My tutorial posts have been few and far between lately, but I’m going to make it up to you today by explaining something you’ve all been asking for… You’re about to become pros at mixing the perfect skin colors.
Mixing skin tones with watercolor can be difficult at first, but trust me, it’s easy breezy!
First, it’s important to remember that color is your friend. If you really look at someone’s skin, you can see that there’s more to their skin tone than just a solid skin color (i.e. peach). Instead, there’s color behind the skin tone, giving someone that olive, red, tan or any other undertone. Look at someone’s skin and you will see blues, greens, reds, etc. that blend together with their base color. Under eyes tend to have a bit more blues, and greens, and cheeks have more reds in them. Everyone’s different. No one has a solid color face, and watercolor can represent that beautifully.
I almost always start with the three colors on the above left, for any skin tone. It’s a great peachy base that you can adjust to the color of skin you want to achieve. They are cadmium red, cadmium yellow, and either cerulean blue or manganese blue (either blue will work just fine). I use Winsor & Newton watercolors. I tend to mix the red and yellow first, and add a touch of blue afterwards. The blue helps neutralize the red and yellow.
The trick to mixing skin color is to use lots of water. You don’t want any of the color to be too concentrated. Instead, it should be very small amounts of color with lots of water… that way you get a nice light pigment that you can layer. Layering is your friend when it comes to skin tones. Layering different shades of a skin color gives the face more depth… like I did here. You can see the result I got by mixing those colors together on the right side above, each slightly different. Add a little more red to get a rosy peach, or a little more yellow to appear more sun kissed. You can experiment adding other colors too, like purples, greens, or indigos.
To get a darker skin tone, you can simply mix the same three colors with a brown (I used burnt amber above). Remember to mix small amounts of color. You can always add more color slowly to bring the color to a deeper brown. Even if you apply a color that seems to be too light at first, just keep layering and you’ll gradually get what you want with a nice depth to it. Again, use lots of water… and add more red, yellow, or blue to get varying tones. Use a little more red near the cheeks to give a rose colored glow. Adding more blue is great for showing shadows, such as under the nose and around the eyes. Make sure you play around with adding more or less of each base color to achieve different shades like I did above.
You can also add a little yellow ochre (bottom left color) to give a tan glow to the skin color. You can add this color to any skin tone.
Keep adding more layers, or more browns and blues to achieve darker skin tones, or more yellow ochre to get an exotic tan shade. It’s amazing that you you can create any skin color with just a few colors, isn’t it?
I hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments, and would love to see you guys put these tips to paper (send pics!). Happy skin toning!
See more tutorials here.