Colour theory in Malifaux

Hi folks,

I’m afraid at present work has gone slightly nuts, so though I’ll do my best to keep up with the blogging, I sometimes fall short. Fortunately for you lucky people, with the support of the Malifaux community, the blogging remains relentless. This week we have a great change of pace, with a look at colour theory, written by Zac (zacgoldenhall on twitter). You may have noticed a very conspicuous lack of painting on this blog. That’s not by design per se, but simply that I don’t have time right now for a lot of painting, certainly not painting which is worth blogging about. However, there are some really nice little hints and tips in Zac’s post which are giving me some tasty ideas for my next big painting project (more on that in January/February… assuming the Wyrd release dates are accurate). Given that I haven’t done “art” since I was about 14, it’d be great if Zac (or any other artistic types) would come back periodically for additional helpful hints. Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be me writing a post, so without further ado, take it away Zac!


Hello everyone. This isn’t Dave I’m afraid. My name is Zac, and as I had little to do while Dave had lots on, I volunteered to put fingers to keyboard for a guest post. Lets see how it goes.

Colour Theory.

Pretty much the most boring art lesson at school was the colour theory lesson. It’s essentially a right of passage that a child needs to go through in order to get to the good stuff. “Here, look at this circle with all the colours on. Have you done that? Right, now go and paint and sculpt and sketch and all the other cool things you only get to do once a week.”

But it’s something I’ve returned to recently, having not really thought about it for pretty much all of the rest of my painting life. For those of you that switched off, or were ill during that particular art lesson, the basic principle is that looking at the colour wheel, opposite colours are complimentary and look good next to each other. Examples include blue and orange, yellow and purple and red and green. I’m not going to go into why this is, just different ways you can use it in your malifaux crews, and to demonstrate I’ll be using the colours green and red.


The Blatant Approach

So here we have the very blatant way of doing this, where we just take the two colours and put them right next to each other, and call it done. An example of this is the green clothing of my converted December acolyte, right next to the red sash she wears around her waist.

photo 1

This is very obvious, and while the colours naturally look good together, you run the risk of making it look cartoonish, and in the case of Green and Red, like a christmas tree. For this model that was exactly the look I was going for, as the crew is Christmas themed. Other crews that might appreciate this bold approach, are Collodi, Seamus, and Collette, although most factions contain some models that are designed to stand out, so things like Oiran can also really enjoy this “look at me” treatment.


The Tint Approach

Not every model in Malifaux is colourful or cartoony. In fact an awful lot are the exact opposite, with dull, muted colours that reflect the dark atmosphere of the setting. Can we still use colour theory in these crews?

Why yes, rhetorical Zac, of course we can! This is an approach I use in my Guild crews, as they as a faction have a very strong Wild West feel, which doesn’t leave room for a lot of colours beyond grey and brown. The great thing about these colours is of course that you can get lots of different types of Grey and Brown. Have a look at this Pathfinder:

photo 2

Pretty much entirely Grey and brown on that model. While Red is my accent colour across the crew (I try and work the faction colour into my models where I can), there is very little of it on this model. Just the tips of the feathers, and a couple of lines on the satchel. There is, however, a lot of toning going on in the background. Brown as a colour is made up of all of the primary colours mixed together, and so you can get different types of brown. On this model, to provide the complimentary contrast I’ve used Green based browns and greys (jerkin and underclothes) next to Red based browns (Bear hat , satchel and boots). This has further been helped by using green and red washes to further tint the different areas and give them contrast while still working well together. This is the approach I use across my guild faction, and would also work well in other dull coloured crews such as the Freicorps, Ramos and most Gremlin crews.


The Shadow Approach

What about monochrome models? How can colour theory help something like one of Marcus’s beasts, or other models that should really be one colour? Well here we can start getting a bit more into colour theory, and I’ll use my Rasputina to help.

photo 3

My Raspy crew is themed around Christmas, and so I wanted the big lady to obviously be a Mrs C. Red and white was the order of the day, so no room for the obvious contrast of green. Incorrect. The interesting thing with colours is that in their shadows you will often get elements of their contrasting colour. You may not notice it, but the closer you look, the more you will start to see the other colours present in the shadows. For Raspy then, the deepest folds gained a green-tint, which makes the red look a lot more natural than just mixing black with it (black doesn’t exist in nature is what every art teacher will tell you). Great places to try this include pretty much any Beast model, as they tend towards being single coloured, but also models like Izamu and Lucius that have large parts of them being the same item of clothing.

So there are three ways that you can use that boring old colour wheel when painting your minis. I hope that this has been a good read: it’s my first blog post since secondary school, so I hope It’s not too bad. If you want to discuss any of this, hit me up on Twitter, under the name @zacgoldenhall and thanks for taking the time to get this far.


2 responses to “Colour theory in Malifaux

  1. A great base for a green/brown is dryad bark, but then I tend to mix up using older paints. Using green inks will also help with tinting the brown.
    Hope this helps.

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