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How do you pick colour schemes?


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I've noticed that one of the big problems I have when painting miniatures is deciding what colours to use. I generally want to avoid using the Studio Schemes, but I just have no clue what colours fit together well and it often means I get frustrated with painting and put stuff aside. 


How do ya'll decide on what colours to use and how to make them fit together and such?

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I could give you some fancy answer anout choosing a mood, then using colour theory to refine your complements and contrasts, but honestly? Quite a few of my colour schemes have come from watching Scooby Doo...


There's often good ideas in the world around you, so don't hesitate to use them. Colour theory basics can help you, but you don't need to use much of it usually. 


That's not a very helpful answer really, is it!

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For my Viks, I purposefully make them mismatch.  My Ronins go bubblegum colors that are all over the place, Taelor has a pink top with purple hair, and Bishop has jeans with a blonde top.  


For my Guild, I chose white with red highlights.  I like red and white combined but red is Guild base and I wanted to go different from that.


Misaki was colored yellow and green because I saw Shang and thought "Yellow and green fox fire... yeah..."  So I went with that, and now my team is a mix of dayglow greens and yellow with splashes of red for a contrast.


Jakob I took purple.  I also put a Pimp Cup in his hand for the demon to come out of.  So he is in a purple suit with a gold cup.  Lynch looked like a pimp to me, so that is why I went that direction.  (I wanted to do purple cheetah print, but I do not have that steady of a hand.)


A lot of times, it is just mood, sometimes, random inspiration.  I just grab it and go.

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Every once in a while I get inspired and just know what colors I want to use.  Sometimes I just use trial and error to figure out a combination (usually on a test model before the actual model.)  But really, most of the time I'm like Mako in that I look at color combinations in the world and think, "Hmm, that would look good on xxx model."  Having kids helps because their toys and cartoons often have all kinds of odd combos that work.

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Hey, there's lots of interesting ways to pick a colour scheme, but I think it really depends on what the model is specifically. Which models are you thinking of? For my Flames of War models, obviously, recreating the historical uniforms is paramount. If it's something more fantastical, the burden truly is on we painters. I tend to try to pick a theme colour for my Malifaux crews: My Ten Thunders all have red as a theme colour, since the various eastern Asian countries like that colour for strength and power. My Viks all have purple somewhere tied into them.


Beyond that I think about the model itself: Torakage are meant to blend in with normal citizens, and so I made their colours very mundane and drab, to not stand out:

By contrast, my Oiran were meant to be bright and distinctive; beauty and individual style being more important than looking mundane per se:

What I would do, assuming you don't have a historical reference for a model you're trying to pull, is either pick out your colours entirely, before you start, or if you have one certain colour you really enjoy, is build a scheme around that colour.


To continue self-promoting like a rampant narcissist, I actually just went through something like this (and am still kind of undecided where I am going to end up with this) and did a blog post specifically about my planning stage:




I will say, though, that my Ronin were not so much schemed as painted whenever I had paint leftover, because I purposefully wanted them to seem a kind of mottled mix of whatever clothes they had. Sometimes just using leftover paint to coat a part of the model will inspire something further.


I know this post has been a bit all over the place, but the reason is the decision is different for everyone. Something else to consider is see what other folks have done. Do a google search of the model you're interested in, google search historical reference photos of whatever model type you're painting (like I did with the Ten Thunders) and see what other people did to solve the colour scheme problem. Even if you decide no one else has done what you want to do, that itself will be educational, because you can then know which 'solutions' will not work for you!

Good luck with deciding and painting!

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