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The Craft

Digital Mock-Ups

by Janelle Schulzetenberg aka Boussole

Ever have a difficult time deciding what colors to paint your mini? Afraid the colors you're thinking of using won't look right together? Can't quite make up your mind as to what shade of red would look best on your dwarf's beard? Here's a quick and simple way to experiment with colors without the risk of needing to repaint your mini.


Painting Your Mini


It's important to note that while this tutorial mentions Photoshop specifically, the concepts described are applicable to any digital editor with decent selection tools and layer composition options. -- editor

Let's start by opening up Photoshop on your computer. I'll be using Photoshop CS5 for this tutorial but these steps should work similarly in all versions of the program. In Photoshop, open the image of the miniature you want to work with. I prefer to use my own photos because it allows me to work at a higher resolution and from whatever angle I like, but you can just as easily work from the photos that Reaper has on their site.

Before you start slapping down colors, first make a new layer by going to Layer -> New -> Layer (Shift+Ctrl+N).

A window will open allowing you to name the layer. I suggest naming it after whatever it is you'll be coloring (Skin, Beard, Sword, etc.). Change the mode to Multiply and then click OK.

Now it's time to actually start picking colors! Click on the front-most box at the bottom of the toolbar. A window will open and you can select the color you want to use.

Once you've picked the color you want, you can start putting down some digital pigment! There are two ways to go about adding color to your image. The first way is to use the lasso tool to select around the area you want colored and fill it in by pressing Alt+Backspace. If you use the fill technique be sure to go to Select -> Deselect (Ctrl+D) after you fill.

For method number two you can select the brush tool and color over all of the parts that you want that particular color. When you use lighter colors like pastels or whites with this method you may have trouble seeing where you're painting. To make it easier to see where the color is going choose a dark color to use instead and paint the area you're working on. Once you've finished, lock the transparent pixels by clicking the small checkered box in your layers panel, pick out your light color, and fill everything by pressing Alt+Backspace.

For each new color or each new item on the mini be sure to make a new layer like you did before. This allows you to change your mind about colors and makes it easier to make those changes.

Changing Colors


Now for the fun part! If you dislike a color you've used or want to try a new one, click on the layer you want to change, go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U) and adjust the sliders until you find something you like.

If you already know what color you want to switch to you can simply lock the transparent pixels by clicking the small checkered box in your layers panel, and fill it (Alt+Backspace) with the color you want to try.

Play around with different combinations and try things you normally wouldn't. You might stumble upon a color combination that's better than what you had in mind.

When you've made your final decision on colors you can save your picture to refer to later by going to File -> Save As and saving your work of art as a .jpg. From there, it's just a matter of deciding which paints you own are the closest match to the colors you've used in Photoshop.

If you end up wanting a more advanced study of how the colors look with more defined highlights or shadows you can lock the transparent pixels on each layer and paint the lighter or darker colors over top.

For those of you who were curious, here's how the mini turned out.