch or two. On a more personal note, with it’s rounded form and curved surfaces, the aesthetics of the Kastelan appealed to me more than the boxy Dreadnought.

With the model selected it was time to think about how I was going to approach painting it for the workshop. Broadly speaking this meant how much and what type of weathering was I going to demonstrate. Over the years I’ve expanded my repertoire of weathering effects and I wanted to go well beyond what I’d demonstrated in the Abyssal Warlord workshop. Off the top of my head, the Kastelan afforded me the opportunity to explore corrosion in the form of rust and verdigris, dirt, staining, battle damage and general wear and tear. I decided to go all out and maybe even over-the-top with the weathering. This would enable workshop participants to thoroughly explore the subject, it would also be fun!

The very first thing I did was to sit down and make some notes. These are simply a series of random jottings on my thoughts for things like techniques, materials, colours and the workshop’s structure. As and when I have a relevant idea it will get added to my notebook so that it’s not forgotten. And then it was time for my least favorite part of any project, preparing the model for painting.

Preparing the model.

If there’s one drawback with my choice of model it’s that there are a lot of parts to prepare and assemble! However, I think the model is worth the effort required. The process was a straightforward enough matter of following the instructions. But first I removed the mould lines by using a scalpel to scrape them away and then lightly sanding them with fine grit sandpaper. I like to wet sand a plastic model because I think it gives a smoother finish; it also stops dust getting into the air.

It’s well worth taking some time to study the instructions before you start, because later parts often cover up the mould lines on earlier parts as you assemble the model. This can save a lot of time and it’s most frustrating to carefully clean a part only to discover that it gets covered up! The same principal applies to gap filling. A little bit of planning and test fitting can go a long way towards making the job easier!

It’s also a good idea to think about the model’s pose early in the process. The Kastelan allows some degree of choice in the final pose so you need to consider the situation and setting the model will be in as well as the overall composition. You want to create something interesting and dynamic but you also need to be mindful of how easy (or not) the pose will be to paint. It was at this stage that I decided to leave the arms off and paint them as sub-assemblies. This would enable me to access the side areas of the model. I also considered keeping the legs separate for painting but decided against this. I wanted to establish the pose before I had committed to painting, and the relationship between the legs, hips and torso was crucial. It was more straightforward to assemble these parts unpainted. All in all I found the model quicker and easier to assemble than I’d expected and I’m very pleased with the pose I’ve created.

To prime or not to prime!

It was time to start painting and that meant I had to consider primer and basecoat. I know it still shocks some people that I don’t always prime my models before painting. This is very much my own personal preference not some rampant crusade against priming! I want as few layers of paint between myself and the detail as posible! I make my decisions on a model-by-model basis.

My models will not be handled once finished so I don’t need a primer to help protect them from wear and tear. For me primer is most useful in helping the paint adhere to the surface of a model. This is only really an issue on large surface areas which can be more difficult to cover with a basecoat alone, and may be prone to rubbing during the painting process.

In the case of the Kastelan I decided to go without primer. Although it’s quite a large model (for me) it’s made up of a lot of smaller surfaces and I didn’t anticipate any problems with paint coverage. When I paint a basecoat onto a model I prefer to use Citadel base paints, slightly diluted and applied in three to four thin coats. The first coat will look like a patchy mess but, as long as each coat is thoroughly dry, the coverage gets better with each successive coat.

The ugly truth! These are my basecoating brushes.
I've used them on all my slayer sword winning models!

I apply the paint with a dabbing (dare I say stippling) action. Spreading the paint as far as it will go before I reload my brush. A little dilute paint can go a very long way and this will help to ensure the finished result is smooth and even. The Kastelan posed a particular challenge to this process because the model has a lot of nooks and crannies. Getting paint into all these tricky areas took a lot of concentration and was a little frustrating. Repeatedly checking the model under different lighting and studying it from every angle are the best ways to deal with the issue. It’s very important to spend time and effort getting a good basecoat down. You do not want to be finding any spots of unpainted plastic halfway through a project!

In my next posting I’ll be looking at my choice of a colour palette and how I use that to create an overall color scheme for my Kastelan Robot.