Skin color is one of my favorite things to paint. It’s also one of the most requested topics I’ve encountered. The burning question I hear over and over again from students, friends and artists is: “How can I make a good skin color palette?”
Many artists and students struggle with skin color and rightfully so. Color is an incredibly complex animal that is difficult to control and must be handled with care. This is especially true when trying to paint skin color that feels “real”. Even though color is tough, painting skin can be a lot of fun if you have the right information and the right strategies.
These 5 tips are my thoughts and ideas on the topic of skin color. These tips and strategies I’ve learned through hard earned experience and years of intensive study on color, along with hundreds of hours of painting practice.
Instead of giving you formulas or pre-made skin color palettes, my goal is to teach you how to see color and then show you a process for making your own skin color palette for any situation.
There are 3 main parts to this article. In Part 1, I’ll examine the properties of skin color, or at least how I see skin color at this stage in my painting career. This section will examine what I see when I observe skin and how I simplify the complexity of skin color.
In Part 2, I’ll explore the 5 Tips for mixing and painting better skin color. These are the techniques and strategies that I personally use when I paint.
In Part 3, there are 2 detailed step-by-step painting demonstrations. The first is a study of light skinned male. The second demo is of a dark skinned african female.
A condensed video form of this article , including the first painting demonstration is below.
The second, 1 hour painting demonstration of an African female portrait is available for free on my Private School newsletter page. See image below for the finished painting demonstration.
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If you want a more detailed breakdown of the 5 Tips and both painting demos, scroll down to read the full article…
PART1 – Properties of Skin Color
Property #1 – Red, Yellow, Blue
There is no such thing as a “skin” color. Skin color is essentially a combination of all 3 primaries: red, yellow and blue. That’s right. Red plus yellow plus blue. Sounds obvious and oversimplified, but allow me to elaborate.