What are the must-have colours you need to create your art?
Every artist has go-to colours. Those slippery eels manage to worm their way onto your palette no matter the project. I’ve been especially aware of my own shifting proclivities developing miniature painting courses over the years. Like your favourite movie or colour, my ‘top 5’ paints shifts year on year, changing as I change. But for right now, at this moment, typing on the 12th of October 2021 these are my top 5 ‘could not live without’ paints.
1) Incubi Darkness GW
It should come as no surprise to my students that this makes the list and sits at its summit. I think of this, in the same way, I do my primary colours – it always goes on my palette, or I end up mixing it with the colours already on my palette. It’s the building block of my artistic style, useful and ubiquitous. It can paint skin tones (shading and highlighting – try it), develop tonal interest in black armour, shade red robes, create cast shadows on sand dunes etc. This is the ultimate swiss army knife colour.
2) Lamp Black – Daler Rowney Artist Grade Oil Paint.
An oil paint? And black? But won’t that destroy your work? NO!
Black is fanatic for adding contrast to colour. It can desaturate it, lower its value, or create rich browns by adding it to red or purple. But in this instance, I’m choosing it because of the amount of recess shading, or pin washing I have to do in my day to day commission painting. It’s invaluable for creating deep lines of shade and can even be used in thick splurges to stain metallics. If you’d like to learn how to use oils in your work may I recommend the Titanicus tutorial course for your indulgence?
3) Medea Com Art Opaque White.
I’m a proponent of pre-shading your miniatures. In fact, in a perfect world, I’d have everyone learn how to paint miniatures with an airbrush first, developing their sense of volumes and values, before touching a brush!
If you are still reading and haven’t stormed off in disgust, then do yourself a huge favour and pick up this paint. It’s not the easiest thing to find as I understand, but it’s worth the treasure hunt. If you are in the UK can find it at Airbrushes.com. If you live elsewhere and have found a good supplier please let me know and I can update the list.
Light colours are notoriously difficult to run through the airbrush. White Ink has become the norm, but it is finicky in the extreme and creates an odd satin surface on your miniatures. This is not good for paint adhesion. Once you try this to pre shade your miniatures there’s no turning back – yes this goes for you Tamiya Flat White fanatics as well!
4) Kimera Magneta
One for the purist. I love mixing custom colours on my *check notes to see who the sponsor of this article is* REDGREASS GAMES WET PALETTE!
Magenta forms one of the updated colour primaries in the CMYK colour model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow – K for black… don’t know why K is black). By adding Magenta to your palette you open up a world of possibilities. Why not try mixing it with your favourite red? How about glazing it around the cheeks on your miniature to draw out some colour nuance? Or just use it over a pre-shaded robe for a luxuriously deep colour?
They require a little patience to master but offer unparalleled depth of tone.
5) USMC Tank Crew (Light) Vallejo Model Colour
This is a new edition to my roster and ousts my much beloved Hull Red (also from Vallejo) from the top 5.
I’ve had great success with this colour to highlight my Sons of Horus, and create atmospheric lighting. One of the things I’m slowly developing in my painting is just how unusual light and shadow is. Don’t just highlight red with a lighter orange like the MAN tells you. No, if that red armour was seen under the moonlight the highlighted reflections would have a blue/ green tinge to them. And that’s where this colour comes in. The Cursed City paint jobs all use USMC Tank Crew to highlight each aspect of the miniature – from armour plates to skin tones. This unifies the scheme and provides a coherent colour palette for the collection.
You’ve seen mine – now show me yours. What 5 colours can you simply not live without?
If you are interested in developing your miniature painting then I warmly invite you to our miniature painting courses. You can find the full listings in the index below and individual sessions in the TUTORIALS section.