Sunday 26 June 2016

Colour Concepts 5: what colour is ... rock?

Seriously. Not this colour, or shaded
variants of it. Really. Even if it's the one
GW put in their terrain pack along with
that brown that isn't soil-coloured...
OK. Time for a rant.

Rock is not grey.

Specifically rock and stone, with a very very small set of exceptions. are not THIS grey that people always paint them.

This is our old friend RGB #708090 which a decent number of people consider 'pure grey'. The only rocks that come close to that colour are mostly slate and some granite, but in general? Most rocks are no more that shade of grey than most soil is a kid's crayon brown.

Don't believe me? Go Google for images of castles (you'll need to hit the image tab and mind out for Nathan Fillion!). See anything that colour? Thought not. Even Raglan Castle, which can look grey from a distance in some photos, surprisingly isn't from close up.

We also come back here to how light affects things - if you do a search for Raglan Castle, say, and look at the range of images on offer, see how much the colour varies depending on time of day, sun vs cloudy sky, etc. The guidebook actually describes it as 'yellow sandstone'!

So what colour is stone?

Guess what?

Those lovely folks from Munsell, not content with keeping archaeologists and soil scientists happy, do a series of rock colour charts too :D That aside, if you think a 200 buck colour chart is a bit much for your hobby, I suggest a bit of Googling, and trying to match. Be aware, though (and this is something we need to discuss in a later article), large expenses of colour in smaller scales look wrong unless you lighten them and de-saturate them a bit from their original shade.

I'm currently using my three stage drybrush over Sandtex Bitter Chocolate that I use for soil, and then knocking back the very pale final shade of cream/'magnolia' with a wash of Army Painter Soft Tone ink, which also has the advantage of restoring some of the surface detail if I've been a bit heavy-handed. But it's up to you - that's one specific rock colour/shade out of a wide spectrum from reddish to almost grey, and many points in between and outliers.

Granite, showing its crystalline mix.
Granite is an interesting crystalline mix, and if you WANT a granite keep (say), the reason it looks grey is that it's a mixture of white quartz crystals and other darker ones, not because it's actually a uniform colour! And some granite can be pink.

Ok. So. Anyone any suggestions for a water-based equivalent to Army Painter Soft Tone that I can buy in larger quantities than 15ml droppers? I may have a LOT of stone to paint.


  1. One of my friends swears by this wash recipe off dakka dakka. Acrylic medium plus artist inks. Just make sure the inks are not water based(acrylic probably is best) otherwise they can fade pretty quick.

  2. I got fed up with every table being grey so my default stone colour is desert yellow with a brown wash or Dulux Salisbury Stone 1, much nicer. At the moment I am using Vallejo sepia dip which comes in 100ml jars. Absolutely magical stuff, just brush it on and pale boring rock just comes alive, all the texture appears.

    I love the Munsell definition of soil: "soil is anything defined as such by competent authority".

    1. Oops, the brown wash goes over the Dulux or spray obviously enough. The former for terrain and the latter for buildings, which at the moment are some old GW mighty fortress bits.

    2. That Vallejo dip looks like a must buy! Thanks!

  3. second the vallejo dip in the big jars

  4. Painting rocks is a good time to turn to our friends in the model railroading hobby and take a look at how they paint them. Off the top of my head I would recommend Dave Frary's Model Railroad Scenery (3rd Edition) from Kalmbach publishing. Woodland Scenics has some good information as well. You will find that Burnt Umbar, Raw Umbar, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna are your real friends when it comes to doing stonework. Also check out the website for Stoney Creek Designs (Roger Malinowski) and look at his On30 tab. The Paul Scoles scenery DVDs are excellent as well but I'm unsure of availability since he passed away in 2014.

  5. I use leather brown, drybrushed desert yellow, dry brushed pale grey drybrushed flesh then strong-tone washed for a more sandstone look

  6. Mike remember as far as large walls go there are additional considerations:


    All the above will change the colour from basic stone to something else.

    Remember the tower of London was nicknamed the White Tower because it was limewashed.


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