Painting convincing flesh tones is one of the challenges of portrait painting and with all honesty cannot be achieved by using tubes of flesh tint and portrait pink. Skin is not the same colour all over, it has nuances of colour and light and shade, so mixing skin tones is always the best policy. In this article I shall concentrate on acrylic colours and look at watercolours in the next issue.
There are lots of factors that influence skin tones; the local colour of the skin (ethnicity), the light which effects highlights and shadows and the lightness and darkness of the skin, especially under the eyes.
I tend to use a standard mix for European faces of titanium white, lemon yellow and red oxide for the cooler tones and titanium white, cadmium yellow, and light red/burnt sienna for the warmer tones, from these I create the basic structure of the face. It is always a good idea when mixing skin tones to start with the white, add a little yellow before finally adding a very small amount of red. For pink highlights, I use titanium white and permanent rose for the cooler highlights and titanium white and pyrrole red for the warmer tones.
For more ethnic faces I would mix a range of skin tones based around, ultramarine, burnt sienna, cadmium red light and white. The dark tones can be achieved by mixing ultramarine and burnt sienna which gives an almost cool purple which works very well.
Remember the most important thing about painting a face as it is with almost anything, is getting the tones right, the colours you use is secondary. Also you do need to know whether the colours you are using are cool (red oxide) or warm (light red, burnt sienna). As a rough guide colours that move towards the blue side of the colour wheel are cool and those towards the red are warm.