Here’s the first miniature I painted in my new home. It’s an ork warboss, by Reaper Miniatures, part of their Bones line.
I painted it gray because, well, I believe green-skinned orks are cliché (so is spelling orks with a “c”).
If orks spend most of their time underground they should at least look pale. I can envision more of jaundiced look, like I did with these old school Games Workshop goblins a year ago.
The orks in The Lord of Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies are more my style. You’ll see some orks with green skin on the screen but they come in variety of colors.
Tolkien originally meant orks to be almost synonymous with goblins.
I’ve never been a fan of the “greenskins” in Warhammer. First, according to what became the official lore, they’re made of mold, and that’s why they’re green. (Har har). Second, they starting looking more and more like apes.
The orks in the old AD&D Monster Manual look like men with pig faces (to make the Tolkien estate happy). They’re coloration is described as “brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen [which] highlights their pinkish snouts and ears.” (I’m not a big fan of pig-faced orks either, but they have their appeal).
Goblins aren’t green at all according the Monster Manual, having “yellow through dull orange to brick red in skin color.”
This actually seems to be break from tradition. For centuries in Europe goblins were a kind of forest spirit (I’m making a broad generalization of course). So it’d make sense they’d be green.
“The Green Goblin” wasn’t originally a super-villain after all. You’d see goblin faces etched on the side cathedrals to ward evil spirits away (though, at times, they were seen as evil. Then there’s the legend of The Green Man.
So, when I painted these old Games Workshop goblins below, I continued the break from tradition and made them yellow, jaundiced.
Warhammer and later the video game industry (like Warcraft) made them green again.
My theory: Goblins were already green for the most part, and because Tolkien lumped orks and goblins into one race, more or less, orks became green too. In D&D, as you may know, TSR/Gygax gave orks and goblins different features in the late 1970s (like pig faces) so the Tolkien estate wouldn’t sue them.
Yet when the D&D cartoon came out in the early 1980s, orks became green again, though still somewhat pig-faced.
In summary: Goblins were already green. Orks had a chance to become not-green, but most artists in game designers in the wargaming and video game industries made the green anyway.
However, the Lord of the Rings movies made orks and goblins into a number of different breeds, some are green, some are brown, some gray, and some, if you look closely enough, even look blue.
And that’s what I envision the skin colors of orks and goblins to be.