How to paint a light skin tone

Analyse what you have in front of you. Do you need to paint a light skin tone? If this is the case – remember to use a small amount of yellow in your underwash. Then use a basic skin tone mix:

Aureolin Yellow (or Indian Yellow if you want a very warm skin tone)

Alizarin Crimson (or Scarlet Red if you want a very warm skin tone)

Touch of Thalo Blue (or Sap Green if you want a warmer skin tone)

Is your skin tone overpowering the yellow? Maybe you dont have enough yellow underneath? Or maybe your red is simply too strong. Simply adjust the other hues to create the skin tone you require.

My skin tones almost always has some blue in it at some stage (sometimes Sap Green which of course has blue in it). The highlights on a face that is lit from natural light will have always be cool so they will be very light and favor blue rather than any other color.

If you give this some thought – it stands to reason that the highlights are cool – therefore the shadows have to be warm in color temperature. So let’s think about this further. If our highlights did not favor blue – then we would find we have an imbalance in our mix that would result in orange. (red and yellow)

If we have orange – our highlights would look warm in color temperature wouldn’t they. This would look unnatural.So can you see why color temperature plays an important role in allowing us to create and mould form? Warm shadows, cool highlights give the impression of rounded form.

Color temperature can be confusing. At a later date I will write an article for you on how this can be easily understood. But for now – do take my word for it! You will find my methods work well.

When working in an area that is affected by light – the important thing to remember is not to go too dark with your green or blue otherwise you will loose the look of light.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you add your background you will probably find your main focal point – face or person – can then look too wishy washy. At that stage, it is not unusual for me to have to deepen (make more saturated) the depth of color I have used in my main subject.

Our subjects can look perfectly rich in hue when it is against the white of the paper. But when we add our background – we can immediately see we need more depth of hue in our subject.

Or due to an error, we may find we have to go deeper in hue. If this is the case, all we need to do is compensate for that by bringing the rest of the depth of color in the painting up to the level of the alteration. It is about transposing the saturation of the painting up a notch to keep it all balanced and looking natural. I believe that is the key – ask yourself “does this look natural”. If it does – then you are finished! Well done!

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