Saturday 6 February 2010

Colour Scheme Inspiration

Until recently I mostly painted fantasy miniatures and always struggled with colour schemes for my projects. Unlike historical models the colour pallet used by the painter of a fantasy or sci-fi model is firmly in the hands of the artist. They are after all fantasy subjects and the sky, literally, is the limit. Mind you getting the colours right on historical models can also be a challenge to the newbie, so how do you get around this painting equivalent of writers block?

Inspiration can be found in lots of places; Magazines, Books, Museums, the Internet. I make it a point of collecting interesting examples of painted miniatures or real world objects so I can refer back to them at a later date. But I often also find myself thumbing through the model catalogues of various manufacturers, and I seldom resist buying a new catalogue when I come across one.

I should stress that the object of collecting catalogues isn't necessarily about copying the colour scheme for a particular model - although I have done that for challenging projects. The aim instead is to build up a database of images and ideas that can be reviewed when planning a new painting project.

Now I can't claim to paint as good as the examples inside the pages of these catalogues but the pictures certainly provide inspiration. More importantly they give you a chance to see which colour combinations work well for a given subject. I often find it hard to visualise what a given colour scheme will look like when completed so its always handy to have some reference material to refer to when working.

For example I painted half a dozen pirate models last year and needed some ideas to make each one stand out. I used pictures I downloaded from the Internet and from catalogues, pasted them to a large board and used it as a guide while I painted. I found this particularly helpful when painting striped trousers for the first time!

Miniatures painters are often presented with a multitude of options when starting a new project so its not surprising when inspiration runs dry. But many miniature manufacturers produce colour catalogues in a bid to secure their share of the market. Naturally these are painted to a very high standard and present the painter with an excellent resource that is often overlooked and undervalued.


  1. I keep a similar library of catalogs and magazines featuring different painting styles, color schemes, and techniques for achieving certain effects.

  2. I rely heavily on colour wheels as I have colour vision issues. I find it helpful to reduce the decision for a formula.


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