Monday, 16 January 2012

Stupid Colours

One aspect of wargaming that always frustrates me is the painting of figures. Painting has to be done of course, no matter how many figures are waiting in various drawers, cupboards, boxes.....and it is not as if I am particularly bad at it. I have turned out some very nice looking units in my time, things that I am very proud of, its just that I do not get a major kick out of the act of painting. It is so time consuming but it is the only way I am ever going to get figures done, I certainly cannot afford to buy in such services. So, I bite the bullet and just get on with it and, on the whole, make quite a good job of it.

However, part of my problem, possibly the lions share in fact, is my colour blindness. Before you ask, no, I can see colours. I do not live in a grey scale world by any means, its just that many colours look the same to me whilst others are completely indescribable. For example, purple, mauve and other such colours are just words to me and I couldn't begin to describe or even identify them in a line up. Reds, greens and browns can get very confused and I have to be careful not to mix them up. Given the number of shades of colour available in paint pots these days, dozens of every possible colour, I can rarely ever tell them all apart. I can see a bright red and not mistake it for a bright green but when the shades starting approaching the middle ground and the dark end of the spectrum I am lost. This is one of the reasons I often buy paints where the lable tells me what the colour is for rather than what it is; Snakebite Leather, for example. I have often had to ask a sales assistant or a person with me at the time, to describe a colour for me, tell me how much lighter/darker is it compared to something I can see. Sadly, this is when you realise how much of a vocabulary there is with colours, a personal almost coloquial bias that can make the task of vocalising a shade an interesting excercise.

This can sometimes be worked around of course, once I have settled on a colour for a particular job I can hang on to it, a certain red for a specific uniform etc., and buy a couple of pots at a time. The trouble really starts when I try and cross over to a different project but keep the same paints, who can afford to have a different set for each wargame project? 'Which shade of green will be needed here', is a well used phrase with me and every time I will spend hours working it out, trying to remember what I have used that particular pot for in the past or does the colour name offer a clue? This assumes, of course, that I can actually see and identify the colour I am trying to imitate in the first place! A picture of painted figures, photograph of an old uniform, anything like this can be less than useless as I often can't see what the colours are anyway. And, if I ask someone to describe them I usually get a very unhelpful,'.....well, its a sort of reddy, greeny brown...' or some other baffleing concoction of words.

Lets not go into the joys that can be highlighting....a sad, sad tale of ending up with figures that are less highlighted than re painted in a brighter shade! Can't see where I have been you see? I know, very sad...and costs a fortune in paint!!!

This all came to a head this weekend. I decided to have a go at my 28mm ww2 Italian paratroopers. Despite the lack of painting guides (thanks to those of you that offered me resources, very much appreciated and helpful) I had a chat with a few people and felt quite comfortable about how to progress. At least I thought I was. In the end I could not even decide upon the colour to use for the base of the camo pattern! Usual problem, couldn't identify it and couldn't match it with what I had. After several attempts I consulted with my good mate Mark and we came up with a plan for me to didn't work of course, I just couldn't see it, I even tried swaping the order of the colours to see if that made it worse! I just could not get the colours right nor even the patterning in the end. One figure was launched across the room and I was ordered by the wife to pack it in or else! And then, if things were not bad enough, Arsenal gave away a penalty and it was all down hill there too!

All in all, it was a crap day and nothing worked. I had spent hours and got nowhere fast. A complete waste of a day. But, now, I have reached a conclusion. There is no point me trying to paint camoflaged figures, none what so ever. Bah. So, next time you are getting annoyed at a paint job that is going wrong, spare a thought for us colour blind wargamers!


  1. Bah that must suck dude. Camo I find tricky anyhow and have had mixed results with the two attempts so far. I have a stack of Copplestone future wars stuff waiting for me to get good at doing camo

  2. Hi Brummie,

    Thanks for your support. It does suck and is actually quite limiting. I am forced to think before I get involved in a project, not a good thing for a wargamer!! I have also got some modern stuff to do but I am a bit worried about it all now...I might sort out the SYW Russian artillery instead and go back to those later. Best of luck with the Future Wars stuff, when you are ready of course! Cheers mate.

  3. Blimey, that doesn't sound like a lot of fun!!! I sometimes launch figures across the room and I'm not colourblind, must be a man thing!! Sounds as though each and every project will have to be thoughally thought through, preferable with lots of painting guides...must be a real pain in the arse!!

  4. Hi Ray,

    Thanks for you kind thoughts mate. Yep, it is very hard to be spontaneous, a lot of thought into possible colour issues. I have started a Marlburian Brit army (28mm Front Rank) and a big part of the decision was the painting. That said, I couldn't highlight the red coats, I ended up with them looking (to everyone else) like stripey kids sweets! i have now found army painter dips which have been brilliant. I can now low light and get some great results without my arse being pained!! I shall post a pic of the units here for you to see the results for yourself.