Thursday, March 24, 2011

Email: Space Wolves Painting Help

by SandWyrm


I've got a huge backlog of painting emails (some of which Farmpunk sat on for a while), even as I feverishly paint Stormtrooper models for Adepticon next week . I'll try and get some of these out of the way before I leave.

Now, onto the first. Roland Writes:

Roland here from 3++. So my initial test models came out decently, but apparently I dropped the ball big time on my actual first squad. My first issue was just thinning the paint, something I've been told before but it never really registered. The other big issue I faced was I misread an article earlier on on painting SW's and went...well overboard...with drybrushing. Anyway, Kirby pointed me to your painting articles and it's definitely helped me realize some basic errors I made in just plain old color selection. My question is, does the following work as a split-complimentary harmony:

- Fortress Grey (for the armor and some of the older Grey Hunter's hair)
- Mechrite Red (right shoulder pad)
- Iyanden Darksun (left shoulder pad)

Alternatively I could use Sunburst Yellow and Blood Red instead. If I stuck with the Foundation Colors, I'd use Blood Red exclusively for minor details (gems and some emblems mainly). My plan as of now is base coat in Fortress Grey and then wash in Devlan Mud to give them a darker, worn look (it goes with the background). If I washed the Shoulder Pads, I'd have to make a wash from the Sunburst Yellow and Blood Red to lighten up the Foundation colors.

As for the fur, would Bestial Brown washed with Devlan Mud and then drybrushed with Vomit Brown work? I'm looking at the wheel and trying to keep the colors close to the "Big 3" complimentary colors I mentioned above.

I appreciate any help! Thanks bud!

Roland Durendal

SandWyrm's Reply:

(Warning: This reply won't make much sense unless you read my series on Color Theory first)

Well, let's look at the first set of colors that you mention. The Mechrite Red, Fortress Grey, and Iyanden Darksun scheme:

 Charting out this scheme on the ol' RGB hue wheel, here's what we get:

That's not too far off from a Split-Complement, so no problems there. At least in a technical sense. The
question I'd ask is this: What feeling do you want to convey? Any color harmony will do if all you want is to color the model. But it's the feelings conveyed that takes things to the next level.

Rage? Love? Perversion? Wholesome-ness? I would start by selecting an emotion, choosing an analogous range of hue to match (i.e. reds and oranges for rage), and then maybe, but not always using a complementary (opposite) color to that range to add accents and make things stand out. 

GW's choice with the Space Wolves is to go with a Cyan-Blue (a little to the left of the bottom of the wheel above) for most of the model, with other gear in a red-orange analogous range. It works, but isn't particularly exciting.

Another way to go would be to use a blue-cyan range for all of the model. That would feel pretty cold, but could be contrasted with some desaturated oranges for the models' skin. Or have the only contrasting color be the red of the blood on their swords. :)

Point being: Have a reason for choosing the colors you do. In a thematic sense as well as a technical sense.

Using Sunburst Yellow and Blood Red in the above harmony would just shift the whole analogous range over a bit into a perfect split-complement. It would be more technically correct, but not really noticeable in the end. In truth, you should use a range of reds and yellows in different saturations. It's the hue that's important here, not the exact shade.

All of these shades in the triangle above are of a pure yellow hue. They just have different amounts of white and black added. Add a lot of white with just a little black and you get bone. Add a bit more black than white and you get the yellow-browns. But it's all the same hue.

Washing anything with Devlin Mud, by the way, will introduce a red-orange hue into the equation and make your cyan-blues not cyan-blue anymore. So if you want a pure feeling, go with a dark cyan-blue wash instead.

BoLS, BTW, once had a good article on making your own washes. If you add a couple of drops of clear dishwashing liquid to their formula, you'll get a perfect GW-like consistency to the wash.


  1. I wouldn't mind seeing the better test model. but I think that my mix for the paint of the armour gives them a better look than the solid grey that I see above.

  2. That's not a pure gray. There's a bit of blue-Cyan in it.


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