When you’re building with a limited set of bricks, like I am, colour selection often comes second to parts-availability when it comes time to put together your next LEGO combatant. I’ve only got two Exo-Force arms, and they’re both dark red. If I want to use the arms, I’m gonna have to work around the colours. That said, colour selection is something I’m paying more and more attention to as an essential part of the eventual look of a creation. Choosing good colours for your mech is almost as important as how you actually build the thing, and your choice of colours can do a lot to personalisie, and give personality to your force. Thinking about this has given me cause to refresh my knowledge of the theory of colour, and how that applies to building with Lego.
Complimentary colours are colours that, unsurprisingly, compliment each other. They appear more brilliant next to each other, and make each other stand out. Understanding which colours are complimentary is based on the colour wheel, which looks like this:
Colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel are complimentary. They compliment each other because they contrast strongly. For LEGO builders, the most useful combinations of this are red/green and orange/blue, since these are the colours most available to us. If you’ve got a bunch of purple bricks around, then they’ll be complimented by yellow, but I don’t think many of us will be in that situation.
That said, you won’t see many lego creations making use of straight-up complimentary colour combinations. Why is that? It’s because the contrast of two bold colours tends to give things a weird, slightly fake look. For example, this Takafashii frame pictured to the left:
Squieu is demonstrating the construction of the fram here, so the near-complimentary colours used make the parts stand out well from each other, so you can see how the thing is made. The effect though is very unnatural. The frame looks toy-like. More natural contrast is achieved through the use of dark and light.
Dark and Light
Use of dark and light shades in construction is almost ubiquitous. Contrast between dark areas and light points is pleasing to the eye, defines shapes, and highlights important features. I’ve picked an example more-or-less at random from Brothers Brick.
This little aircraft to the left shows the use of dark and light to emphasise form very well. The wings and plating are in bright white, while the engines, seat arangement, and air intake are in dark grays. The bright areas emphasise the overall shape of the aircraft, while the dark colours give the impression of depth and hidden detail.
Light and dark is especially important to mech builders because of the sense of scale it imparts. The shadows on a large object are much deeper and darker than those on a small object, and by using dark and light techniques, you can give the illusion of greater size. Anyone who has painted a miniature for a wargame knows the technique of shading dark colours into crevices, and painting light colours on edges to give a more realistic and lifelike look to small models. The same effect can be achieved with lego constructions through the use of darker colours on the interior of a construction.
This amazing hardsuit by Chewk shows off this technique. The use of dark gray greeblies on the interior, especially the binoculars, and the lighter plates on the exterior, gives the piece a sense of scale.
Another way to use light and dark is to highlight a particular point on the construction, to draw the eye and to emphasise the most important part of the creation. A lot of mech constructions do this with the use of a bright coloured eye on an otherwise dark or colourless mech. This great little stomper by </arpy> achieves that in unusual style with the frog in its cockpit (“Frog in its cockpit” is a phrase I never thought I’d be writing).
So Complimentary Colours and Light and Dark are two ways of using contrasting colours to your advantage when you’re building, but they’re by no means the end of the colour story. There’s more, but I think it will have to wait for a second installment.