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There is something that has been always bugging me with that. I understand, that shading is extremely important, when painting something on a flat canvas. There you need to create an illusion of three dimensionality and indicate where the light is coming from on the painting.

The miniatures however already are three dimensional and there is already a natural light supposedly creating shades. Wouldn't then make it sense to just paint them with one thin color and let the light do the rest?

I think the reason why I always had trouble with highlights (other then those on thin sharp edges, where it was clear what to highlight) and shading is that I never really understood what exactly I am doing or what all this is for. Could please someone explain this to me?
 

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Well imho its because the models are so small so we need to outline the shadows so they are more noticeable. But thats just my opinion.
Also shadows help to show what kind of material it is.
 

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Also take into acount that the lightning while playing ain't like the real world with only one strong light source. If playing at a tourny or a club there is often plenty of light sources in the room. This makes the shades less noticeable.
 

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I originally thought the exact same thing when I first started painting, but I didn't even realise it was possible to shade....

the reason you need to do it with miniatures is because of their size light acts differently on it, for instance on cheek bones, in real life there will be variation from the bone to the middle of your cheek of possibly a centimetre of two, and your mouth is pretty deep. On a model however that is only a milimetre or two if that so the light doesn't form as dark shadows that you would get in real life, hence why we need to create those shadows ourselves with the paints we use.

Also the material your painting is plastic (or resin or metal) whereas in real life it would be skin of cloth or ceramics etc. so the textures would be different causing softer dispersion of light and reflections than plastic, or metal is much harder and smooth so has a very reflective surface that plastic (and highly textured metal) can't reciprocate especially at smaller scales.
 

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to be honest you dont have to shade or highlight your models, i have seen countless examples where people havent, in many ways a very neatly base coated model looks perfectly ok and in some cases looks far better than a poorly shaded or highlighted model, when i first started painting 20 years ago, i never shaded my models, i "base coated" them and then dry brushed highlights on to the model, looked great, was quick and easy to achieve and looked far better than most players models i came across who were generall playing with either still silver or undercoated with smelly primer.

As to why people do it, i suppose its a progression, the better someone gets at painting the more they want to emulate what they see in the pages of WD or Cmon, that means making the model look more and more real and with some of the models available its almost possible to expect the models to walk of there bases,painting shade and highlight emulates nature but in a smaller compact area, its almost an exaggeration to trick the eye into thinking a model is real and not plastic/resin/metal.



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Shading and highlighting adds depth that is lost under the bright lights. Unless you're painting models like Space Marines with lots of smooth, flat surfaces, there are a lot of spots that should look more like shadows or highlights but won't under bright florescent lighting because the light is going to be hitting models from all angles and really flatten out the creases and the folds on it.

Basically it helps make the model seem less "flat" if that makes any sense.
 

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You can see here the difference shading makes.
Shading and a lot of highlighting as well. To add to your comment, I find that doing just the recesses isn't quite enough. Instead I go even darker with the shading then re-apply the same red I based it with to create a contrast. You can go further if you want to really bring things up, though no matter how many levels of highlights I do I never consider a model done if it hasn't had a wash over it. Everything I do just looks so much....better after a good wash :laugh:

I took a picture of two models I have been working on a while back that highlights (ahem...) exactly this point. The model on the right has been hit with Nuln Oil followed by the red that I based it with, Mephiston Red, and a touch of Wazdakka Red on the very edges. Of course, it got hit with the Bloodletter Glaze after that because I love that subtle shine....and the way it helps hide my brush strokes from the shading/highlighting process.



I've gotten a bit better since this picture if I don't say so myself, and aside from just doing it more the thing that really pushed it was pulling the Wazdakka Red down a bit further from the edge and adding a new edge highlight, Wild Rider Red. Really brought out the angles and added to the depth of the models. I'm now addicted to the process when I paint; the theory applies the same to all the colours I use.

Granted, I've pretty much just described the way GW tells you to paint their models.

To straight up answer the OP's questions:

Wouldn't then make it sense to just paint them with one thin color and let the light do the rest?
Never trust a light bulb, and with regards to shading:

I never really understood what exactly I am doing or what all this is for
You're trying to create more depth that what a molded model can provide given the scale, and if your models look cool to you without it then you're good to go! :eek:k:
 

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You're trying to create more depth that what a molded model can provide given the scale, and if your models look cool to you without it then you're good to go! :eek:k:
This is essentially it, the shade you see on human sized real world objects isnt the same as the shade you get on miniature objects because the amount of light that is being stopped by the model is far less than in the human sized world objects ,so just like on flat canvas you are creating that shade or more likely helping it along as some shade is naturally formed becuase as you say its a 3d object.
im sure there is some physics explanation to do with wave length of light and ambient light and absorption, but in essence your doing a very similar thing to painting on canvas, you are tricking the eye/brain into thinking the miniature is more real than it is where as on the canvas your triking the brain into thinking the object is more 3d than it is.

or i could be talking shite



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