[Colour Theory] Rectangular Tetradic Colours

I’ll be looking at two Tetradic Schemes – Rectangular and Square.

In both, we use 2 sets of Complementary Colours for a total of 4 colours. The difference between Rectangular and Square is how far apart the colours are spread. We have the benefit of more colours to paint with, however it becomes harder to balance all of them cleanly.

The Rectangular scheme is easier to work with than Square, because here the pairs are spaced closer together, creating two sets of nearly Analogous Colours that act as Complements to the other. It’s similar to the Split-Complementary scheme, but there are two sets of complementing colours. Because we’re working with complements, there will always be 2 warm and 2 cool colours. Depending on your choices, the near colours will either be the same temperature or opposite temperatures.

Here are some things I recommend:

That moment you realize you’ve come across the Ninja Turtles scheme…
Created with painter from Bolder & Chainsword

  • Warm & Cool Balance
    • Balanced / Pleasing
      • The 2 close colours have the same temperature.
        Ex: Green and Blue vs Red and Orange.
    • Unbalanced / Contrasting
      • The 2 close colours have opposite colour temperatures.
        Ex: Green & Violet vs Yellow & Red.
      • All 4 colours will contrast each other as the 2 Cool Colours will be on either side of the Cool spectrum, just like the 2 Warm Colours.
  • Single Colour for the overall scheme
    • Choose any one of your colours to be your main colour and accent details with the others.
    • Details can be made to either flow with the overall colour using the similar (Analogous) one or contrast using the 2 further (Complementary) colours.
    • You can use these Complementary colours together since they will be Analogous to each other.
  • Dual Colours for the overall scheme
    • Balanced
      • Using the 2 Analogous colours overall.
      • Make details stand out using the 2 Complementary colours.
    • Unbalanced
      • Using the 2 Complementary colours overall.
      • Make details blend or stand out using their Analogous colours.

Painting it up


Between this and next week, I’ll be demonstrating adding a fourth colour to the marines I’m painting and how the Rectangular and Square Tetrad compare.

I’ve painted the marine similar to how I’ve been painting the other marines. I’ve also kept the green / blue and red / orange together.

The interesting thing about this composition is that the cool colours are used on the marine and warm colours on his weapon.

As before, I painted the green on thinned, kind of like washing green over the white primer, but thicker. This already creates shadow and helps wash and highlight.

When I painted the tip of the flame thrower, I thinned the black and lightly painted it over the orange areas, so some of the orange colour was left. Then, I painted thick black everywhere else. As a final step, I highlighted the black area with some grey edging and stripes.

This creates a bit of a glow effect too – nothing strong, just subtle.

Below, you can see the assembled and washed miniature. Used a couple layers of wash on the blue to make it dark enough.

The final photos are below. A few things to note:

  • I didn’t worry about cleaning up the red around his eyes before this step, because I knew while highlighting I’d clean it all up.
  • To highlight the blue, I used the same paint as the base, thinned and did some area highlighting.
  • Like the previous marines, I only used green highlight to clean up the armour since I painted it on thin and there was already definition.
  • The cool / warm colouring keeps the marine strong, but your eyes are intensely brought to his weapon.
  • By painting the shoulder pad trim red, it draws his strong weapon colouring in to his body and creates bold contrast.

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