Painting Mixed-Metallic Composition (MMC)


I say “Composition” because I’m not talking about how to paint metal so much as how to create contrast by balancing painting techniques across a miniature.

See, when I began painting Non-Metallic Metals, I found that despite its pleasing tones, metal can end up looking flat and dull. You’re painting with the same colours used on the rest of your model so everything blends together. Since I’m a big fan of using contrast to make a model visually “pop”, when I’m painting with NMM, I’ll usually throw splashes of True-Metallic Metal on smaller details like bolts, rivets, buckles, etc.

As an example, take a look at the orange terminator here. Since everything is painted with regular paint, it all has a similar appearance. But, I used some colour variation – the orange is very strong and stands out boldly while the lighter colours like the cloth and golds are softer instead. The black metal parts are bold and strong too, but your eyes are probably treating them similarly to how they look at the orange.

I’m going to preface this by reminding people that I’m self-taught when it comes to art. This article is mostly theory and I’m talking about how things appear to me.

Practical Example

Here’s a more practical example: Jewelry

Jewelry catches light, shines, reflects and is (hopefully) noticed by viewers.

Not all jewelry is shiny, but those that are certainly catches the eye stronger than other types which might be flat / matte like our skin.

Another example would be glasses. Some people have dull rims that blend in to faces, others have brighter or shinier ones. How about buttons on clothes? Some are dull / painted and blend in, others are metallic.

It’s not just about saying, “Look at these earrings,” but to accent how we look and create points that pop out instead of an overall flat appearance.

That’s the whole point of this exercise.

Madrak

Compare instead to the hammer wielding troll below. It’s not metallic, but the gem he’s holding is a great example of what I’m talking about. It picks up the light and adds a certain dynamic quality to the overall look. In a smaller way, there are the True-Metallic rings attached to the wraps on his wrist.

 

From a composition standpoint, there are a few more details to consider:

  • Skin, Gold and Brass
    • – The tone of his green skin, yellow gold and orange amulet all catch the eyes similarly. His head blends with his collar, his fingers blend with the amulet.
  • Blue hammer, Red tabbard
    • – These are details that stand out, allowing your eyes to play over the model between significant details.
  • Shadows and Highlights
    • – This was one of the first Hordebloods I painted, trying out a new style and the contrast is perhaps a little strong. Shadows are really dark, highlights much lighter. This is another way of controlling the overall look of your model.
What I’m trying to communicate is that shiny TMM is a great way to make duller NMM pop or vice-versa, NMM would stand out if a miniature was predominantly TMM.
(You want another example? Scroll back to the beginning of this article and see how using bold text makes important information stand out.)

Then, take a look at everything from further away:

I used the gem in the example above because the effect is much more obvious in photographs that way. True-Metallic Metals don’t reflect nearly as strong, but it’s the same principle.

Doomshaper

Below you can see another example, just a simple one. The rings on his backpack have been painted metallic which create a nice central “pull” for your eyes among all the lighter colours.

 

Champion

As a final example, the orange-skinned troll below has a number of metallic and composition effects mixed in with his armour and weapons.

 

  • Grey NMM Armour
    • – This armour stands out strongly from both his skin and the red sections of his armour.
  • Grey NMM Weapons
    • – The white in the blades of his weapons stands out strongly. Because of the way it’s painted (lined) instead of a smooth blend, it creates a much more aggressive look, standing out from even the grey NMM of his armour.
  • Gold TMM Accents
    • – These points of light stand out around his armour. They stand out sharply along his arms in the brighter light and smaller points of light in the shadows around his hips.
  • Bronze TMM Axes
    • – This acts as a frame for the NMM blade. By having a shifting darker look here, the blades themselves appear even stronger.

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  • Zab

    I think what a lot of people miss when mixing tmm and nmm is trying to make tmm shine like metal. The reason yours work together is you tone down the reflective quality of the tmm and force the contrast on that too so it doesn’t looks so clean and stark compared to the nmm it is next to. Great work 🙂

    • Thanks 🙂 I think the hardest part here was finding a way to demonstrate composition differences in still images… I really gotta start making videos. You’re right though, While lots of NMM can appear flat, lots of TMM can be too bold. Balance.

  • Cedric Ballbusch

    Generally, I have followed the tradition of using metallic paints on the metal bits of miniatures. However, there is disharmonious about shiny swords against otherwise matt-ish colors.

    For similar reasons I’ve stopped using transfers and started hand painting all my shields. The transfers, of course, look far, far better than my efforts, but the hand painted design ‘goes’ with the rest of the figure.

    This is making me thing I should start using NNM for larger expenses of metal on figures.

    • Yeah, almost an off balance if the sword is held off to the side.

      Are your main complaints with the transfers that they’re too clean or because they end up looking shiny? A varnish with matte them out with the rest of your paint, but they’ll still look out of place compared to the rest of things.

      Try mixing the two techniques. Do a NMM undercoat and toss a little TMM highlight overtop. It creates a nice overall composition and lets you decide how much shine you want.

      • Cedric Ballbusch

        That they’re too ‘clean’. A LBM transfer is a thing of beauty, but it looks out of place next to my often chunky highlights.

        • You could paint over the decal. Use it as a guide for the outline then add your own unique look and feel to it with paint.

          • Cedric Ballbusch

            That’s what I do with tank markings and similar. With shields the designs on transfers are often a little too complex. Easier just to put on a design from scratch.

            Of course, given that a leather or wooden shield wouldn’t survive long in battlefield conditions, lavishly decorated shields are probably creatures of the parade ground. A quick coat of paint and maybe a family or unit badge is likely as complex as most shields would ever get. At least, that’s what I tell myself.