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Your recipe for good flesh tones?

edited May 2018 in Color Mixing
I'm curious as to which colors and mixtures our community of painters typically employ here? I find that there is really no set rule as to flesh color. You merely paint what is in front of you and that does the trick. The problem is, our eyes can be deceiving and prone to seeing colors that may not be there, or may not be as strong or as weak as they appear. Lately I have limited my color palette for figures to just a few colors: Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red (or some other red), Raw Umber, Ultramarine blue or Viridian, and of course the usual suspects, black and white. Blue, Black, or Viridian, seem to work well for the grays which are very common when looking at human skin. Mixtures of Ochre, white, with small amounts of black and red make a good general skin tone that isn't too raw. Of course there are painters who will use many other colors but here I am only describing a limited palette I personally use. 


  • As it's not normally high in chroma, I tend to use earth colours as they are more opaque and much cheaper than cadmiums :)
  • Watch MC's video's on the subject. he points out that there is no limit to the colors. but I think a burnt sienna and yellow ochre in addition to his limited palette could save a few steps. 
  • I use the Geneva set for flesh and add yellow ochre and burnt sienna for convenience.  I could mix them both but they are cheap.  I posted most of my shortcut mixes at this thread.  I have also started using lead white due to the blue shift in titanium.  I won’t use zinc while due to the brittleness issue.  I also find bone black preferable to the blue/brown mix many times.
  • After years of painting, Richard Schmid says the most perfect mixture for flesh on the face is Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Red and White.  That's it.  Some yellow ochre in the forehead, blues chin area and spots of viridian.  Extremely warm shadows (nose, ears) - there is a lot of flesh and blood so very warm.  I highly recommend his portrait video of Michelle Dunaway - very easy download.  He makes it fun and easy (looking) :)  It has to be Rembrandt though!  Try it, it's gorgeous.  Can't get much simpler than that!

  • Thanks Julianna. It seems every artist has his favorite colors and will always swear by them. I'm more familiar with David Laffel's methods as I've watched several of his videos and read some of his books. I prefer his still life pictures however over his figure paintings. I'll definitely check out the video. Thanks again! 
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