Tuesday, April 4, 2023

C is for Contrast

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this month, I'm going to be tackling topics relating to the wild world of miniature painting - by that I mean tiny models used in board games, tabletop roleplaying games and wargames. Stop by every day to learn a little about my newest hobby and obsession!


Contrast refers to the difference between light and dark; in a painted model, this specifically relates to the the dark, shadowy areas of your figure and the bright, highlighted areas.

This monochrome mini shows just contrast. Dark parts are really dark, light parts are really light.

Contrast is extremely important when painting minis. Because the model is so small, light does not hit it the way it does on a larger object. For instance, if you’re wearing a normal-sized, solid-coloured shirt, you will naturally get bright and dark areas on it as the light hits it. Go on, look down and see for yourself. Of course, that’s assuming you’re wearing a shirt, but the concept still applies to bare flesh, too!

This effect of light and shadow does not happen the same with such tiny details, so you have to exaggerate and accentuate these highlights and shadows when painting a mini. You may think it looks excessive or cartoony, but honestly you can’t have too much contrast on a 28mm model. A common technique is to pick a base, mid-tone colour, and paint that area. Then, you want to go over the lower, recessed areas with something several shades darker, and finally do the highest points with something several shades brighter. It really makes the details “pop” on your model.

Here's an ugly brute that I painted that I think shows a nice level of contrast. My first attempt had a more "realistic" skin tone, but the model looked boring. Adding extra shadow and highlights really upped the muscle definition and I think made the model way more interesting.

There's also something called Contrast Paint (other brands call it Speedpaint or Xpress Color) that can achieve multiple layers of contrast with just a single coat, but they're a whole other topic I'll try to get to on another day.

I love how this picture shows the different stages of painting and contrast: base coast/mid-tone, wash/shadows, then layers/high-lights. Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

Bonus “C”: Cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue)

Next to painting, gluing is probably the biggest part of creating miniatures. You need to glue pieces of the model together, you need to attach them to bases, and you may want to add extra details to your base (see Basing, from yesterday). There are many types of glue out there - PVA, contact cement (neoprene glue), epoxy, polystyrene cement - they all have their pros and cons, but only one - Cyanoacrylate, or “Krazy Glue,” works on pretty much anything. 

It even works for torturing sentient Lego mini-figures!

I had really enjoyed using polystyrene cement (“plastic glue”) for attaching minis, as it actually melts the plastic pieces slightly and welds them together, but then discovered that it doesn’t work at all on the resin used by 3D printers, which is what I’m using for most of my models these days. So Krazy Glue it is! It sticks everything together! Even fingers!

I’m not going to tell you how many times I’ve sat around with my fingers in a bowl of isopropyl alcohol for an hour, waiting for Krazy Glue to dissolve… And don't even get me started about getting it on your eyelid...

That's all for today!

Hugs & kisses,


Birgit said...

Ooh..on your eyelid..ouch. I got it on my lip once. I love the contrast you showed here and you gave a good explanation on how it's done.

Wes Ikezoe said...

Excellent job on the Brute! Finding the happy medium is very important. You don't want your shadows too dark, or your highlights too light.

Kristin said...

Nice contrast on the brute! I can't even imagine painting one coat on such a tiny figure. Also good work on getting your eyelid unstuck.

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