Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Importance of Spot Colours


Have you ever looked at a technically well painted miniature or drawn image, and thought "It's missing something"? Even true to life models, which are weathered down to the anus of every man, need some colour to make them pop. There's an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, where Raymond's father sets out to paint Raymond's house. He decides on a yellow colour, much to the aghast of the extended family. It turns out Frank (Raymond's father) chose yellow because it made the house pop on the block. Needless to say you never actually see the house, but the episode really rung with me as a mediocre model painter who requires tricks to get around his limitations.This isn't so much a tutorial as a short diatribe on why all miniatures should aim to have some colour: 

My Examples: 

I painted a set of models today, 3 bunkers designed to be Viet Cong Bunkers for games I'm planning.
the obvious spot colour here is the red. Now unless you're colour blind (old mate Josh can fuck off) the first thing you're gonna be drawn to is the red tarp flowing off the side of the roof. Unfortunately, that's the only real spot colour on here. So, oddly enough, the basing becomes the spot colour. The other models are predominantly brownish aside from the corrugated iron roofing on the one bunker, so the grass becomes those part's spot colour that makes them Pop. 

This tau is a model I produced a long time ago, I'm not sure how well it has come out, b ut the first thing most people will notice is the orange and yellow pattern on the helm and target locks of the battlesuit. They are bright, out of place colours that once again, make them Pop. 

Examples from Video Games: 

This is also evident in a few video games, especially from the 8-32bit era, and especially prevalent within sidescrollers such as castlevania one and two, pictured below. 

In this example, the spot colours are the two player characters which share a slightly red, orange palette that makes them easily identifiable to the player. The other easily identifiable object on the field in the first screen are the enemies, which have a bright lilac colour palette designed to make them easily identifiable to the player. The Royal blue spot colour on the orb in the second image makes it easily identifiable as a quest item. Once again, the player is not going to perceive the skeletons as an enemy because they're not bright and colourful against the palette. 

The Best Colours for spots:

The best colour for your spot colour depends on your primary and secondary colours. Your primary colour will usually be a green, blue or grey (although fantasy gives room for changing this) so your secondary colour will be red for the first two and a black for the second. Good spot colours for green/red are yellow and orange, and green or white make good spot colours for blue/red. Grey usually has white or red highlights, although given the neutral nature of grey you can use almost any vibrant colour for spot colours.

I hope this might have helped someone with seeing the value of spot colours when painting miniatures. As always, if you have any questions, comments, critiques, anecdotes or just want to shoot the shit, you can contact me at 

Bonus round: 

Comment how many times you count the word pop! If you get it right, you'll get a prize. Here's a hint: The prize; It's like a lightbulb, it's pretty cool.