Wargaming Tradecraft: Colour Theory Index


Colour Theory Index

Paying close attention to the colours we use while painting miniatures will go a long way to producing visually pleasing works of art. Your models can stand apart from other peoples by using methods you'll read about here.

Even if you don't care about creating masterpieces, colour theory will help finalize details. From minor decisions like what to paint final bits to choosing a cohesive look for a new army.

This is a 5-month series I've written for House of Paincakes and the first article was posted there yesterday. In addition to my regular content posts, I'll be mirroring each one here on the following week's Friday, but for now can join the discussion today!

Disclaimer 1 - This is all Subjective

Not everyone agrees on what looks good, or what colours go together - but you should be painting for yourself, right?

Disclaimer 2 - I'm Self Taught

I haven't gone to school for art, I'm just someone who's done a bunch of research and tried to pay attention to these things. I've made a point of keeping these articles easy to read, so I've also left out some of specifics and nuances. If you're looking for more information on any of the topics, I recommend googling yourself as there's a lot out there.


The following is an outline of each of the topics I'll be covering. As I write them, I'll update this index to link to the full articles. Each one will discuss the style, point out benefits of using it, offer tips on how to paint it and demonstrate works in progress as I paint a miniature in this style. As a wrap up, I'll take a look at how Games Workshop and Privateer Press employ colour in Warhammer 40k, Warmachine and Hordes.

Colour Wheel Colour Theory Introduction (Part 1)

I look at general artistic theories, terminology and how things like Primer and Lighting affect how paints end up looking.

Colour Theory Introduction (Part 2)

Expanding on last week, adding tips for making colours stand out, applying these ideas and some extra things like the Meaning of Colours.
Complementary Colours Complementary Colours

Colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel create the strongest contrast. Use these colours to make details really pop out.
Analogous Colours Analogous Colours

Colours next to each other on the wheel blend naturally and feel comfortable.
Warm Colours

Yellow, Orange and Red are strong, intense colours that jump out at the viewer. Great for bold and vibrant themes.

Cool Colours

Green, Blue and Violent are soothing, comfortable colours that fade to the background. Great to create calming, less energetic scenes.
Split-Complementary Split-Complementary Colours

Slightly less contrasting than normal Complementary an extra colour to work with, two of which that work well together..
Triadic Colours

An evenly spaced, vibrant and harmonious theme.
Rectangular Tetradic Rectangular Tetradic Colours

A four colour theme made of two sets of Complementary colours. This gives more variety of colours to paint with, while still offering bold contrasts.

You can choose for the near colours to be either both be warm and cool or the near colours to be warm and cool. This creates a different feeling depending on which way you go.
Square Tetrad Square Tetradic Colours

Similar to the Rectangular Tetrad, but evenly spaced.
Colour Contrast Colour Contrast and Context

Looking at how colours can appear different depending on their surroundings.
Achromatic Achromatic (Greyscale)

Painting with the absence of colour and contrasts.
Near Neutral Near-Neutral Achromatic

Mixes with lots of White, Black and Grey until you can barely tell what the original colour was. Often called "Earth Tones."
Monochromatic Monochromatic

Using a single colour mixed with White, Black and Greys.
Contrasting Contrasting Achromatic

Adding a touch of colour to grey paintings in order to make specific details stand out.
Colour Theory in Practice Colour Theory in 40k and the Iron Kingdoms

Looking at some of the factions and what colour theories have been used to come up with their colour schemes.

I'll also briefly discuss some of the differences between how Games Workshop and Privateer Press seem to approach their choice in colours.

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