I guess I’ve been spoilt painting 15mm WW2 figures. There’s so many reference books out there to ensure that you’ve really got no excuse for getting the colours ‘wrong’ (if that’s what floats your boat). It gets a little scarier the further back you go in history and, if you’re like me and new to painting 28mm figures for the Viking Age, you’ll certainly feel the chill when your Osprey embroidered comfort blanket is abruptly wrenched away
So, to help get your Dark Age pallette up-to-speed, I’ve been digging around in the world of natural colour and been in contact with renowned dyer, handspinner and knitter Jenny Dean who has kindly agreed to let me share her work on Anglo-Saxon dyes, c. AD 450 – AD 1066 - thanks Jenny!
The Anglo-Saxons used flax (linen) and wool from sheep in their textiles. With a variety of naturally-coloured breeds of sheep a variety of colour patterns could be achieved without the use of dyes, ranging from beige and brown to grey and black:
But to achieve truly bright shades and extend the colour palette the Anglo-Saxons appear to have used a limited number of coloured plant dyes.
These included red from madder-type plants (e.g. Rubia peregrina / tinctorum and Galium verum):
indigo from woad (Isatis tinctoria):
and yellow from weld (Reseda luteola) and dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria):
Other dyes used include tannin-rich dyes present in many plants and oak galls, acorns, nuts and barks that give shades of brown and also dark grey and black when fixed with iron:
Some areas of Anglo-Saxon England were able to produce brilliant purple and red dyes from lichens of the species Ochrolechia and Umbilicaria when treated in stale urine (nice!):
So, along with the neutral colours of linen and wool, here’s your likely colour pallete:
Once you’ve matched your preferred paints to this palette you might like to consider which colours work well together before you start painting (and don’t forget any colours in your shield design!). This is something I’ve never had to consciously consider before, but the results look worthwhile:
This has led me to look at colour wheels and costume which I guess I’ll save for another post