Friday, January 6, 2012

Painting Theory, Why Layering Works

I'm really trying to maintain momentum this year in regards to blogging.  I really love writing and I love wargaming, so what's not to like?  Well, coming up with daily or even bi-daily articles can be tough for one person.  I envy some of the larger blogs out there who manage to maintain a cadre of writers.  That would be awesome. 

So, if you like what I write about ( 40k, WFB, Warmachine, Painting and Modelling) and would like to try out an article, please feel free to go to my profile on the right and email me and let me know.  I would love to see some of the super cool ideas floating around out there just waiting to be published. 

Advertisement aside, I wanted to wrap up the week with a discussion (meaning I would love some feedback and comments) about painting and more specifically layering.

It occurred to me that in my previous article about painting a New Army in the New Year part of the reason some gamers don't get motivated to paint their armies is because they don't know how to make their army look "good".  There are tons of techniques out there, but I wanted to highlight the practice of layering today because of its ease of application.  Hopefully, this article will inspire some new or fearful hobbyists to try to develop their painting skills. 

But before I start talking about the actual practice of layering, I want you to do an experiment.  It requires a flat screen LCD TV and a second or two of your time.  If you don't have an LCD/LED/flat screen TV, why didn't you get one on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?!

Turn on the TV and move right in front of it, almost with your nose to the screen.  No, this isn't a prank.  What happens?  Chances are, your screen looks really pixel-y.  If you could zoom in super close, it looks something like this:

Now, step back 8-10 steps and take a look at it.  Notice the beautiful image on your screen.
Ahh!  Beautiful isn't it. 

So basically, these types of TVs work by containing LEDs that show either blue, red, or green (newer models are also showing white).  When each fires off correctly at a super small scale, they produce beautiful images.  The faster your TV screen refreshes these colors, the better the picture looks.

Well layering is a method of painting that achieves this type of effect though not nearly to the detail of a hi-res flat screen.

You see, your eye processes those separate colors and attempts to mesh them together to create smooth transitions the further you are from the source of the color.    This also explains why camoflauge works with both humans and animals.  That is also why you can go to a tournament and see a beautifully painted tournament army on the table top, but when you look at it up close, you can see obvious distinctions between layers of color.  Our brain seeks to meld like colors together in a seamless fashion. 

That is why layering works.

Now, there are multiple ways to layer, but I prefer one specific technique.  That is, to start with a shade color, work up to our base color, and finally adding a highlight color.  This takes on variation as many times I add intermediate steps, but it always follows this particular scheme. 

Some painters advocate starting with the base color then going back to add shading and finally a highlight.  I find it simpler to just start with the shade and work my way up. 

In most cases, this can be as easy as getting three different shades of the same color.  For instance, I like to do most of my blues with a dark blue like GW foundation mordian blue, followed by a medium blue like GW enchanted blue, and finally with a highlight like GW ice blue.  Again, you can add in intermediate steps by mixing these colors together or simply finding shades that go in between.

While using shades of a different color is convenient, you can also get really creative by adding different colors to the mix.  For instance, a great way to shade a blue hue is to start with a dark purple, then go to medium blue, followed by a lighter blue highlight.  This yields a very rich color in the end.  I often see this done with yellows as it is easier to start with a shade of red or orange and work up to yellow.  I also do this with white using various shades based on the overall effect I want to accomplish.  For instance, I like to use a shade of brown when I want a dirtier, worn white.  When I want a bright, clean white, I use a shade of blue first.  This yields some remarkable effects. 

Another useful tool for creating some great shading is the use of washing.  GW's washes are great, but you can make a wash out of any paint simply by watering it down until it's translucent. 

To apply the layering strategy, simply apply your first color.  After that, apply your next color, but leave a border of color from the last step visible.  I always apply lighter shades of paint where light would hit the surface in a more pronounced manner and in a progressively smaller area towards the direction of the light.  Repeat this until all layers of paint are complete.

When you are finished layer, what you get is a model that looks great on the tabletop and will appear to be seamlessly painted.

Here are a couple of examples taken from my efforts to paint my new Warmachine forces. 

Here I have my two warcasters High Exemplar Kreoss (pKreoss) and Grand Scrutator Severius (pSeverius).  Each is rife with layering.  Notice especially the reds and whites on the models.  The white was done starting with GW foundation Khemri brown, highlighting with Reaper Master Series Aged Bone, and finally Reaper Master Series Polished Bone.  The reds were done with Reaper Master Series Deep Red followed, I think, by GW Gore Red, and finally GW Blood Red.  In each case I applied a wash of GW Baal Red to the armor plating to further yield a smooth transition. 

That's it!  Layering, with practice, can make amazing looking models that will get you lots of positive attention on the tabletop. 

You might also find these articles of help:
Make Your Own GW Paints
Taking better pictures with cra...inexpensive equipment
Painting Halfway Decent Power Weapons

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