Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

You can send an email to [email protected] if you have questions about how to use this forum.

Skin tones

Amazed over here. Skin can be purple. Like purple, purple in the shadows. I don't get the skin tone palettes anymore. Why? It won't be right anyway!


  • MeganS

    Agree its a bit of a conundrum, but if you mix say an eight step skin range equivalent to grey scale steps and have a cooling complimentary and a greying value on hand you can cover most of the skinscape. An ''on the fly'' mix for the odd shadow tone should suffice.

  • I'm starting to understand why people would choose to print two different photos and paint from both. The areas that are in shadow is very purple, but the background is green. If I made the purples more green, then my grass turned too saturated with yellow. The photo was taken with diminishing light with a sun set. Partial rim lighting with strong light coming from one side. It is an overly "cool" photo but I personally like that. I think many people put too much emphasis on warm colors.

    @dencal‌ I am currently still mixing prior to painting but I make sure I have plenty of room to mix on the fly. On this painting, I will keep the shadows correct to the photo, but I might warm up the highlights a bit. They are very gray. In the future, I see myself getting correct groups of color and adding lighter values as I go. Mixing color is not as linear as our simple palette makes it look. It's more like a tree: start with one color in the trunk then branch off into several areas as you go lighter in values.

    I have learned heaps and bounds with doing my own photos and processing. Not a single part of the whole process is done elsewhere. I have found that I need to process with less contrast than what I think is "right". Also, print lighter. Colors can always go darker with glazes but not the other way around. (I have done some scumbling, but it's not as easy as just putting down the correct color to begin with or leaving the canvas white in those areas.) Also, my camera tends to put this veil of gray over the photo. It probably has to do with my settings on the camera vs. the lighting I'm in. I try to correct it with balancing my whites, but then I lose some detail in my lighter values. It really is a struggle. But I'm learning. The more photos I take, the better I get. The camera has a long ways to go before it becomes as automatic as our eyes.
  • Always RAW.
    I have this thing where my eyes get used to whatever I'm looking at. Many times, I have to walk away from the computer screen, rest my eyes and then go back with fresh eyes to see that it's not right and be able to tell exactly what is not right. I've learned to never process a photo and print the same day. Wait a day. Look at it again. Even still, it seems my monitor is warmer than my prints. On this current painting, I'm giving myself a few liberties when it comes to color. A little warmer or cooler but not a change in value.
  • MeganS said:

    Amazed over here. Skin can be purple. Like purple, purple in the shadows.

    Yes it can!

  • Kingston said:

    Are you using photoshop cc?

    Whatever is the greatest and newest. I got the lightroom and photoshop package. I personally LOVE lightroom for all the adjustments. I rarely do much in photoshop anymore.
  • @Castillo‌ So pretty! her skin is orange and purple. I love hands.
  • I'd better get my dummy book out. I have one that works great (Adobe Creative Suite for dummies). It looks like I need it. It's the missing link. I love painting but sometimes my paintings take on this photographic quality I dislike. I believe this will help. Thanks @Kingston‌!
  • I'll look into those. I know that I respond better to videos than any other kind of instruction.
  • MeganS
    It's more like a tree: start with one color in the trunk then branch off into several areas as you go lighter in values.
    Powell (2006 Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits Walter Foster p14) adopts this strategy with a 'trunk' color made with cad red light (3 parts) and yellow ochre (2 parts). He refers to this as his 'Master Skin Tone Recipe' (MSTR) to which he adds varying amounts of naples yellow, white, burnt sienna (warm shadow), raw umber (cool shadow) and viridian green as the greying value. These colors are for a warm toned Caucasian and vary for other skin tones.

    His formulas are a bit on the chalky side but can be improved with either less white or by using zinc instead of titanium. The benefit is by having a jar of MSTR on hand mixing more or mixing a fresh batch, or varying a value is easy.

  • Here's my two cents on a good palettte for skin tones. As per photography I don't know much at all. I used this palette on an alla prima painting yesterday and was quite happy with the tones.

    I can't take credit for coming up with this palette. It's what the London Atelier of Representational Art teach with. I want to attend this place so I'm using their palette primarily.

    Colours were;
    titanium white - it's more opaque than zinc white I think
    naples yellow - to make a colour whiter without it becoming colder in temp.
    cadmium yellow - mine was cm(medium) but more importantly this is a warm yellow
    vermillion - warm red
    alizarin crimson - cool red
    yellow ochre - not sure if this is warm or cold but I found it useful for mixing browns
    cobalt blue - it's great for cool highlights on skin and to show that bluey undertone that pale people have, it's apparent in the nearside cheek here and the shoulder near the tank top strap
    raw umber - dark brown which I used for mixing shadows and the hair
    ivory black - I used this with the darkest shadows but it's good for green tones when mixed with naples yellow.

    Might be an idea to mention Color and Light by James Gurney here; he has a great part on shadow colours.
  • I have flesh tint and naples yellow. I should add those to my palette (like I have any room left!)
  • I am nowhere near being an expert on paint/pigments/mixing but from my limited experience I've noticed that it matters how you arrive at a certain color mixture.

    While working on the nymphes's limbs for this piece even though my mixtures looked to be above 95% accurate, I observed that the colors felt lifeless(cool) once I started painting.


    I tried fixing them by warming the mixtures but I just ended with a bigger puddle of paint. After some thought I started a new batch using my warmest colors first, cad yellow, burnt umber plus alizarin; and only added titanium white with ultramarine as needed. When comparing both old and new batches the difference between them seem like comparing NIGHT to LATER THAT NIGHT but in the painting, although the colors you see here are still on the cooler side; the limbs now felt pale and in need of a tan instead of looking like walking corpses as they did before.
  • Okay, so here's the painting that I was working on when I brought up this thread. I started with the "V" part of the neck that goes down between the zipper of the jacket. It looked so damn purple I couldn't imagine it to be right. I knew that my photo was too bluish. Part of that was because of the type of light that was happening (sun setting) when the photo was taken. It's also because of the way I processed the photos to bring up the shadows a bit. (Note: I didn't take this photo to paint. More like, searching through my library to find photos I'm willing to paint.)

    I kept telling myself several things while I was painting a smiling, but seemingly suffocated little girl; the burnt umber stain will show through. Most people will view this in lighting that is warmer than 5000K. As it turned out, the painting is quite a bit warmer than the photo and nicer to look at. There are some things I'm going to change now that I see it with fresh eyes this morning. I will put in some glazes in the grass, the sky and her jacket after it is dry to add more depth and interest.

    This painting had a less detailed drawing. I wasn't as concerned with likeness. I struggled with the values of the background. The painting is much lighter than in the photo.

    Daddy's Funny
    oil on polyester canvas
  • Yeah. That building is bothering me.
  • I like it. I don't find myself distracted by the flowers and the trees/buildings look far off in the distance, giving some perspective. The facial expression is priceless!
  • The background is much lighter in the painting than in the photo. I also left out poles and ugly trees. In the foreground, I took out the ugly dandelions and weeds. Added in some red rust color. I made her feet smaller and dandelions smaller to account for foreshortening. I also fixed the shape of the hood. It was odd. I guess the question is how much of it do I change. And when does it lose the realism when doing so?
  • MeganS

    I think the blurred out buildings give a context for the subject and serves to focus interest on the child. Simultaneously, this background lends depth to the painting.


  • @rgr‌ we called that smile her bunny smile. Her eyes would disappear into little arched slivers and her nose would scrunch up. She'd show as many teeth as she could. Pretty sad that she no longer does it. She's almost five now. :)
  • I don't know Kingston. I'm not sure I'm capable yet to "make up" a background. If I don't use what is in the photo, then what? I find it incredibly plain if I leave the sky and the grass but no buildings or trees. Or, maybe I should paint exactly what the photo portrays and see if then it's not painted so poorly? I can move the building a bit more to the right which will help compositionally.
  • Most outdoor portraits have a background. Indoor, yes, you can paint blobs of color that fade and we all assume it's a wall. If I didn't stain the whole canvas, I would have considered fading it to to naked canvas. Too late for that now.
  • I did consider putting something in the lower right corner. A ball, or something of the like. I was trying to avoid having the figure centered.
  • would sharpening it help? I have another pic where the background is more in focus. bigger depth of field.
  • @Kingston‌ I tried. The sky was color matched to photo and grass was left. I weeded the dandelions too. But, the span of white sky made too much contrast with her face, causing it to darken. The trees are needed to highlight the edge of her hood.
    [Deleted User]
  • @MeganS‌

    Just saying . . . . . . . :-\"

    [Deleted User]
  • Castillo, you read my mind. I'm looking at dusk sky photos to get an idea. I know I have to darken the sky a bit.
  • MeganSMeganS -
    edited November 2014
    I really do like it now. I can decide after it dries if I want more intense colors in the sky.

    Thank you @Kingston‌ and @Castillo‌ for pushing me.
  • would the far ground grass look better blue shade and the mid ground red shade, putting the horizon back, popping the child?
  • @martenvisser‌ The background was painted poorly. I knew that it was but was stuck as to what to do. It did take some bravery to take it out, but I'm glad I did. The background was crucial in keeping the skin tones lighter. The more white that was back there, the darker her face looked. I tried some various backgrounds in photoshop with things in focus and they all looked kinda terrible. I like the focus on her and on how the light is bouncing off of her.

    this painting was really tricky. The face only became skin tones once I added cooler colors in her jacket and background. Before that, she looked like death. The grass is cooler and lighter on the left because it is further from the light source. The grass toward the right is warmer but with added white for atmospheric perspective. If I were to do any changes at all, I might make it cooler on the left with more blues but I would leave the foreground. The shadow that is cast is my hubby's shadow. Along with the offset, the cloud direction, my hubby's shadow, and the way she is facing, I hope to convey that the story continues off the canvas.
Sign In or Register to comment.