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Wren

More Contrast isn't Realistic?

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I shared a link recently to a blog post I wrote about understanding the feedback 'needs more contrast'. A common response that I've gotten to that is the feeling that high contrast is not realistic so what is a person who wants to paint in a realistic style supposed to do? So I thought I'd talk more about WHY so many instructors and painters emphasize increased contrast so much, and why painting with more contrast might be more realistic than you might think.

https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/10/01/contrast-versus-realism/

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Some really good points especially about using photo references (even if it's a bit tough to find a chick in chainmail lately :P) no but seriously, I use a lot of reference pics in my terrain pics for the same reason, or for textures like rust etc. So using them for figures is a really good point.

 

I love David Petersen's work btw =D

 

only thing I might add is I suppose it also depends on what you're wanting from your miniatures. Not all of mine for instance are really for show, or RPG (not saying I don't want to get better!) just there's quite a few that are probably going to be ok viewed from arms length because it's an army of 'em. Contrast is important of course but I'm not sure you'd probably go as far as a one off piece maybe? (Well, some people do, but some people are crazy or aren't building a horde of orks! lol)

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4 minutes ago, Guildenstern said:

only thing I might add is I suppose it also depends on what you're wanting from your miniatures. Not all of mine for instance are really for show, or RPG (not saying I don't want to get better!) just there's quite a few that are probably going to be ok viewed from arms length because it's an army of 'em. Contrast is important of course but I'm not sure you'd probably go as far as a one off piece maybe? (Well, some people do, but some people are crazy or aren't building a horde of orks! lol)

Not so sure about that.   The biggest thing that convinced me I need more contrast on my minis was playing for a couple hours across from someone who had speed painted an army of Space Marines.  My minis clearly had the better paint job when looked at closely, but his high contrast dry brushing looked better on the table. 

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51 minutes ago, TaleSpinner said:

Great article.  I left my comments there.

 

As did I.

 

At some length. :ik_oops:

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I would actually say that contrast is even more important for tabletop miniatures than for display miniatures. With display minis, you're taking large photos and hoping people will pick them up and look very closely. We want tabletop miniatures to look great and read clearly from two feet away or more. Contrast is a strong tool for making things look good at a distance and distinguishing different items and textures. Colour contrast is pretty critical for tabletop, but dramatic light and shadow help too. 

That's precisely why I scaled down some of the pictures in this post and the previous one. So you can get an idea of how things look on a miniature at arm's length. If you go to the previous post you can see the figure I painted with more and less contrast scaled down. At the bottom of this post is a rogue's gallery of figures I've painted over the years. Some of them look pretty boring at that size because they are older figures that I didn't paint enough contrast on. Just like the row of real people. The ones with more dramatic shadow and light out in the sun stand out a bit more than the ones who are indoors.

The other issue with tabletop minis is that they're more likely to be viewed in poor lighting (like a basement or dim game store) than a display miniature. So the more you exaggerate the contrast with paint, the more they'll stand out on the table even if the light is a bit dim.

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I have notoriously dim light in my house, with the only exception at my painting desk where I use 4 very bright lights.  I was thinking about Rhonda's posts about contrast and snapped a photo of my shelf that has most of my completed minis on it:

shelf.jpg.f938bf6673904cb38585fca0563fa61d.jpg

 

If you've seen my stuff in person, you know I go for some pretty strong contrast. But looking at everything under a dimmer light, it's harder to see.  The main reason I took this picture was to show that the minis that stand out the most are the ones where I painted white- either fur or cloth or bone.  It shows how reflective a color white is, even at a distance. But, it also shows that at "tabletop" distance, my stuff look pretty bland.  This I think is interesting, because it shows how much harder we have to work to make things believable at our scale.  Great posts, Rhonda!  I'm really enjoying your blog!!

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Thanks Erin! I think your shelf is a great example of why contrast works so well. Sure, the figures with white or near white are what stands out on first glance, but you don't have to look a lot longer to see other figures start popping into view due to your skilled use of high saturation colours and other overall contrast. On your Dark Sword bust way at the back of the shelf the facial features stand out distinctly from the skin due to the great contrast between your darks and lights within the area of the face. (And the chest. ;->)

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Another great read! I have started getting photos of random things I see as reference photos. Last night I was lamenting that I don't have a good flashlight right now - I wanted to get a high contrast photo of the bust I am about to paint before I dig in. *puts flashlight on shopping list* 

 

Suggestion for another topic, if I may? Realism vs Looking Cool. Patterns, OSL and fire or firelike effects, or using slightly "wrong" hues for visual effect are also some of the things mini painters may do. A cloth pattern on a person may be narrow, but conveying that on a mini is different. Fire is well, fire color, but we can paint magic fire kinda however we want (and however we want should still look interesting). Black hair doesn't actually reflect blue, but sometimes using blues instead of straight black-gray-white looks really neato (doesn't have to be blue, but as an example). 

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1 hour ago, Cyradis said:

Last night I was lamenting that I don't have a good flashlight right now - I wanted to get a high contrast photo of the bust I am about to paint before I dig in.

 

Just did that about 2 weeks ago, though I used a hard keylight (bluish LED flashlight) and a soft fill light (3500K LED panel) on the other side. I shot photos from all the way around the bust and high front and high rear shots as well. I've done the very first skin basecoat but haven't really started the bust.

 

I'd recommend thinking very carefully about exactly where you want your keylight to sit. The effect will vary quite dramatically with light position, especially when using a hard light. I went with something closely related to Rembrandt Lighting, but there are certainly other choices.

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I definitely want to be thinking on it lots before slapping paint on, but having the tools to do the photos first would be handy. 

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12 hours ago, Cyradis said:

Suggestion for another topic, if I may? Realism vs Looking Cool. 

 

Thanks for the idea Cyradis! I've got a bit of a stockpile, so I'm not sure when I'll get to it exactly, but I like it. (Also maybe best to give the realism fans a moment to calm down from my previous assault on their beliefs. ;->) Hopefully I'll paint something or two that fits in with the idea before too long to have some handy examples.

 

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You kinda wrenched up their world view, huh? :poke:

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14 hours ago, Cyradis said:

 Fire is well, fire color, but we can paint magic fire kinda however we want (and however we want should still look interesting). 

 

According to Mike Lavallee, fire is quite a few colours...  Including 'Candy' colours.  

 

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This has been a very helpful thread - thanks!  I have already started paying more attention to contrast in my painting since reading your blog on this.

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