How do some models seem to have an “extra” pop to them? Maybe you have stumbled upon minis painted with a non-metallic metal (NMM) effect. Lovely aren’t they, but what is non-metallic metal (NMM)?
In this article, Chris Spotts, studio artist and owner of the “The Spotted Painter”, introduces his thoughts on how to paint models with a non-metallic metal approach.
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Continue reading to find out more about NMM and where to get started, or simply to find some inspiration.
What is non-metallic metal (or NMM)?
First things first, I’m not gonna claim to be a non-metallic metal (NMM) master. There are people that put me to shame.
But I have committed to doing it on all my pieces (!) and it is something I feel like I have a solid foundation in at this point.
Non metallic metal (or NMM) is the concept of trying to fool the brain into thinking something is metallic but using matte paints. You paint in the highlights and shadows in a way that appears metallic.
In traditional art, NMM was the only way to paint metal for literally thousands of years (except using gold leaf and other highly specialized techniques).
It was totally normal to paint metallic surfaces by mimicking the lights and shadows with matte paint.
When miniature figures came along, we ended up with metallic paint as well.
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Metallic model paints have semi-reflective bits added into the paint, so that they would appear to shine as metal.
Why don’t I just use regular metallic paints?
So whats the problem, why doesn’t everybody just use metal paint?
It’s a problem of scale.
Like most things miniature. Metallic paint on a mini just doesn’t act like real metal would be on a real life-sized piece.
Historically, the metallic paint has also been quite poor with larger metallic flake-pigment and a rougher finish. The “metallic-ness” of old school metallic paint isn’t realistic or compelling.
Some of that has changed, and there are high quality metal paints now.
However, to get them to “shine” right, you still end up needing to highlight and shade them in a method that is very similar to NMM.
Fun tip: Learning to how to paint NMM allows you to paint regular metallic paint (also known as true-metallic metal or TMM) with more realism.
NMM gives you complete control for pictures and competition settings.
You don’t have to worry about environmental lights or a strange reflection.
It looks like how you want.
Of course, some people think it looks odd. It’s a matter of preference, but it is something that many people are trying to learn.
Is NMM painting hard to do?
Hmmm… its different.
Many of the ‘rules’ that you’ve become accustomed to when painting matte surfaces, are now exactly opposite.
Here are a couple of simple but essential “rules” you need to follow for NMM painting:
- Put your darks right next to your lights (e.g., also known as dark-light juxtaposition)
- Do paint up to super bright to white, or near white (e.g., paint the “hot spots”, catch-light reflections)
As I’ve been practicing more NMM, it occurs to me that really, NMM can be thought of as a series of “clues” that cause your brain to shift more and more metallic and more and more shiny.
The more clues that you give your brain that its metallic, the more successful the illusion.
How to Paint NMM
You can check out my video below showing you what clues I am talking about.
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I highly recommend when you start NMM, don’t go all out and do a fully armored piece. It’s SUPER intimidating and difficult.
Try a sword, a knife, some gold trim, etc.
Take a look at real life swords and evaluate.
What makes them look metal and shiny? What surprises you with actual pictures of swords?
Finally: I’m going to say that super smooth blends are the least important part of NMM. Subtle glazes for smooth gradient blends can help, but aren’t required to pull off the effect of the NMM style.
Check out some non-smooth examples of NMM on Tangible Day’s NMM Pinterest board.
Ultimately, there are many ways to apply NMM to your miniature painting.
For more about NMM, you can check out some of the related links below, or join Tangible Day to stay up to date with more articles about painting, tabletop gaming, and the scale modeling hobby.
As with anything in the miniature painting hobby, NMM is simply one way to approach a project.
Experiment, practice, and have fun.
For more information about NMM, check out Chris Spotts’ Facebook page and YouTube channel. Or, check out the other how-to articles here.
Happy NMM painting!
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