How many values in the human skin?


At last count 4000. Based on an 11x11 pixel sample of the noses of 4000 photographic portraits taken by an artist.
The samples were then matched to Pantone colors.

At first blush this sounds interesting. On reflection it is just a nosey irrelevance. Why 4K photos and 4K skin colors? Samples shown display many duplicate colors, there should be fewer colors than photos?
All artists know that human skin is infinitely varied as local color and dramatically influenced by surroundings, weather and time of day.

In my experience i can reproduce 4000 skin tone just with the variation possible in PDFs, monitors and printers from just one photograph.




  • Wonderful article Dennis :)
  • I tend to agree with your analysis @dencal. Nice message but dubious basis and somewhat trivial. A better test would be the variability obtained from replicate samples of the same subject, compared to between-sample variability.

    Oh dear, that sounds like a scientist speaking :)
  • edited March 2018
    Totally agree @roxy and @dencal.  It’s not a scientific study and the results are fallacious.  This study can be done in MS Paint on one face.  Zoom in to see each pixel and count.  Right, I don’t want to either!  =)
  • From the art standpoint: are skin values even measurable? Particularly when you consider skin color is so varied. There is no 'stereotypical' skin color like the Crayola crayon named "flesh", an unearthly combination of pink, apricot, beige, and some other component which would probably be far better for depicting the values of a sockeye salmon than human flesh.

    From an artist's perspective, this is lacking. But from the human perspective, there is something to be said here: we are all a little bit of every race, yes? At least in how our skin tone displays it. And to a deeper meaning, why racism? We are all human.

    And this I find satisfying. This artist has conveyed a message in images.
  • Infinite can't be measured by numbers, you might just as well ask "how many colors are there?" The answer to both questions will be the same but no body will be able to arrive at an answer scientifically because no one will live long enough to collect all the data.
  • @dencal you may be interested in this - two minute mark  - lately, when I hear people talk of values I think of this example - incredible!     
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