Creating a Paint Range


At the beginning of 2016 I met Mat Hart, co-founder of Guild Ball and Steamforged Games, when he was attending CanCon in Australia. We ended up chatting for the better part of an hour (I think? We completely lost track of time) and within that space we swapped details to stay in touch. Little did I know that Mat would end up bringing me on board as an Art Consultant to help them design a paint range (among other upcoming projects).

In one Skype meeting he pitched to me his idea for a paint range. We discussed the pros and cons of the approach he initially thought of and we ended up revising it quite a bit. There are so many paint ranges on the market these days that in order for our product to be well received we would have to do something different. Something that the majority of other companies aren't doing. And this is the tricky part-so many thousands of colors are readily available, how do we make our product stand out?

As many of you know I used to work for Privateer Press and I still adore the P3 Paint range. I love the longer working time (it doesn't dry as fast as most other ranges), I love some of the rich colors and I like the versatility it has between wet blending, two brush blending and glazing. I wanted to make a product that is similar to the paint range I already love without re-inventing the wheel. My one biggest complaint with the P3 range is that the majority of the colors are too muted and very grey or brown. There are very few bright, highly saturated colors within the Privateer Press range. Additionally, I used the Games Workshop paint range when it was in the clear hex pots with black lids back when they were made in France. The range of those colors were fantastic. So many saturated high fantasy colors and I didn't mind the behavior and finish on them at all. But then GW discontinued this range and moved manufacturing to China. I lost so many of my favorite colors and have never found equivalents. Now, Mat had been using Scale Color and loved how matte they dried. I've used Scale Color and I enjoy the range of colors they have available and I don't mind the matte finish but they behave very strangely for my style of painting.

After discussing these aspects, Mat seemed convinced with the vision to create a limited range of highly saturated colors that behave the same as P3. We have been working with the paint manufacturer to marry all aspects of the paint ranges we love into one!


The Plan for our Paint Range

We are aiming to offer a set of colors that will be highly saturated, longer working time for optimal blending performance while drying more matte than the Privateer Press P3 range without sacrificing adhesion (aka, keeping pigments from separating when thinned and better "stick" to the canvas).

In my mixing journey I've focused on having very pure, intensely bright colors. I use two techniques for most of my painting-2 brush blending and glazing. When I use glazing it's either to add in a bit of color interest or to add brightness back into an area on a mini that has perhaps gone too pale in highlighting. The more intense the color is out of the pot, the better it will thin down and not lose it's intensity when being glazed on. I want to use a little bit of paint to add a punch of color.

By focusing on providing intense colors we can also give a good starting point for people who are comfortable mixing to create desaturated tones with our range. Someone asked if we were going to have any pastels in our range. While we may have a few colors that could be classified as pastels, I am not going to provide an extensive range of pastels. The reason being is that in order to create a pastel you just need to add white to an existing color. I'd rather offer an array of bright colors that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to mix with existing ranges, and allow the user to add white to them. Additionally, if you want to desaturate a color you can mix in the complement or a grey to bring the intensity of the color down. However, it's impossible to go the other way. Once you have white or grey added into the color, you can't put the intensity back in. It's lost forever. And that's what I've been lamenting with the ranges I've been using in the last 5 years or so. I just can't get the bright intense colors I love so much!

*A Note*
The colors in this range are not Guild Ball specific as Steamforged Games is developing multiple product lines with miniatures such as the Dark Souls Board Game. That said, I hope that the bright colors I am developing will offer some more bright historical colors. Already, someone has remarked that several yellows I've mixed look very medieval. And in the reds, I've been trying to use tones present in Victorian era red fabrics.

What We Don't Want To Do

What we are trying to avoid doing with this range is creating a painting "system". I feel people get too hung up on knowing what specific recipe they need in order to paint a surface and want a shade, base and highlight color already mixed and labelled for them so they don't have to think about color theory. This is very limiting and I feel it's a crutch and a hurdle all at the same time. If you want to paint and want to get better at painting you will need to learn color theory and be comfortable mixing colors. The only way to do that is to experiment with your colors available to you and see how they interact with each other. When you find mixes you like, paint a swatch in a journal and write down how you made it! Then you can make it again.

This paint range will not be a system like Reaper or even the current GW range. There will not be a base color and corresponding shades and highlights. Instead, there will be a range of colors that you can mix together, you can use colors straight out of the pot, you can desaturate if you like . . . we want to give a completely versatile range of color that you can then customize at your own table for your use. We also want to encourage people to think about the color present in their pot. Not what it's named. This may seem daunting to some but as soon as you ditch the painting system style of thinking, your painting will evolve and you will find your creativity increases because you've removed those artificial limitations you've currently placed upon yourself and your creative range.

The Process

When we began this journey, Mat said he wanted me to be as transparent as possible with the public. He wanted us to blog about our progress and the process. So, here's how this all works!

First, we have to get a set of tints from the manufacturer. These tints are proprietary to the manufacturer and these are the colors we have to use to make every color in our paint range. We received the following 13 colors:

The original proprietary tints from the manufacturer. We have to create all of our colors with these 13 tints.

The original proprietary tints from the manufacturer. We have to create all of our colors with these 13 tints.

Most people would think the next step should be very scientific and have a definite process. We need to create the colors we want to offer in our paint range. Well, sad to say, there really is no precision to this process. It's literally mixing colors together to see how they interact with each other until I get an end result I like. However, I have to do this part of the process twice. First, I need to mix up a ton of swatches and decide what I like. Second, I have to mix up small batches of paint to send a wet sample back to the manufacturer. That means I need to record the tints that are present in the end result so I can duplicate it in the wet sample.

Next up is preparing samples to send back to the manufacturer. They need two types of samples from us-wet and dry. The wet samples are bottles of the colors I've mixed by hand. They will then stick the wet paint into their spectrometer and it will read how many parts of the tints are used to create that specific color. So for Peridot I've used Cool Yellow and Green. When they put the wet sample of Peridot into the spectrometer it will read how many parts of Cool Yellow to how many parts of Green are used to create it.

The dry samples are also for their spectrometer to read. Paint tends to dry darker than it looks straight out of the pot. In order to get the best match possible they will use spectrophotometry (shining light through the dry sample to read the color break down) as well as running the wet sample through a spectrometer to make sure they get the mix as exact as possible. The dry samples are tedious to make but all part of the process.

The manufacturer has sent me test cards that are half white and half black. I have to layer on enough paint so that you cannot see the white or the black through the paint. This is done by layering the paint over the line break on the card where the black and white fields meet. And I layer it on until the paint is completely opaque.

This is one layer of Emerald Green on the test card. I lost track of how many layers it took to get it completely opaque in the end.

This is one layer of Emerald Green on the test card. I lost track of how many layers it took to get it completely opaque in the end.

Some airbrushed samples and some hand brushed samples as well as the bottles of wet samples to send back to the manufacturer.

Some airbrushed samples and some hand brushed samples as well as the bottles of wet samples to send back to the manufacturer.

Once I get all of the samples completed I will box it all up, each paint named and a corresponding code attached to it, and send it back to the manufacturer. Then they will get busy on their end mixing up our colors, adding it to the base we've asked for and then we will get test batches. Mat will get one and I will get one. We will then use, test and decide if we need to tweak colors or any aspect of the paint base. Once everything is approved, the paint range will then go into manufacture to hit the market.


What's in a Name?

I posed the question on Facebook of how people would like to see the paint range named. Would they like to see just a color code? A fantasy or sci-fi oriented name (such as putrid green or dragon scale red)? A mundane world name such as butter yellow?

The feedback was great and there seemed to be a general consensus that the range needed names and having a corresponding color code to make organization easy. The names people wanted to see were actually mundane world names. It seems everyone is a bit tired of the game oriented names. This also corresponds with what Mat and I had discussed with naming.

We find that when a paint color is given a name that corresponds to it's intended use, it tends to be pigeon-holed for that use. Such as naming a green Orc Skin Green. Then people only ever use that green as Orc Skin! Or when people see peachy tones labelled as flesh tones they only ever use those to paint their flesh and never for anything else.

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine as someone who teaches. When I teach color theory in my painting classes I really try to impress upon people the importance of the color itself and not the name. I paint swatches on my paint pot lids so I see the color, not the name on the label. And then I can start to think about what colors to use to create a specific look or color mix. I disregard the paint name. So Thrall Flesh from P3 I never really use as an undead fleshtone. Instead, I use it to highlight weathered leather.

This brings me to how I am naming the colors for the range. I am using real world, every day objects or materials, names. The pale yellow I mixed looks close to a rich butter so it is named Butter Yellow. The bright cool yellow I have mixed is named Lemon Yellow. The sort of "acid" green I've mixed is close in color to the gemstone Peridot (the birthstone for August) and thus it is named Peridot. In the reds I have Red Pepper, Strawberry, Crimson and Fuchsia Petal so far. I will continue with these sorts of names because they describe the tone of the color well, without inadvertently assigning an intended use for it. This will even apply to the colors I've mixed as skintones. Nothing will actually be labelled a skintone. Browns and Tans should be used to get various skintones and I find all too often that what are labelled skintones are very caucasian which means people seem at a loss when they want to paint any other tone. I often get asked how to paint African Skintones because there isn't a color labelled that in the range they are using. In reality, it's super simple: use browns!

So, we want to combat this psychological block people develop when painting and trying to pay too much attention to what's in a name as opposed to really looking at the color and figuring out how to use it in your painting.

I hope you've stayed through to the end of this blog post to see what we are all about and what our aim is for this new product range. We do plan to offer additional painting products such as inks and mediums. And here's hoping I can provide you guys with some videos when we get our samples in hand!