Dr. DDevil: Painting Warm Black Without Fear

Hello fellow hobbyists and miniature aficionados! 

Dr. D here with another painting article on how to paint yet ANOTHER of the best colors not actually found on the color wheel, Warm Black. In my previous article, we talked briefly about the different kinds of black that exist when it comes to painting. We briefly went over the cool color spectrum and how you can apply it to black color painting. This gives us a perfect opportunity to go over how to do a warmer black. Using different kinds of black is a simple and easy way to introduce different textures to your model. This helps make the model more interesting to look at, and prevents it from being the generic flat black that you see on tabletop quality painting jobs. I am here to make your models at least tabletop quality plus, and make sure you are the envy of your LFGS.

For all of your benefits, I even went as far as to throw in an example of something that you FOR SURE do not want to do. My goal here is to make sure the mistakes I made a million times don’t become anyone else’s’ mistakes.

The most important aspect of painting a warm black is making sure you use the right color for highlighting. “Science” tells us that the sun is the primary source of light for the planet we live on during the day. This matters to us because it actually tints everything we see with a yellow patina. Why is this important? Because sunlight is not pure white, and is exactly why a black highlighted with pure white doesn’t look right to your brain. So, you may have a similar thought that you should highlight with a yellow. The bad new is that is also wrong, but that is more of a paint problem and less of a problem with your eyes. You never want to actually highlight a black with a straight yellow. This is the perfect way to turn your black turn into a sickly green, and unless that is the effect you are going for, is going to look very strange to the human eye.

“But Dr. D, what is the solution,” says the voice deeply placed in the back of my brain-pan? I will tell you disembodied voice and reader; it’s bone colors. This goes into the saturation discussion that I touched on briefly in the cool black article. The saturation discussion clearly needs an entire article on its own due to its importance, but for now, just give me the benefit of the doubt. All you have to do currently is trust in the fact that a bone color is going to be the better saturation choice to your black if you want to produce a more realistic looking warm black.

I wanted to use this model again to illustrate the difference between a cool and a warm black. The pants are painted with a warmer color spectrum than the belts and shirt. It’s subtle and you may not even notice it, but you brain did.

So without further ado, here is my painting list

Monument Hobbies Coal Black

Citadel Bleached Bone (I guess they don’t make this paint anymore? I am not sure what the best 1:1 would be in Citadel Colors, but you should be able to get away with any kind of bright bone color)

Monument Hobbies Titanium White (Depends on how contrast hungry you are.)

Monument Hobbies Transparent Black

Now, lets start slapping warm black onto a model.

So as always, you need a model to paint if you want to do a model painting guide. Thankfully, Corvus Glaive from MCP is here to help me out once again. When I started this model I knew that it was going to be very important to make sure the blacks were different textures to create some contrast. This will stop the human eye from just seeing a flat black blob on the table, and force the eye to stare at it longer attempting to discern all the delicious details. We finished the the cool black color in the previous article. Which means that the color transitions for the warm black is going to be easy to see once the highlights are introduced to the model.

I went over the black areas of the cloak and armor plates again with coal black to make sure we had a good basecoat and tidy up any colors that spilled over. Coal Black continues to be one of my favorite base colors for black since it allows you to pick where the darker parts of the model are going to sit. Thankfully, I have found it works great for cool and warm blacks even though it already has a little bit of blue in the paint mixture.

Poor Coal Black is trying his best, and I can’t get mad at him for trying.

He has returned! With a thirst for PAINT!

This is going to be where the money is going to be made. This cloak is full of wonderful variations in depth, and even a few rips to break up the big flat surfaces. These little details are what really put MCP models on the map as some of the most fun models to paint.

So, I put the Coal Black and Bleached Bone onto the ol’ wet palate, and realized that when I started trying to do different blacks in my youth I had wanted to start highlighting black with yellows. Once I discovered my mistake on some poor Bretonnian Knight, I knew that it was my destiny to make sure my mistakes were not anyone else’s’ mistakes. For this demonstration, I put some yellow on the pallet to show you what would happen if you mixed a yellow with a black.

Once you start mixing the saturated yellow into the black you will get a sickly looking green as you can see in the picture below. This is not in itself bad, and could be a really cool color for something like a reptile or scary monster, but its not a the kind of black that we are after. I thought for learning purposes it would be a good idea to leave it on the pallet so that you can see how our black is going to look compared to using the wrong kind of yellow.

The colors we are going to use for this demonstration. Thankfully, it’s very easy since it’s only 4 paints total. Yellow mix is left for demonstration purposes.

To start adding depth to the model we are going to add a slight amount of bleached bone to the black until we just start to notice that the black is actually a different color. It will start to look lighter like in the picture below. Once you have that, start to sketch the paint where the highlights are going to be. Remember, the highlight’s goal is to bring the attention of the human eye to the middle of the model and towards the chest/face/head. You don’t need to be overly neat, but try and leave some depth in the darkest parts so that putting in shadows later is easier. Don’t overthink where you put the paint at this stage. The color shift for this stage is going to be very mild, so it is very easy to come back and tidy up any mistakes that you think you made later.

What your next color should roughly look like.

A word of advice when it comes to painting with different brands of paint is to make sure you know how thick the paints you are using tend to be. Monument Hobbies’s paints are gloriously perfect for just taking straight out of the pot with maybe a slight amount of water. Citadel paints are much thicker and can easily make your black too thick for highlight work. It’s easy to avoid by just adding a little water every time you mix bleached bone into your mix. I always have a mix brush to save my good brushes from the toil of manual labor. Whenever I start to mix colors together, I make sure I dip that brush into my water before I do the mix to make sure it starts flowing throughout the entire painting process. Once you get good enough to recognize what consistency you want your paint, it gets alot easier to eyeball how much water you want to use.

Don’t really notice much of a difference with a camera shot, and these highlights are only here to help guide your aim on where to put the highlights later.

Once you finish the initial highlight layer, you start to gradually add more and more bleached bone to your paint mix. I would recommend your next layer be approximately 33:33:33 in regards to bone/black/water, but honestly you will know when it’s ready once it starts to look like the next color up. It’s ok if you feel like the previous layer did not add much to the model since it truly should be used as training wheels for where the next highlight layers are going to go. As long as the flow of the paint is good you will start to notice the differences between the shadows and highlights with this step.

You can clearly see the difference in the type of black you are going to get if you use an unsaturated yellow vs a saturated yellow (bone color)

You can start to see the layers of the highlight at this stage.

So this will be the final highlight with the bleached bone color. Once you get to this step of highlighting you want to make sure the black is translucent on the palette. This means the paint is very thin, and will create a much nicer gradient up to the highest points. Your mix should be mostly bleached bone with just the slightest amount of coal black mixed into it. The coal black is there to just prevent the bleached bone from having no connection to the color you are painting. If you use a pure bleached bone the color could come off too stark and disconnect from the color you are trying to paint.

I am really loving some of those high points on the model. The highlights are just bringing out all the little ripples and tears in the cloak.

Now, if you remember from my previous article, or know me in-person, you will know that I am addicted to contrast when it comes to my painting. Could you stop here and put the shadows in and be happy? Absolutely, and I wouldn’t even blame you. However; I need to push the envelope and make myself feel uncomfortable. When I feel the need for high contrast, out comes the Titanium White.

We take some white and add it to the mixture. The most important thing to remember while doing extreme highlighting, especially with a white, is that white is EXTREMELY powerful. This is due to the fact that white is the absence of all other color. Your brush needs to be fine, and the amount of paint in the bristles needs to be controlled. The paint should be water down enough that it might take you a few passes on the model to build up the quality of this highlight, but not so thin that it washes into the cracks. This is going to help you control any mistakes you could possibly make while wielding this powerful weapon of the contrast empire.

The white makes me shiver with its power.

Before the final shadows are introduced. The shadow step should help handle the clumsy gradients and help fix any mistakes with color placement.

Now we have a lovely highlighted model. The transitions are going to be harsh and messy and you are probably going to not like your work. The good new is that whether you decided to put the white highlight on the model or not, this is going to be the way to solve your woes. Monument Hobbies Translucent Black is the secret sauce for putting the shadows back into the model. For the especially deep parts of the cloak you can use the paint right out of the bottle, and then water it down as you get closer and closer to the higher points of the model. I can not stress enough that this paint should not be used as a wash. Translucent paint is better used as a glaze, so you must be careful to not put the translucent paint over the highest points of the highlight unless you need to bring stain them down.

I will write an article in the future about this topic, but glazes and washes are too different tools for a painter.

Finished back view. Clearly, some areas need a little work on the transitions, but it gives you an idea of what it should roughly look like.

Finished Front View

You can now put down your brush as you are done at this point with the model. If you see your paint job and notice some areas that need to be fixed up gradient wise, that’s fine. I always go back and do all the little changes that need to be done at the very last step of the model. One thing I always stress to other painters is that you need to make sure the entire model is set before you go back and add the final touches. It is easy to put the blinders on and focus on specific parts of the model without taking everything else into consideration. Never fiddle a model to death. Sometimes it is better to step away and let your brain come back to your paint job after you sleep. Get your models to 95% finished and walk away. This prevents you from working on the same model for 5 months and getting frustrated.

Whammy blammo that is a pretty-good lucking Corvus. One of the best parts of painting MCP models is that once you get the main colors blocked in and finished, the details are pretty easy. The details on the model always have a job to do for the model as a whole, and never just soak up your time unnecessarily. For example, after all the black is finished on Corvus we just need to finish up the gold parts, paint his face, and feet……talon…..things and you got yourself a real swanky looking model that will be the envy of your LFGS.

And you can’t forget about the base. Corvus is from space, so why would would be standing on a New York City street base? I wonder what would happen if I based him something a bit more…….cosmic?

Keep it popping guys, and see you in the next one.

3 thoughts on “Dr. DDevil: Painting Warm Black Without Fear

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    1. Let me tell you my friend, even I had difficulty trying to get Black Cat where I wanted her. I got another model just to try again since I was only marginally happy with one of my favorite comic book characters.

      I wish you the best of luck.

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