Practicing Non-Metallic Metal

I’ve been painting 40k and Warmachine models for a few friends. And for kicks, I’ve been trying my hand (and eye) at painting non-metallic metal (NMM). For the less versed, this is the method for painting metallic surfaces without using metallic-containing paints.

The technique requires a good eye for understanding the basics of light reflection. In my understanding from observing objects around me, e.g., a chrome fork or knife, a shiny surface appears to “collect” light in small areas along a surface. In contrast to a matte object, such as cloth, light does not diffuse, it gathers strongly in straight hard edges.

Some call this high contrast, or sharp, edge contrast. The angles and the way light/shadows collect is difficult to describe, because I don’t fully understand the math behind it. To paint NMM, I’ve been using my intuition to understand light and dark and with only a reference object on my desk (a metal fork).

Essentially, I see two ways to paint NMM:

First, is as a chrome object that reflects the colors and light that surrounds it. This is WAY hard. I don’t even think I’m going to try this for a while.

Second, is a metal object that gathers light around it and pushes it back out. I know this sounds poetic, but I feel that light and shadows work like a resource…. you only have so much of it that can be “placed” onto an object. Where you place it on the object determines what the object will look like.

For example, on a bright shiny object, you will place all your light resources in concentrated areas, and likewise with shadows. On a more matte metallic surface, like aluminum, the light and shadows are spread out across the object’s surface. In both the bright shiny object and the matte object, the “amount” of light and shadow is the same, but the location of those “resources” is distributed differently.

Anyway, I’m still in practice mode and playing/experimenting with blending and color distribution.  I hope to have more images and thoughts behind how I approach painting in the near future.

Stay tuned….

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