The colour of skin in portrait painting is often a problem colour for some artists, as the colour could easily look artificial or harsh. But mixing flesh colours accurately can be achieved effectively with a few simple dos and don’ts.
What Colour is Skin?
Portrait Painting How To
The following portrait painting tips will help the beginner with getting to grips with capturing the colours of flesh in a painting:
Update on Artist's books
I have since written several books on painting portraits, entitled Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides and Why do My Portraits Look Lifeless? Both can be found on Amazon or my bookstore.
Which Pigments to Use in PortraitsTitanium white, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium red, permanent rose, Ultramarine blue and Pthalo blue.
It can be seen that a different palette will be required for different lighting conditions and different skin types, from warm to cool colours. Burnt sienna is a great pigment for adding warmth; similarly, ultramarine is ideal for cool shadows on skin.
Tonal Key of Skin Hues
Because skin often consists of pale colours, painting straight onto a white canvas or paper will give a misleading indication of its tone. I would recommend applying a neutral colour or tint over the painting surface prior to painting the portrait. This will help set the tonal key of the painting, and make it possible for the artist to judge tones more accurately.
Portrait Painting Advice
The portrait artist must also take note that the portrait will make no sense whilst in progress. The eyes and hair, for instance are often the last to be painted in, and until these have been completed, the portrait will look “wrong.” The essence of portrait painting, particularly if in oils, is that paint can be applied in layers. If something does not look quite right, it can be adjusted.
Skin Colours in Portraiture
Realistic skin colours can only be achieved if the portrait artist paints faithfully what is in front. The most unusual colours can be found in portraits. Similarly, deep shadows and stark contrasts in tones can also be found. Paint tubes exhibiting “flesh tint” must be avoided. The beginner may venture onto portrait painting by working from a photo initially, but applying a neutral tint onto the painting surface will help the portrait artist judge the skin tones more accurately.