This is actually a dual-purpose post: one part is that ++From the Warp++ was looking for members of its Blogger group to forward along "one painting tip that we think is very important," the other is that in the Techniques section on my site I haven't yet wrote anything about colory theory as it relates to coloration on a miniature figure. I can metaphorically kill two birds with one stone here, which is nice - especially since my aim is usually bad.
To state things simply, my one painting tip that I think is very important is that every painter should have access to (or memorize, get tattooed on themselves, etc.) a color wheel. If you want to own your own for physical reference, I'd highly recommend any of the standard ones from The Color Wheel Company (available at pretty much any arts 'n' crafts or dedicated art supply store on the face of the globe, I'd wager). One thing to remember, however, is that most color wheels show additive color: Red, Green and Blue colors of light when added together form white light. In mini painting, we are actually more concerned with subtractive color (a color wheel based on Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) - and conveniently enough, there are also versions of this style color wheel available in art stores.
Unlike additive color based on visible light, in painting and printing and other physical mixtures of pigments, when you add colors together you actually subtract lightness until ideally you would obtain pure black. Unfortunately, pigments are not as pure as wavelengths of light, and so instead of black, the best we can usually hope for is a muddy dark brown. In paints and in printing, in order to combat this, black is usually added to the overall palette of pigments used, among other reasons, but I'll rein in my tendency to ramble and stop here.
So what's the point of a color wheel, you might be asking yourself? It essentially shows the relationships between colors. Assuming you're using a color wheel with three main colors (and there are others, one fairly well-known being the Real Color Wheel by Don Jusko), then the essential idea is that from these three Primary colors, you can derive all the other colors of the visible spectrum. Each one is placed 1/3rd of the distance from each other around the color wheel. Secondary colors are created by mixing each of the Primary colors equally, and thus end up spaced midway around the wheel between each of the Primary colors - on your standard Red-Yellow-Blue Color Wheel, these would be the colors Orange (red + yellow), Green (yellow + blue) and Violet (blue + red). Using combinations of Primary and Secondary colors, you end up with Tertiary colors: Yellow-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Orange, etc. - this basically fills up all 12 "slots" around the outer edge of a standard color wheel.
So we've got 12 hues (or more, depending on your wheel) around the outside - now what? And how does this relate to miniature painting, exactly? Again, the whole idea of a color wheel is about the relationships between colors. Colors on the outside edge of the wheel facing exactly across from each other are called complementary colors - they are polar opposites and when combined, in theory "cancel each other out." They also look good and provide high contrast in a color scheme when paired together. If pigments combined the same as colors in the visual spectrum, an equal mixture of complementary colors would result in a dark neutral color (say, grey, for example) - as it is, with the impurity of pigments, in most cases you get a shade of brown darker in intensity (relative "vibrancy") than either of your two original complementary colors. This does work well in shading colors, though, for example if you've reached the end of a progression of red hues and don't want to forcibly darken things with the addition of black, a slight amount of dark green added to a dark red will result in what appears to be an even darker reddish hue.
Analogous colors are those which lie adjacent to each other on a color wheel, so Violet, Blue-Violet, and Red-Violet would all be analogous with each other - Violet being the "key" or dominant color tying them all together. Analogous colors look good together in a color scheme as well, but without the same "kick" that you would get visually from pairing complementary colors next to each other. By varying the relative vibrancy of a group of analogous colors through the addition of neutral colors like black, grey, or white, you could have colors in a scheme that would all tie together sitting near each other but without necessarily seeming bland, and then set those off with a complementary spot color in small amounts.
There's more ideas I could go into, but to save this from falling into the "thesis paper" category of blog entries (and to maybe give me more to write about in future if this is interesting to anyone), I'll wrap things up here for now.
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