[Colour Theory] Cool Colours

As discussed previously, Colour Temperature talks about how we perceive colours and their relation to others on the colour wheel. Directly, this means Green, Blue, Violet and all the colours in between. Indirectly, you can say that certain colours are cooler than others – so Yellow and Red are cooler than Orange.

Where Warms are powerful, Cool Colours are calm and soothing. They can help smaller spaces appear larger while causing objects to appear to fade in to the background. Naturally, we associate cool colours with skies and water bodies or the Green spectrum with nature.

You can create a fully Cool scene easier than one that’s completely Warm because Cool Colours are more relaxing, even using Hues that haven’t been changed much. Tips for painting with Cools:

Like with Warm Colours, Cool is accented by addition of Warmth.
Created with painter from Bolder & Chainsword
  • Cool Colours lend well to lighter Tints and greyer Tones to soften the overall appearance.
  • Add Warm accents to smaller details like gems, eyes and such. 
    • Contrasting Accents
      • Use a Complementary Colour of the strongest Cool one.
        Ex: Orange eyes on a Blue figure.
      • OR a smaller Cool one that’s surrounding the detail.
        Ex: Gold trim on a Blue-Violet cloak.
    • Pleasant Accents
      • Use an Analogous Colour instead.
        Ex: Violet skull surrounded by Blue wings on the Space Marine.

I discussed Colour Meanings earlier, but I find Cools convey meaning behind them better than Warm Colours. This is due to Cool Colours appearing more often in nature.

  • Nature
    • More greens, some green-yellow, touch of Tinted (add White) and Toned (add Greys) Blues.
  • Sky
    • Primarily Hues of Blue, avoid Greens and Purples.
    • Can add some Warmth for sunset accents.
  • Aqua
    • Primarily Hues between Blue and Green.
    • Can add some versions of Red or Violet for accents.
  • Royalty / Darkness / Evil
    • Hues between Blue and Violet.
    • More of a negative / evil feeling the stronger the Shades. (add Black)
    • Accent with Shades of Red.

Painting with Cool Colours and More

Grey primer worked well for using these cool colours and I began with a blue wash over everything.

Next I painted the base colours – mostly blue and purple with a little white base where I planned on painting some green.

Then, over these base colours, I used washes, but a little differently. I washed purple over the blue and blue over the purple. Using conflicting washes created an interesting “colour shift” look making both the blue and purple visible at once.

Using Neons

For the Space Marine Do-hickey, (Technical term of course.) I began with some bright green paint mixed with water to fill in the display, which dried rough, like a cheap digital display. (Top)

Along the bottom, I demonstrate adding neon First, I create a wash of white that I run along the edge of the display to help punch up the strength of the colour. Next, I paint a thick wash of neon green over the white.

I take similar steps to paint the gun. First blue, washed white, washed neon blue and finally a few (albeit ugly) white highlights.

Positioning the Gun Arm

I also wanted to place the gun arm at a different angle. To fix this, I cut a different angle along the shoulder using wire cutters and when it didn’t quite line up I finished it with a knife.

Highlighted

Here you can see the rest of the miniature assembled and highlighted. I still left much of the mini dark, and used lighter green to create some contrasting areas.

Finished

If you look below, you can see the Warm and Cool coloured miniatures side by side. One of the first things you see are the neons used in them. The other thing demonstrated is how the warm colours stand out so much compared to the cooler ones.

PREV: Warm ColoursNEXT: Split-Complementary Colours
This series on Colour Theory is intended to broaden our ability to paint interesting, unique or uniform miniatures. You’ll learn how to choose pleasing combinations of colours and how to make certain accents or details stand out. Visit the Colour Theory Index for links to the rest of this series.

For more in-depth tutorials for Beginner and Experienced miniature hobbyists, visit Wargaming Tradecraft.

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