White Skin Tones
Learn how to mix skin tones and painting convincing flesh tones is one of the challenges of portrait painting. With all honesty it cannot be achieved by using tubes of flesh tint and portrait pink if you are painting white skinned people. 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.
There are lots of factors that influence skin tones. The most important is the local colour of the skin (ethnicity). The amount of light 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 (white) faces of titanium white, lemon yellow and red oxide for the cooler tones. For warmer tones I use titanium white, cadmium yellow, and light red/burnt sienna . From these colours 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.
Brown/Black Skin Tones
For darker skinned 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 tonal values correct. The actual colours you use is secondary. Look at faces painted by Matisse who often uses greens, reds, purples, blues and orange. Also you do need to know whether the colours you are using are cool, for example, (red oxide) or warm (light red, burnt sienna). As a simple guide colours that move towards the blue side of the colour wheel are cool and those towards the red are warm.
Want to learn more about colour mixing? Check out my tutorial on Colour Ideas for your Painting
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