Thursday, 9 June 2016

Of Gems and Colour Theory

Originally this was starting out as a review of the new Games Workshop gem paints. I saw these and they piqued my interest: "what, I can save 5 steps and 2hrs of painting time by using just these two paints?! Count me in Guv!"

The suggestion that you could use them for gems and lenses sounds great. These are always fiddly to get right, and for table top standard, no one ever looks that closely at the miniatures anyway. The only reason I try and paint them in any great detail is because I enjoy the painting and I want my miniatures to be complete.

So I thought I'd get some. The colours I decided upon were the red and the blue, and here's why (this is where the colour theory comes in).

The Theory
With my Wolves I have always used red as the spot colour. It's a good contrasting colour (grey being in the blue/cool side of the chart, red in the red/warm side) and really adds something to marines that essentially start out as grey plastic and get painted a different shade of grey (to quote my lovely wife). I also use a lot of gold to add some bling. It helps that gold is another contrasting colour to both grey and red (almost like they form a triangle across the chart), but also using silver on grey doesn't really stand out. So that's why I picked the red, for the lenses.

I also selected the blue for three reasons.
  1. I rarely use green on my miniatures, it being a good contrast to red but not great with grey.
  2. I usually use blue for vehicle lights, so can hopefully apply this technique here
  3. For jewels I usually use purple, it being the colour of royalty and power... so, can I mix the red and blue gem paints to make purple gems?
  4. If step three fails but the gems look good, I'll be having blue gems in future :-)

The Paints
So I wandered down to Warhammer World and found that actually all of the Spiritstone Red had gone, but being determined to try them out I picked up a pot of Stormhost Silver and Soulstone Blue. These are not cheap but if they do what they say on the tin then they will be worth it. Plus, GW paints seem to last me a while, especially two pots of paint that will only ever be used on gem stones. Maybe if you're an Eldar player you'd be feeling the pinch but as a Marine player, we don't have quite the same quantity of precious stones adorning our armour!

The Stormhost silver, from what I can see is very similar to the old Mithril Silver. Bright with a capital B.

The Soulstone Blue is interesting. Definitely gel-like, translucent and extremely rich. It reminds me more of thick ink rather than anything like the translucent clear paints you get from Tamia. I almost wanted to eat it (strange reaction I know but it reminds me of some gooey treacly sweet from my childhood).

The Results
First things first, don't water these down, don't use a wet pallet. I repeat DO NOT WATER THESE DOWN. Use them straight from the pot. You want the coverage as full as possible. I got that directly from the guy demonstrating these paints at WhW and he was spot on.

Apply the Stormhost Silver on to your desired gemstone. I tried it out on a couple of shapes here; diamond, circular and oblong. All the promotional pictures showed round gems so I wanted to see how they worked on diamonds too. Space Wolves seem to prefer this shape.

Once this completely dry, it's time for the magic to happen. I didn't get it quite right the first go, but quickly got the knack.
Load your brush with the gemstone paint, but don't go overboard (that's where I went wrong). These paints are translucent but they are rich so you only need a tiny bit. Start at the point of deepest shading and smear the paint round to the highlight. Give it ten minutes to dry, the paint flows in to provide shading and light by itself, but it's thick so it takes time (imagine lava rather than a river). If the shaded bit is not dark enough for you, load your brush again and spot a bit more on to that area for a deeper/darker colour.


And that's it. It really is a quick process, much fewer stages than trying to paint gems or lenses the traditional way.

Two more points:
1) These paints dry FAST, so use a soft touch, It's easier to add more later than repair an error.
2) And I would suggest applying these after you have varnished your minis. At least 20% of the magic is in their glossy coat so applying matte varnish is likely to remove some of that effect.

I'll try and get my hands on some of the red paint this week and have a go at mixing them, but I have to say that the blue is really deep and rich and I actually like it, even after saying I wasn't keen originally.



  1. Thanks Dave - give us an update on the red which would be handy for my army.

  2. So you have to put the gem paint on top of the stormhost silver? What is it like if you put it on top of other paints/colours?

    1. It's a translucent paint so I guess you could put it over any other colour to achieve something interesting. The collection in the shop had a gold coloured paint also, which might be good for reds? Also, I thought about applying a wash over he top to change the colour.
      Once I get the red I'll do some experimenting and post the results...