Mixing Flesh Tones

Painting flesh tones is one of the challenges of portrait painting. In all honesty cannot be achieved by using tubes of flesh tint and portrait pink. Skin is not the same colour all over. Skin has nuances  of colour and light and shade, so mixing flesh 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 local colour of the skin (ethnicity) is perhaps the most important. But light is also paramount it effects highlights and shadows and the lightness and darkness of the skin, especially under the eyes.

I tend to use a standard mix for white skinnedFlesh Colours faces of titanium white, lemon yellow and red oxide for the cooler tones. Warmer tones are a mixture of titanium white, cadmium yellow, and light red/burnt sienna.  These flesh tone mixtures create the basic structure of the face. It is always a good idea when mixing flesh tones to start with the white, add a little yellow before finally adding a very small amount of red.  Red is a very powerful colour and will dominate if added first. For pink highlights, I use titanium white and permanent rose for the cooler highlights. Titanium white and pyrrole red are a great mix for the warmer 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 the tones right, the colours is secondary. You 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.

If you want more information about the colours you are using then checkout the Winsor Newton website. There are other colour charts you could look  at too, just google ‘artist colours’

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Mix great Flesh Tones using Acrylic

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