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Friday, July 10, 2015

+ inload: Theoretical – painting marble +

+ inload: Theoretical – painting marble +

+ Part one of a marble tutorial. This part's the theory; I'll follow up with a step-by-step of the nitty-gritty next week. +

+ Marble is a lovely effect, and great for adding interest to large flat areas on your figures and terrain. It's also quite a forgiving way to practise your freehand work as there's no 'right' way for the result. This is because marble is a very varied stone, which can be found in all sorts of colours and arrangements, as you can see below. Of course, that's not a good reason not to put your best effort in – but be reassured that even if the results aren't perfect first time, you'll have some great practise work under your belt. +

+ Where to start? +

+ As you can see from the examples above, the first choice to make is to decide what sort of marble you want to paint. Not all marble textures and colours will translate to miniatures well. The one on the far right is a little close-textured, and at a small scale will simply look like dirt or fur. The one second from right has some lovely striations, but is a little pale and insipid. +

+ Colour-wise, it's well worth thinking about the colour scheme you're using. White marble is probably what most people think of, so that's the default. It's also good for most colour schemes as white is a neutral hue, and will go with just about anything. However, as you can see from the two examples on the left above, marble comes in an array of different colours, so the effect will work with any hue you choose – pick something that'll go with the rest of the scheme. If your colour scheme is already very complex, stick with either white or black. If it's simple, then play around with complementary or harmonic colours. +

+ Finally for your preparation, I really suggest you pick up some reference material. A quick search online will reveal loads of lovely marble textures, and of course you can go outside and have a search yourself. Very little will help your understanding of a surface or an object as much as inspecting it close-up. +

You don't need to go to Rome to see marble, but it helps! Just check out the swirling patterns in those columns.

+ The difference: Painting marble, and painting marble in miniature +

+ A general note on freehand at this scale is to remember that, generally speaking, you're aiming for effect more than photo-realism. This is because the areas you're covering are very small. Once you've added the artificial highlighting and shading – which is what creates the impression that the miniature is something life-size but far away rather than small – you may find that very subtle effects are almost lost. + 

+ To help avoid this, you can exaggerate the tonal range: i.e. make the light areas in the marble lighter than they really are, and the darks correspondingly darker. You need to find a balance between making the effect visible to the viewer, and over-egging it. If you're painting a centrepiece model intended to be picked up and examined, you can be much more subtle than with a gaming piece intended to be viewed at arm's length. +

+ Where to use it? Focal points and special effects +

+ The next stage is to work out the part or areas of the figure you want to paint with the marble effect. As with much in life, it's easy to have too much of a good thing, and using too much of a 'special effect' – or putting it in inappropriate places – can spoil the result. A good example might be using a marble effect on a Space Marine. The torso or pauldrons are good places for the effect – the chest and shoulder are symbolically martial and masculine, and therefore good for warlike honorifics. The effect thus becomes a boast or display of prowess and strength. Conversely, a foot, groin or backpack painted with a marble effect will appear odd to most viewers, as it doesn't fit with cultural expectations of honorifics. As a result, the impact will be lost. +

+ Special effects – whether marble, object source lighting or anything else – will naturally draw the eye. They therefore work best to create a focal point on the figure, or frame an existing focal point. +

With the face partially covered, the figure's traditional focal point is partially lost. High impact freehand chequers beneath the area help to draw the eye back to the area and act as a frame for the head, restoring its position as the main focus. A marble effect would achieve the same effect and work well on hard armour, but is obviously inappropriate for the cloth here (as well as being a bit poncey for ded 'ard Goff like this!) 
+ For single infantry models or other small figures, I suggest erring on the side of caution with adding marble effects. Suggesting a lone marble foot on an otherwise 'normal' marine is an extreme example of inappropriate placing, but the same also applies to painting the whole figure with the effect. Nothing ruins the impact of a good effect than over-use, because this dilutes the effect's ability to draw the eye to the focal point. +

+ As a general rule, marble effects work best on large, smooth surfaces as there's sufficient space for the effect to be seen, and they won't be lost or confused by other textures. I also suggest that you start out with areas that are near the surface of the figure (i.e. not in recesses.) The advantage of this is twofold. Firstly, on a practical level, such areas are easier to reach with the brush! Once you've practised a bit, you'll soon be able to get the effect elsewhere, but getting the basics down well is always worthwhile. +

+ Secondly, these areas will be seen. There's a certain Quaker-like pleasure in knowing that you've painted something properly (like the inside of a vehicle) before sealing it away from the light forever, but marble areas on infantry figures will almost always serve a ceremonial or honorific purpose – and thus be intended for display. + 

+ Some suggestions for likely areas:
  • Reliquaries or similar objects
  • Weapon hafts – or blades
  • Torso and shoulders
  • The figure's base
  • Any large smooth area, such as an Eldar Wraith-construct's head, plates affixed on top of a Warjack's hull
  • Areas underneath a scroll or other decoration (the scroll itself will look nice in a contrasting metal)
  • Shields. Perhaps not hugely realistic, but a perfect surface. Likely more promising for sci-fi or advanced cultures/magical warriors rather than low-tech barbarians.
+ Some areas to avoid:
  • Helmets – although this may seem a good idea, as the traditional focal point, there tends to be too much sculpted detail and texture on helmets and head to allow these to work well. 
  • Functional areas. Any part of a figure that requires post-battle maintenance or is 'teched-up' is likely to be made of more sturdy, simple materials.
  • Very thin or small parts. Shoulder trims seem like a good place for the effect, but the effect may be visually confusing or ineffective. 
  • Textured areas. As well as obvious furry/scaly/chainmail-covered areas, keep an eye out for rivets at the edges of otherwise promising areas. It's often a hint that the area is functional rather than decorative.
  • Any areas that are already busy. This may be owing to the sculpt, or due to other freehand decorations. Don't gild the lily. 
+ There are exceptions, of course, for both areas to avoid and those to focus upon. Ultimately, trust your instincts and aesthetic sense – only you know what you're trying to achieve. +

A good example of ignoring rules in favour of a good result. Here, the marble effect is set on a studded area, and it meets with a freehand chequers. However, note that I've balanced this by making sure the plate is non-functional (it overlays the functional ceramite pauldron beneath), and that both freehand effects are relatively subtle (the chequers are in a thin strip, and the marble itself is both neutral in hue and subtle in contrast). The trim on the shoulder pad itself (studded part at the top) has been left blue rather than receiving further complex detail; and bot the marble and chequers help to lead the viewer's eye to the focal point of the figure: Guilliman's face.

+ Larger Figures +

+ Models like tanks and Dreadnoughts, being larger than infantry, can stand more special effects. In fact, being made up of larger, less textured surfaces, they're great for trying out the technique. However, as with lone figures, be wary of going overboard. Here, the skill of working out where to place the marble is more down to working out where it shouldn't go. +

+ Again, try to think in terms of the model as a real thing. Even the lunatics of the 41st Millennium are unlikely to carve a whole tank out of marble; but it's entirely feasible that part of it could have an overlay of fine marble. Again, think of the purpose of the marble as honorific: to terrify the enemy and inspire your allies. A I mentioned in an earlier inload, the placement of markings and decoration should serve an in-universe purpose. Make sure the marble is facing the enemy, or in the eyeline of the friends you want to inspire. +

+ Even on unusual figures like the Mechanicus war machine below, making decisions that make some sort of real-world sense will improve the result. Here, the marble is used to frame the focal point: the tech-shrine at the heart of the machine. The apex of the arch also leads the eye to the secondary focal point (the driver/pilot/instrumentalist). To the Adeptus Mechanicus, the machine is holy. They wouldn't mess with the Machine Spirit itself, so the functional-looking parts such as the big wheel thing at the bottom remain undecorated. A protective decorated metal plate has been fixed on top of the device, and the whole thing has been encased in an exotic green marble. +

+ From a real-world point of view, the functional part remains inviolate, and thus appears more realistic. You can imagine the whole piece being lifted out of the ambulatory engine for ritual maintenance, or the metal plate being taken off to get to the important parts beneath. + 

+ Note that the marble's green colour complements the overall red scheme, drawing the eye to an otherwise large and complex area and establishing it as the focal point. The marble trim covers a relatively small area of the model's surface, but there's no doubting the shrine-engine is the most important part of a visually quite confusing model. +

+ Summary +

+ Coo, quite a little diatribe about marble painting threory there. As I mentioned at the start, I'm planning a follow-up on the practical aspects of painting marble, so keep an eye out next week. +

+ As always, if you've any questions or suggestions for improvement, please do let me know in the comments. +

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