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Baldur8762

Mixing paint, highlights and shadows

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Hello all,

 

As I develop as a painter, I am becoming more adventurous in mixing paints.  One of the nice things about the Learn To Paint kits was that it demonstrated just how easy it is to mix paints for darker and lighter tones. 

 

My question however is, what tones should I be using to mix for shadows and highlights? For instance, if I have the triad set for a colour, would it be better to mix my base colour with the lighter or darker tones to get shadow and highlights or would it be better to mix using pure black and white paints? I assume you can do either for similar results, but I suppose the question is, what is the most efficient and uniform way of assuring the colour you want?

 

Thanks everyone!

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Hey Baldur,

while I am by no means an expert when it comes to miniatures, I'll still try to offer my advise.

Mixing a color with black or white will not only make it lighter or darker but also change its saturation (they will be less saturated). This might just barely be visible in some cases, but more extreme in others. 

What you need exactly might be up to the situation, but if it's your goal to adjust only the brightness of a color, I would mix it whit a lighter/darker color of similar saturation.

 

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This is actually quite a complicated topic.

You can mix in white or black, but your resulting color will be pretty desaturated; the color you add white to will be more pastel, and the one you add black to will be more tinted. 

You can also mix in the complementary color for shading; this will often give a brown tone (for example red + green = brown).

Some people like to use cool colors (blues and purples) for shading, as shadows are often cooler in nature. Then, yellow tones for highlights (cream colors, or even yellows).
There is no one way to do it; all of them can work, and will give interesting results. It just depends on what you want. Best thing to do is try mixing colors and see what you like.

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Nunae has it right. The "temperature" of the color is important too. "Warm" colors tend toward the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum while "cool" colors tend toward the green-blue-indigo-violet end. In most shadows appear cooler while high lights appear warmer. So you can mix a little bit of a cool color into your base for shadows and a bit of a warm color for high lights. Black, white and gray are generally considered cool, so white is not always the best choice for high lights.

 

For example, when painting red I might add a little green for shading, and a little yellow for high lighting. If I were painting purple then blue would my choice for shading and red or pink for high lights.

 

One thing to keep in mind is to not use complimentary colors for high lights. Complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel, and will reduce the chroma (purity) of each other and tend toward shades of gray. This works well for shading, though. This is why I would not mix yellow with purple for high lighting purple.

 

This is all a vast oversimplification of color theory, but will get you started. Later on in your hobby career you can dive down the rabbit hole of color theory, if you dare. There are some passionate artists out there.

 

And ninja'd by McLimbin. I type too slow.

Edited by DocPiske
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Do a search on color wheels and color theory. In general, you add white and yellow for lighter colors, and purple for darker ones. 

 

As for triads, you have the shade color, shade color plus base, base color, base color plus highlight, and highlight. Also, search on color gradations on a wet palette.

 

The easiest way to learn, imo, is to greyscale / monochrome paint a miniature in black and white. I sometimes to do this when painting individual figures, painting the colors on the figure on top of the greyscale. Less work, and if it's good enough for the Dutch Masters, it's good enough for me! 

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When I mix red and green I get blue.  Sometimes purple.

 

Mind, it depends which red and which green you start with.

 

See further:

 

 

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Wow, I thought my question was going to be one of the less challenging ones! I had no idea how much went into colours!  I took some of all your advices and applied it to my work for this evening.  If you're interested, please go check it out in my WIP thread for Isabeau Laroche.

 

I have no artistic ability and zero knowledge of art theory so this is all very, very, alien to me.  Is there a good beginners guide to colour that anyone can recommend?  Like a "Complete Idiots" guide type book?

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9 minutes ago, Baldur8762 said:

Wow, I thought my question was going to be one of the less challenging ones! I had no idea how much went into colours!  I took some of all your advices and applied it to my work for this evening.  If you're interested, please go check it out in my WIP thread for Isabeau Laroche.

 

I have no artistic ability and zero knowledge of art theory so this is all very, very, alien to me.  Is there a good beginners guide to colour that anyone can recommend?  Like a "Complete Idiots" guide type book?

 

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox.

 

Lots of people swear by it as a clear introduction to color theory and paint mixing.  Check your local library.

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For all their faults (alluded to by Pingo above), color wheels provide a decent place to start thinking about color theory. Among other things, they have notes about different ways of thinking about colors that go together.

 

But they're only a flawed way to start.

 

I think most painters would consider real color theory to be a moderately advanced topic, since it's quite complex, both in concept and in execution. Your best bet, IMO, would be to start with a color wheel and pick color combinations on that basis while looking at what other painters whose work you like are doing and thinking about what you like and don't like about the results you're getting. Other good sources are fashion and decorating books and shows, which address many of the same issues that painters do.

 

But if you ever get really serious about color theory for painters, you might look at buying "Blue and Yellow don't Make Green", which seems to receive the widest recommendations on the subject.

 

Recommendation ninjaed. ^_^

Edited by Doug Sundseth
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The information above is all pretty good.  Have no fear it can be learned.   I started with much the same feeling about my painting ability.   Though to add a bit of confusion to the mix, I've used cool colors to highlight and warm colors to shadow on figures to experiment.   I believe Kuro stated that he has used the triad as a starting point then he goes a step further with the highlights and shadows.  

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Look for any color theory that uses a color wheel with analog, complementary, and other combination of colors. Try searching on "Color theory color wheel analog complementary". I use 'em as "cheat sheets" to come up with color schemes! :lol:

 

Also look for color theory that discusses "neutral" (?) colors, such as brown, metallics, grey, which will work with any color. 

 

So, for example, I'm painting an orc army. Required colors are green, metal, and brown. I have some shields and clothing I want to paint for them. So, selecting a complementary color scheme (which result in contrasting colors), I select red. Yep. Contrast. It's pretty unsubtle, but these are orcs. The orange is there because I experimented, and, while it fits with red (because it's an analog color), I don't think the orc looks as threatening as the one with the red shield.

 

pic3414943_md.jpg

 

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3 hours ago, Baldur8762 said:

I have no artistic ability and zero knowledge of art theory so this is all very, very, alien to me.  Is there a good beginners guide to colour that anyone can recommend?  Like a "Complete Idiots" guide type book?

 

Tons of great points have already been made in this thread, but I just wanted to pull this quote out.  (Emphasis mine.)

 

The part I bolded is categorically untrue.  There is no human being on the planet that is utterly devoid of artistic ability.  We are wired to look for patterns, appreciate beauty, and represent ideas abstractly.  It may be true that you have no knowledge of art theory at the moment, but that's a temporary condition.

 

Several studies have shown that a willingness to acknowledge that you have the capacity for growth (in other words, that you can change your skill level at something via learning and practice) is all that's required for pretty impressive gains.  Were you born knowing how to ride a bike?  Make a tasty sandwich?  Read?  Comfort a friend?  Change a tire?  Nobody questions whether a person can learn to do those things, and yet we sometimes put things like math and art in a separate bucket and assume you have to have some innate ability in order to be a part of those "clubs" so to speak.  The key is that you can't compare your first steps to what someone else is doing after years of practice.  (And really, you needn't compare yourself to others at all except as a means to gain inspiration or motivation.)

 

If you're skeptical, check out the story of Austin's butterfly on YouTube.

Edit: Even if you aren't skeptical, it's worth watching.

Edited by Pineapple
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10 hours ago, DocPiske said:

Nunae has it right. The "temperature" of the color is important too. "Warm" colors tend toward the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum while "cool" colors tend toward the green-blue-indigo-violet end. In most shadows appear cooler while high lights appear warmer. So you can mix a little bit of a cool color into your base for shadows and a bit of a warm color for high lights. Black, white and gray are generally considered cool, so white is not always the best choice for high lights.

 

For example, when painting red I might add a little green for shading, and a little yellow for high lighting. If I were painting purple then blue would my choice for shading and red or pink for high lights.

 

One thing to keep in mind is to not use complimentary colors for high lights. Complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel, and will reduce the chroma (purity) of each other and tend toward shades of gray. This works well for shading, though. This is why I would not mix yellow with purple for high lighting purple.

 

This is all a vast oversimplification of color theory, but will get you started. Later on in your hobby career you can dive down the rabbit hole of color theory, if you dare. There are some passionate artists out there.

 

And ninja'd by McLimbin. I type too slow.

so you would use analogous colors for highlighting?

5 hours ago, Silvervane said:

believe Kuro stated that he has used the triad as a starting point then he goes a step further with the highlights and shadow

Ya Kuro has a great understanding of color theory. This has always been something I have found difficult to understand

3 hours ago, Pineapple said:

Several studies have shown that a willingness to acknowledge that you have the capacity for growth (in other words, that you can change your skill level at something via learning and practice) is all that's required for pretty impressive gains.  Were you born knowing how to ride a bike?  Make a tasty sandwich?  Read?  Comfort a friend?  Change a tire?  Nobody questions whether a person can learn to do those things, and yet we sometimes put things like math and art in a separate bucket and assume you have to have some innate ability in order to be a part of those "clubs" so to speak.  The key is that you can't compare your first steps to what someone else is doing after years of practice.  (And really, you needn't compare yourself to others at all except as a means to gain inspiration or motivation.)

 

Great way to look at thing :)

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Like you, I have zero formal art training.  So until I am able to learn enough to feel confident in navigating the semi-mystic art of color manipulation I imitate.  Look around you...  peoples clothing, rugs, nature, whatever... you will notice colors that work.  Copy now, figure out the Why of it later.

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Thanks everyone for the book recommendations! I ordered  Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green after I discovered it is not available at the library.  Looks like it will be exceedingly useful!

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