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How to Paint the Skin

 

Actual size detail of the skin painting technique.

Actual size detail of the skin painting technique.

The detail above gives a close-up view of the painting technique used for the skin color.

A variety of small brushstrokes using stippling (paint applied in dots) and smudging techniques is used throughout the painting of the skin. Stippling gives you the greatest control over the distribution of color when applying paint over larger areas such as the cheeks.

The tones, colors and textures of the skin are all built up in thin layered glazes of paint applied over the flesh toned underpainting. Transparent glazes of burnt sienna (occasionally darkened with Prussian blue) and napthol crimson are used for the darker tones and colors, while more opaque glazes of titanium white are used to create the highlights on the skin.

After underpainting the face with a mid-tone flesh color, there are three distinct steps that should be followed in painting the skin:

  • applying the dark tones
  • applying the light tones
  • refining the tone, color and texture

NB. The skin should be painted over the hairline so that no gaps remain once the hair is completed.

 

Applying the Dark Tones

 

Dark tones establish the form of the face.

Dark tones establish the form of the face.

The dark tones are applied with a burnt sienna glaze over the flesh colored underpainting. A variety of small brushstrokes, stippling and smudging is used to render the form of the face.

 

Applying the Light Tones

 

Light tones illuminate the texture of the skin.

Light tones illuminate the texture of the skin.

The light tones are applied in a glaze of titanium white to enhance the existing form and to add some texture by suggesting traces of perspiration or oily skin. Note also how the form of the lips is completed with skin tones before any color is added to redden them. A variety of small brushstrokes, stippling and smudging is also used for the light tones.

 

Refining the Tone, Color and Texture

 

Refining the tone, color and texture.

Refining the tone, color and texture.

Refining the tone, color and texture is the final stage of painting the skin. Warmer scarlet and napthol crimson are carefully stippled as thin glazes to suggest the blush of the cheeks, lips and subtle variations in the complexion.

The dark and light tones applied in the first two stages are finally heightened for dramatic effect by increasing their contrast and smoothing out any irregularities in their paint surface.

Our lesson on pencil portraits should help you with drawing the eyes, nose, mouth, ears and hair.

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