+ inload: Creating an army of your own III: muted paint schemes +

+ Creating an army of your own – part III: muted paint schemes +

+ This is the third part in a series of articles on creating and developing your own personal army. In part I, we looked at picking a name and generating the seed of a culture for your army, which led into you building the first model of your force. Next, we looked at the option of how to tackle an heraldic style paint scheme. +

+ But perhaps you're not a fan of heraldry, and want something a bit more realistic, or subtle? In the next few inloads, the datalooms are combed for alternative approaches to colour schemes – from the grimy and gritty to the highly stylised. +

+ Noosphericinloadlinks +

I – Invitation and overview
II – Paint schemes and heraldic schemes 
III – Muted schemes [This inload]
IV – High impact schemes [Spooling]
V – Analogous schemes [Spooling]
VI – Enemies and allies [Spooling]

VII – Building a world: developing a culture [Spooling]


To kick off, a little overview of the different schemes we'll look at over the next few inloads: 

  • Muted – Using naturalistic and often earthy colours, muted paint schemes make a virtue of subtlety. 
  • High-impact – The polar opposite of muted schemes, high-impact schemes bring instant clarity and definition to miniatures. 
  • Analogous – This sort of colour scheme makes use of closely-related colours to give a harmonious effect.
As before, this isn't primarily advice on how to apply paint. The main aim of the article is not to show you how to paint, but what to paint. Your painting techniques and style are key to giving your models character, so the key advice here is really hung around answering the questions of 'what colours do I use, and where do I put them'?

With that said, there's a step-by-step included at the end if you'd like a walk-through.

+ Muted schemes: Theoretical +

Using naturalistic and often earthy colours, muted paint schemes make a virtue of subtlety. This type of scheme incorporates real-world camouflage, so it includes more realistic military wear and naturalistic creatures. For this reason, it can be a great starting point for forces like Imperial Guard, Tau or tyranids. 

Unlike the bright, eye-catching primary/secondary combinations of heraldic schemes, muted schemes incorporate less contrast in hue; often using desaturated (that is, slightly greyed-out) earthy hues; the maroons, browns, plums and mossy greens of the tertiary colours. 

[+viscaptaccreditation: Lucifer216]
The termagant above is a good example of the use of desaturated hues. The underlying scheme is red, yellow and blue; but the specific paint choices Lucifer216 has made – a ruddy brown, cream and soft blue-grey ensures that the creature looks natural, rather than as though painted. 

Note that the red carapace is highlighted with a creamy hue, while the cream skin is shade with a ruddy hue. The effect is that there are colour bridges created between the different areas, helping things to look co-ordinated, and for the eye to flow. 

Note, however, that the different parts of the figure still stand out – the gun, carapace and soft skin all 'read' cleanly. When using a muted scheme, the result will naturally lacks a certain sense of contrast. The aim is to make sure that the figure doesn't dissolve into a blurry mess.

...and talking of blurry messes, here's one of my hapless Lamb's World Guardsmen. Using real camouflage patterns will – unsurprisingly – break up the lines of the figure and make it hard to read. If you choose to use camouflage and want to retain some impact, then you need to make sure to build in points of contrast to make up for the lack. You can still approach this with some subtlety.

When you first look at the guardsman above, your eyes probably roam around a bit, then settle on the goggles. I've used a clean secondary colour (orange) to paint these. Warning colours, like red, yellow and orange, naturally draw the eye, so including them as accents is a good way to direct the viewer and give them a visual anchor.

The camouflaged areas are painted with contrasting versions of the same hue: a desert yellow midtone, cream tint (light tone) and dark brown shade (dark tone). Note that the disruptive pattern is restricted to the fabric areas – and even then, the cuffs are plain. A block of plain fabric stands out – a more subtle example of contrast than seen in heraldic schemes. The reason for this is to create another visual anchor. Multiple anchors like this help lead the eye around a figure, and keep the viewer's interest; avoiding the risk that the viewer looks at the focal point, then moves on.

The armour and weapon are painted in a plain earthy green for these areas. I applied it without any disruptive markings, and highlighted and shaded it as normal. I used a similar tone to the fabric's midtone in order to keep the overall figure muted. Compare this with the Tau soldier below:

Here, there's a stronger contrast between the armour areas and fabric – so why isn't this a high-impact scheme? There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the colours – near-black and near-white – have been neutralised, becoming slightly earthy. Secondly, the two aren't in balance. There's far more dark armour visible than light fabric, so the overall effect remains muted.

Just like the termagant above, there's also some 'bleeding between' the tones. The light fabric is shaded with the addition of the dark armour colour; and the dark armour is highlighted with the addition of the light fabric colour. Although the puttee-like lower leg covering used a third colour (again, an earthy brown hue), it sits in between the light fabric and dark armour in terms of tone, helping the two areas to blend visually. 

I going to look more closely at basing in a later inload in this series, but note that on both the Fire Warrior and Guardsman above I have used a fairly plain base that is a lighter tone than the figure itself. This simplicity helps to frame the model. The more complex the basing, the more it draws the eye away from the figure – and that's a pain for muted schemes, where the challenge is to provide realism with making things dull. On the same note, the rim of the base is a midtone – darker than the top to provide contrast – but not black, as this would contrast so much that the eye is drawn there.

Talking about stopping things getting dull, since the scheme is basically black and white, I could get away with a couple of accent colours. Warm orange tactical markings lead the eye to the bright green lenses. As the point of greatest contrast, these form a visual anchor and focal point, which goes to show that highly-contrast cool hues like acid green and ice blue can work just as well as warning colours to draw the eye.
+ APPENDNOTE ++ Keep markings on muted schemes simple and iconographic for best effect. Lines, geometric shapes and symmetrical blotches work well. Anything too complicated will get lost. +

+ Salamander [heraldic] +
It's also worth noting that muted schemes aren't restricted to more 'modern military' forces like Guard and Tau, nor to midtone schemes. The Plague Marine above has some elements of an heraldic scheme – the pauldrons demarcated from the rest of the armour, for example, green (usually secondary) as the subdominant – but the overall effect is muted. 

This is because the specific green I chose is actually a tertiary olive green, and the white is effectively a very light red-brown (rather than the yellow- or blue-tinged whites more associated with heraldic schemes). 

Compare the green of the muted Death Guard with the primary green of the heraldic Salamander [viz ref: right] for another illustration of the difference between muted and heraldic schemes. There's a huge amount of 'visual bridging' in the Plague Marine, with the colours muddied and mixed and combined together through use of blending and glazes, and that helps it step away from a strict heraldic finish.


+ Muted schemes: Practical +

When picking your colours, bear the following points in mind:
  • Tertiaries Tertiary colours are anything you can make by combining a primary (red, blue, yellow) and secondary (green, orange, purple) paint. Generally, they're greys, browns and so forth. Sticking with these will naturally give a muted effect. Three colours is a good start. Anything more becomes a lot of hassle to balance. With that said, the more paints you use, the more effective your camouflage (for example) will be.
  • Keep the tones muted  Make sure your tertiary colours are distinct in tone (i.e. you include tints, midtones and shades), but not markedly so – avoid anything approaching white or black. 
  • Visual bridges  Try to avoid hard breaks between all areas of the model by using midtones between lighter and darker areas.
  • Saturation  You can desaturate any colour simply by adding a hint of neutral grey (such as GW's Administratum Grey) to the mix; or by adding spots of both white and black, which have the same effect.
+ Black and white always have a 'deadening' effect on a figure, so for naturalistic muted schemes – where you want to retain a sense of warmth or coolness, you're better off adding a little of the colour's complementary. In paint, the complementary pairs are red and green; blue and orange; and yellow and purple. +

+ Applying it to your army +

Muted schemes have one huge advantage over other types of paint scheme, and that's that they're much easier to apply across an army. Unlike heraldic or high-impact schemes, which require consistency in hue, muted schemes can vary quite wildly and still appear cohesive. This is for the same reasons that bright reds and yellows catch the eye – but from the other angle. 

Browns, greys and drab tertiary colours are naturally elusive and easy to overlook. As a result, the brain glides over minor variations in hue, which leads to a nice naturalistic finish.

The orks of Luggub's Droppaz are painted almost entirely in tertiaries: greys, browns and a variety of olive-greens. All the tones are muted, and they are further bound together by common glazes that further bind the different areas together. 

Muted schemes are perfect for large military groups. They offer verisimilitude (if not realism), and tend to be relatively quick and forgiving. However, on the downside they can look drab – even dull – so they require just as much forethought as any other type of scheme.

If you decide to go for a muted scheme, do spend some time selecting your paints, and consider the tones more than the hues.


1 comment:

Dutch_Law said...

Great write up, thank you. It has given me a lot to ponder as I approach my next batch of minis.