Just a Smidge of Color (Theory)

Colors are fun and often are a huge factor in our scale models and miniatures.

It can often be easy to throw colors together at the drop of the hat (that’s me!) but sometimes a painter might want a color theme or invoke a certain feeling with their builds. It can be rather difficult to put together colors that work.

This color is too warm, this is too cold, this green doesn’t go with this blue, and so on. It’s a hassle.

I put together a very simple introduction to color theory that has helped me and hopefully help someone else with their projects when it comes to picking colors.

The Color Wheel

There are two types of color wheels, RYB (typically for artists) and RGB (typically for online design and light perception). We’re going to be looking at the RYB color wheel. The RYB stands for red, yellow, and blue.

Primary Colors

Primary colors are colors that you can’t get from mixing other colors. These are red, yellow, and blue. Mixing these together in different amounts can give you all the colors on the wheel.

You can even use primary colors without mixing them together

Secondary colors

Mixing two primary colors gives you a secondary color. For example Green, orange, and purple.

Tertiary Colors

These are made by mixing primary and secondary colors together. They make colors like blue-green, red-orange, and yellow-green.

Complementary Colors

Colors that are opposite on the color wheel. These could be could be red-green, purple-yellow, or blue-orange.

  • Split-complementary
    • A color scheme using one base color and two secondary colors (like blue-yellow-orange)
  • Triadic
    • Takes three colors that are equally spaced on the color wheel like red-blue-yellow
  • Tetradic
    • Two sets of complementary pairs (red-green and orange-blue) and picks one dominant color
  • Square
    • Four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel

Analogous Colors

Colors that are neighbors on the color wheel. Such as red-orange-yellow or yellow-green-blue.

Monochrome Colors

A color with it’s tints and shades.

  • Tints- Colors mixed with white
  • Shades- Colors mixed with black
  • Tones- Add Grey

Color Theory

A guideline for mixing, combining, and messing around with colors.

Color Harmony

Color pairings that are visually nice to look at, and depending on the person it might be different combos.

Some combos might be easy to look at for some like purple-yellow, but others might find the combo unpleasant to look at.

Color Temperature

These temperatures may help convey emotions.

  • Warm Colors-
    • Red, yellow, and orange
warm colors (purple-orange-yellow-red)
  • Cool Colors-
    • blue, green, and some purples
Blues are cool tones

Color Context

Colors can act differently when placed with certain colors. Some colors may appear bright or dull when placed with others. Some shades might overtake others.

What’s the deal with it?

This is just an introduction to colors. They can often help provide emotions or tell a story depending on how they’re used.

When applying this to gunpla and miniatures, it adds another level of self-expression to what you’re working on. It’s also important to note that applying colors to a model is something that might take time to get in the groove. Some combos might not work for your and it can take some experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try something new, you never know what might happen. Test it on some plastic spoons, if you don’t want to use a model or mini.         

Hope this helps!

Happy Monday and Happy painting!


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