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So, I have an idea for a diorama that's really meaningful for me, but I need some help. The idea requires several miniatures to be painted in black and white, but I don't know anything about monochrome painting. Does anyone have any advice or resources? I know at least one person on here does a lot of monochrome painting...

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It’s a lot like making a monochrome drawing.

 

If you mix your own colors it’s very easy. Just take white and your chosen color.

 

Use pure white for anything that would have been white or bright yellow. Use your chosen color in pure form for anything that would have been black and for blacklining and deepest shadows.

 

Everything else is tonal mixes of white and your chosen color.

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1 minute ago, Pingo said:

It’s a lot like making a monochrome drawing.

 

If you mix your own colors it’s very easy. Just take white and your chosen color.

 

Use pure white for anything that would have been white or bright yellow. Use your chosen color in pure form for anything that would have been black and for blacklining and deepest shadows.

 

Everything else is tonal mixes of white and your chosen color.

How do I figure out how dark/light a grey should be? Is there something I can compare it to? Basically, if I want to represent leather vs. cloth, how can I do that? 

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Just now, Paradoxical Mouse said:

How do I figure out how dark/light a grey should be? Is there something I can compare it to? Basically, if I want to represent leather vs. cloth, how can I do that? 

 

I squint a lot.

 

Seriously. It makes it easier to see relative tones.

 

If you really want to get technical, you can take a digital photo and desaturate it until it’s black and white (or the equivalent) and check out the comparative greys.

 

This is also good practice for seeing tonal relationships.

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5 minutes ago, Pingo said:

 

I squint a lot.

 

Seriously. It makes it easier to see relative tones.

 

If you really want to get technical, you can take a digital photo and desaturate it until it’s black and white (or the equivalent) and check out the comparative greys.

 

This is also good practice for seeing tonal relationships.

Ah. Both of those are great advice! I'll try that on it!

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Black and white filters onto photos can help. 

 

I think it was Wren that has the Noir style Chronoscope figures painted in monochrome black. They would be a great reference. 

 

My lion was only "mostly monochrome" as I used a spectrum of blues with similar hues but different tones and saturation for him. I need to give a whirl at some true monochromes soon. Currently working on some dragons that are "mostly monochrome" again. A neato, but different experiment. 

 

1 hour ago, Paradoxical Mouse said:

How do I figure out how dark/light a grey should be? Is there something I can compare it to? Basically, if I want to represent leather vs. cloth, how can I do that? 

 

Texturing! Similar to on a non-monochrome figure, but now it becomes something to help differentiate regions. Leather might be more beat up and worn - stipple in some slightly darker and/or lighter spots. Maybe the edges are ragged - swipe the texture on the edge. Your cloth might be really smooth; work on smooth blending. Perhaps it is more like canvas: you could use really fine small strokes in perpendicular orientation to depict this. For the lion (still need to photo him for show off, meh)... I gave him fur. I used a blue one step brighter than the underlying color and tiny-swiped fur marks on (a few areas with one step darker too). Almost like stippling, but with mostly parallel dashes instead of spots. Also think of just how shiny a certain thing will be. A sword will probably be shinier than cloth, so it would get higher highlights than say... cloth-wearing-shoulders. 

 

It may also help to choose slight tone variations between your cloth and leather, but texturing helps. So like... dark stippled leather versus light cloth. 

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I've painted some monochrome figures (example: link or search "monochrome Schubert" in the Inspiration Gallery) and taught classes about it at ReaperCon.

My main point is how the range of values (dark-to-light) and the size and shape of the highlights (broad or tight, smooth or stippled, etc.) can tell you what something is made of. 

Leather (for example) goes up to higher highlights than cloth of the same overall color (say, brown leather vs brown cloth), because we see reflections of light off the smooth surface of the leather.  If you want the leather to look old/scuffed, then the highlights might be stippled/rough and not so light, but probably still lighter than the highlights on cloth.

Look at B&W photos with a more critical / analytical eye.  You know what the materials are from the information your eyes give to your brain, but maybe only unconsciously; now figure out how you know it.  Then you can use paint to fool us into thinking we're looking at different materials on your miniature.

There's a lot more to it ... but I do fill 2 hours of a class on the subject!  :;):   I hope the advice from @Pingo and @Cyradis and me helps you get started. 

And I look forward to seeing your project.

Derek

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I also have a class, but like Derek, it's not easily condensed to a forum post. People have covered the key points. You need contrast in any visual medium, and doubly so for tiny miniatures. In a monochrome scheme you lose contrast of hue (colour), saturation (vivid vs dull), and complementary colours (colours opposite each other on the colour wheel 'pop' when placed near one another.) So you've got to really double down on the types of contrast you do have left.

Value is the number one. It helps a lot to make sure areas that touch each other on the figure are fairly different values from one another. So if you have very pale gray for the skin, you might give it black or dark grey hair, and then a medium value gray for the dress, then very dark/light for the shoes, etc. If the skin is pale grey, and the hair is white, and the dress is light grey, from more than a few inches away that all blurs into one shape.

Texture is also very useful, and it helps you bend the first rule a little if there are places where you have to. If the skin is a medium grey and the dress is a medium grey but you give that dress a woven cloth texture or make it look like shiny leather like Derek describes, then you differentiate the two visually in a different way.

Now here's the thing that's really useful about spending some time painting in monochrome - if you take those ideas and apply them to your full colour work, it'll be even better. Even when you are using colour, making adjacent areas distinct from one another in value and/or texture from one another adds immeasurably to how attractive a piece will look.

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Thank you all! I have a lot to go on to start it now. Thankfully, the diarama isn't all going to be monocolored, so hopefully even the monocolored portion will look good with the rest. I'm definitely going to end up posting a WIP, it'll by far be the hardest piece I've worked on.

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