How many times have I heard a hopeful voice call out to me during an art class… “how do I make skin color?”
Well… isn’t that a loaded question!? What skin color are you going for, a creamy peachy-pink, or a rich, chocolatey brown?
One of my favorite things to do is mix skin tones, especially when trying to match them specifically for a portrait. It’s funny that I love this so much because for most of my artistic life, it was a frustrating mystery to me.
I used to be SO bad at mixing skin colors until I realized that it’s really quite simple. I was just making it too complicated! Now I’ve come up with my own little formula to get pretty much any skin color that I’m going for. It involves three simple colors: the primaries (red, yellow, and blue) and then we’ll use white to lighten the tint when needed.
Of course, when you combine all three primaries, you get a brown, and all flesh tones are really a variation of brown, some more warm (red or yellow tones) and some more cool (green or blue tones).
Every artist has their own way of mixing, but I’ve found that my favorite way to begin is either by mixing an orange (for light and medium tones) or with a purple (for darker tones).
STEP ONE: Mix an orange or purple
Lighter and medium tones: Mix an orange (red and yellow)
Darker tones: Mix a purple (blue and red)
STEP TWO: Find the right brown.
Then I slowly add the other primary until I find the brown color (or “tone”) that I’m looking for.
STEP THREE: Lighten or darken.
To lighten: Add white to lighten the color. You may have to add more yellow or red as you lighten to get that perfect flesh tone you’re going for.
To darken: Play with adding blue and/or red until you get that perfect flesh tone you’re after.
There have been BOOKS written on mixing flesh tones, but this is an easy way to get there without too much fuss.
Check out the video to see the magic in action!