|Posted on March 23, 2012 at 3:05 AM|
Originally published on Blogspot Aug 07, 2011
Author's note: I now have Photoshop CS5 yay! So I plan to revisit this using that software.
Many of you know what NMM stands for in the miniature painting world. But for those of you who don't, it means Non-Metallic Metal. It's a way of painting the appearance and shine of metallic paint but the artist only uses regular paint. The technique is all about using highlights and shadows.
The basic theory behind it is not difficult at all. Use color and tints to replicate a reflective surface. But the actual creation of this can be quite difficult. Especially when one is first learning the technique. You must train yourself to visualize what the piece should look like in order to appropriately apply the various shades. You not only have to train your eye to see what you're painting, you have to train your mind's eye in order to visualize the paint process.
With me, right before I stopped painting minis, I had just achieved a good solid grasp of painting silver NMM but I was still struggling with gold. Unfortunately, that's when I put down the paint brush due to the hand tremors. Now I'm back at it. I thought a post about some of the techniques I've been experiementing with might be helpful. As to how to actually paint NMM there are tons of articles and blogs out there and they have fantastic information. With this post, I want to focus on how to train your eye to visualize the NMM so the technique comes into focus a bit easier.
Ultimately practice and time are what will win the day for you. Nothing can truly replace that. But I found a couple of things that might help shave off a minute or two.
In returning to painting NMM I of course tried silver first, since I had a solid grasp of that when I stopped painting. Boy did that bomb! I have definitely LOST what visualization I had. Frustrated, and trying to go backward. I tried gold, although I knew it would be an exercise in futility because I didn't have a grasp of that at all.
Here was the result.
Sloppy yes, but the result surprised the heck out of me. How in the world had I managed when gold was the one that gave me the most problems in the past?
Well, one thing I did is use a photo editing program to help me visualize the metallic reflection. I use Corel but there are plenty of great programs out there. Perhaps you have Photoshop in which this would probably be insanely simple to do, But there are also plenty of free editing programs out there that are wonderful as well. Hit up CNET.com and see what you can find.
The success with the gold and using the photo editing software made me want to try it with the silver to see if it would help.
First, I took a photo of the item I wanted to paint NMM.
In this case it's the lion head symbol on the chariot.
Then I pulled it into Corel and used the lighting effects tools to help me define my light source.
Note: In NMM this is probably the most important step, especially for those of us who are working to get a solid grasp of it. NMM will NOT work unless you DEFINE YOUR LIGHT SOURCE. Once you do that, with or without the software, everything else falls into place. What is also difficult for us newbs to NMM is maintaining that light source in the mind's eye as we paint. It's easy to get a bit muddled and allow other influences to distract you. As you become more experienced, the visualization is easier to maintain but that's why I think this photo editing method helps. It provides that constant for the visualization for someone new to NMM.
After defining my light source I turn the picture into a negative.
Why a negative? Why not just accent the highlights and shadows of the regular photo?
When I was in grade school an art teacher taught me a valuable technique. When I struggled to draw something, or to see the detail, turn it upside down. It helped with what I was working on at the time but it also taught me a lesson. When I couldn't see the forest for the trees, take a step back and look at it differently, upside down, inside out, an image negative rather than the regular image.
One thing folks should realize, we see metallic reflections every day. In fact, in order to become better at NMM we need to study the reflections and see them literally in a different light. So when you're in the parking lot at the mall or the grocery store, study how the sun shines off the various metals on the cars around you.
But for the newb to NMM, because we see this every day, we've also learned to ignore the nuances. Everything becomes blended in our minds eye and it's difficult to separate. Flipping the photo to a negative shakes up our visualization, we don't see this every day but the exact same information is there. It's just in a format that "shocks" our eyes into seeing the detail. We're not automatically blending it together.
Try it - it helps tremendously. If a negative doesn't work for you, try other options in your editing software. Play around with it and see if you can find a setup that helps trick your eye into seeing the detail.
Corel has a setting where I can edit the image's palette. First I have to change the image to 256 colors then set it's background transparency. Since I don't really care about the background, I pick any old thing then I can open the Palette for editing. For this, I pick Luminescence on the pull down menu. You can see in the screen shot above, it orders the colors light to dark for me. I click Okay.
Now I can clearly see the highlights and shadows. In fact the image has definitely taken on a metallic quality in its own right. From here I can start painting. It's a good idea to save the image at this point because if you're still struggling, use the Color Changer to again help your visualization.
In Corel, I can select a particular color and replace it with another. So I can take those darker purplish colors and make them dark gray then move up the line gradually working toward white. I click on each color and change it to the color I think it should be painted and see if it works. If it doesn't, I hit Undo and try it again.
Here are the results of my experiment:
Now my technique is sloppy but the foundation is there. That will come with practice and smoothing out my paint a little more.
But you can see the definite metallic qualities to it. Now, it just becomes a matter of practice and getting better at visualization.
While this trick can get you started and moving down the road to painting NMM, it's important to realize it's a training aide. Don't depend on it for all of your NMM. Once you learn to visualize the reflection, you won't need this any more. So keep analyzing those cars in the parking lot or that soda can sitting on your desk. Always look for the detail, no matter what you are painting. Besides, it makes the world a much more interesting place!