Wargaming Tradecraft: Colour Theory: Warm Colours


Colour Theory: Warm Colours

Colour Temperature talks about the appearance of colours and how they relate to each other on the colour wheel. Directly, this means Yellow, Orange, Red and all the colours in between. Indirectly, you can say that certain colours are warmer than others - Green and Violet are warmer than Blue for example.

Warm Colours are strong, vibrant and powerful. When you're looking at a scene, Warms and Darks will seem to exist in the foreground and can improve the appearance of large areas.
When leaning too heavily on Warm Colours, you create a scene that's very powerful - like a bright firey phoenix rising. Here are some tips for creating a balanced look:

See how eyes are quickly drawn center-mass by the Green skull?
Created with painter from Bolder & Chainsword
  • Add darker Shades and greyer Tones to ease the intensity.
  • Add Cool accents to smaller details like gems, eyes and such. 
    • Contrasting Accents
      • Use a Complementary Colour of the strongest Warm one.
        Ex: Blue eyes on an Orange figure.
      • OR a smaller Warm one that's surrounding the detail.
        Ex: Blue-Violet gem in a Gold (Yellow) setting.
    • Pleasant Accents
      • Use an Analogous Colour instead.
        Ex: Green skull surrounded by Yellow wings on the Space Marine.
I don't find Warm Colours imbue as many meanings on their models as Cool Colours do, because they don't appear in nature as often. Many of the meanings we associate with Warm Colours are stereotypes of Western Culture.

  • Earth Tones
    • Shades (add Black) and Tones (and Grey) of Orange and Red as well as Tints (add White) of Yellow can create earthy, sandy and brick colour schemes.
  • Fire
    • Using Hues and Mixes of Yellow, Orange and Red can create intense Fire themes.
  • Blood / Death
    • Hues and Shades of Red.
    • Accents with Black.

Applying the Colour Scheme

Now this is where experimenting with primers let me down. I've been trying Grey as a primer, but like Black, acts as a poor base for light colours like yellow and orange. As a result, I had to use multiple layers of paint to cover the Grey so some of the paint ended up thick.

Below you can see each of the main stages: Based, Assembled & Washed then Highlighted.

For the paint scheme, odd, but nothing special. I wanted to try one of those weird Space Marine styles where you pattern the colours out across the body.

Once again, the washed stage (middle) makes a huge impact on how everything looks. It's a very quick way to create shading and cause details to pop.

The final stage (right) is the completed model with highlights. (I'll go over some of the details later.) Something worth pointing out here is that some of the blending for the highlights appears nicer - but trust me, I didn't do anything extra to this mini, it's still just tabletop quality. This fake blending effect is created from working with light colours. The same way grey primer shows through the base coat, the darker washed layer shows through the highlights. The difference is instead of ugly grey, you end up with a nice blend.

Kind of out of scope for this tutorial, but I always thin my paints with fluid retarder, which means a little of the previous layer always shows through.

Bright Paint, Dark Base

For other layers, you need to ensure the true colour of the paint goes on. In this case, paint the areas that need to be brighter with either white paint or Gesso. In this case, I've then painted the white areas with neon yellow followed by some neon orange washing. To finish off, I paint some of the rest of the gun with a layer of red, some darker red shading, and a red wash.


I always use varnish on my miniatures and this project ended up providing a good opportunity to see what the effect varnish can have on a model.

When you use different types of paints, washes and brands, they usually dry with different sheens. Anything between matte / flat and glossy.

I laid the washes on quick and thick, which left a well-defined glossy line in the crevice of the shoulders. (Top 2 pics)

To demonstrate how varnish evens everything out, I've painted a layer of it on half of the two bottom pics. In the bottom left, I painted a varnish strip along the top of the shoulder pad. In the bottom right, I painted the strip along the bottom of the shoulder pad. 

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