Army Color Scheme Design

A common question I’ve gotten is how to decide on color schemes for miniatures. For single miniatures, this can be difficult. For whole armies, it creates additional problems. Here I’d like to discuss how to choose the color scheme for an army. The colors are broken down into categories.

Primary- The overall color of the miniature, or at least the most prominent.

Secondary- Next in prominence. This color often acts as a visual contrast to the Primary.

Tertiary/Contrast- Usually this color is a strong contrast to the Primary and Secondary colors, or breaks up a miniature’s lines and shapes.

Detail- This is the unified color for the less prominent or smaller details. Often this is a collection of colors.

The examples below give some idea of color schemes and the breakdown of color choices.

For instance, the Imperial Fist Marine’s Primary color is yellow, with a strong red for the secondary. The whole army features the yellow power armor, with red shoulder pad rims, chest eagles, and assorted decoration. The Contrast color is white, used on some armor plates, either as part of squad insignia, helmets, or shoulder pads. Detail colors for the army include black (for bolters and most weapons), parchment (for purity seals and litany pages), and grey metal (weapon and backpack parts, armor joints). Red returns as a detail color for eyes, purity seals, and scanners.

Another example is a Dark Elf. His Primary color is a cool grey metal for his armor plates and chain coat. Purple acts as the Secondary color, used for the body cloak. The Contrast color is a warm yellow (a good complement to the purple). Finally Detail colors include gold for weapons and jewelry, white metal for weapons, and turquoise for bags.  Skin is usually not included in color scheme choices unless it either features prominently on the miniature, or is a color that would contrast strongly with any of the major colors. In the case of the Dark Elf, the pale blue skin is pretty low key so wouldn’t interfere with the other colors. On a unit of Witch Elves from the same army, it might influence other color choices. On the other hand, the Orc’s green skin is bold, creating a substantial distinction with the black and white Primary and Secondary colors.

When choosing the colors, one should take into account basic color theory. If necessary, consult a color wheel to determine color harmonics with analogous and complementary colors. A scheme that follows these suggested rules will ultimately have a better appearance to the eye, whereas colors chosen poorly can lead to garish or ugly looking miniatures.


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