Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painting: Guard Color Selection

Painting your guard: a topic of much potential disaster. Everyone will, no doubt, have their own opinion on the subject about what they think looks good, but simply looking great is not a realistic selection criteria for Imperial Guard camouflage, and here’s why. Criteria one: complexity. Look at the photo below, does the cammo look great, heck yeah it does. Does that cammo pattern take some time to create, again – heck yes it does. Now, do you want to paint that pattern on every trooper in your 60+ infantry model army? Probably not.

Image used without permission

So what are the three factors to consider when choosing your color scheme for a new Imperial Guard commander? The three factors I look at, in no particular order, are simplicity, color selection and skill level. Skill level will help with some things, speed and covering up mistakes for example, and should never be discounted, however – you need to be honest with yourself about your skill level! Clearly the painter below did not objectively evaluate their painting skill level when selecting a cammo scheme:

When deciding on a cammo scheme for my forces I first look to nature, for my color selection: what colors are predominate in that environment? Lucky me I chose a desert army so all my colors are in the tan and brown range. So once I pick the base colors for my components like armor, bags, weapons and boots – the rest is fairly simple. In the example below I went with Kaki for the pants and shirt, Earth for the armor, Dark Fleshtone for the boots and finally Olive Green for the weapon and cloth bags.

For highlights and blending, there is a ton of different ways to pick your colors, guys will whip out color wheels, measure RGB (red, blue, green) content and even use a bucket of KFC Chicken and a Priest to aid them in color selection. Mine is a bit easier and nethanderthal inspired. Typically I will select a color somewhere on this chart and then stay close to it, for highlights I stay within three or four adjacent colors. Is it a complicated system, nope – but it keeps me close without a lot of analysis!

Once I figure out my base colors I apply some highlights, a wash or two and then off we go to the next squad. With the Imperial Guard I find that it is best to keep it simple and stick to natural things present on our humble slice of the universe here on Earth. If you want some wacky flaming purple army, stick to Marines - they seem to enjoy that kind of thing.

still practicing_



  1. You mentioned it but I think it deserves more attention: make sure your basing scheme goes with your colour scheme, the idea is that not only do the colours go, but your troops look like they're part of their environment (as your sniper successfully does!). Many a model has been ruined by an urban cammo uniformed chap standing on bright green flock!

  2. excellent point! in my older models I am guilty of just that, thankfully I have started rebasing them with better stuff

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