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Begining to paint skin


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Hello, Question from a beginning painter, How do I paint skin?


I started with the fair skin triad, and used this method


1) Prime white

2) Basecoat with fair skin

3) wash/shade with fair skin shadow

4) highlight with fair skin highlights 


But so far im having poor results.


Can anyone share their secrets?

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I like to work from dark to light on my skintones. I also don't always use the "triads" but mix match other colors (not just "skin colors") in with what I'm working on.


A really great tutorial from a fantastic painter can be found here on his blog- http://powellminipainting.blogspot.com/p/painting-skin-tones.html?m=1

Edited by ub3r_n3rd
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Skin is one of those materials that's very complex in color, and it tends to be more saturated and redder in the shadows than the base skin color. Shading in the same triad generally looks kind of dead or plasticky in my opinion. I usually go (for super pale, but not vampiric skin):


Specular highlight - Vampiric Highlight

Highlight - Maiden Flesh

Midtone - Rosy Skin

Shadows - Old West Rose

Dark shadows / lines - Walnut Brown

Edited by djizomdjinn
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Like ub3r, I work dark to light, layering up my highlights gradually instead of using a lot of washes or glazes, which can flatten your tones. I also aim to start with a few shades darker than my "shade" color, which will end up as my "liner"... a more natural shadow along the skin where it meets cloth and bits. It also blends better than trying to line after finishing your skin.


You should think of painting like you're dressing the mini. The areas most deeply recessed or "underneath" first (skin), then clothes, then hair and outer bits, then they step out of their room (basing).


But also keep in mind everyone has their own way of working. Some use black primer (or brown liner on Bones for primer) to create their instant lining. Some, like me, prime white because some colors like yellow don't have great coverage and white works better for those. Others prefer a neutral grey. Some do "zenithal" priming (prime black then white spray prime from direction of the light source).


When painting you need to focus on the bolded part above. Where is your light source and how will it affect your shadows and highlights? Flashlight under the chin for an eerie look? High noon?


Watch the video ub3r linked, practice, and post a picture (if you can) for better feedback. It's easier to give directed advice when we can see where the problems are.


Welcome! ^_^

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The triads are a great start for skin tones.  Like the others have said, I tend to cover the skin area with the shadow colour and work my way up.  The biggest trick for me was not to be afraid of the "ugly" stages.  What I mean is when I add the next colour, I block it in without worrying about blending.  then I make a think mix of the dark and light colour and smooth out the transition.  It works for me.


The other tip for doing skin that is not your typical colours is to add a skin tone colour to the mix.  So, even if I am doing a red devil or a blue ice giant I mix in a flesh colour into the colours I'm using.  It tends to give the skin a more "realistic" look.


BTW, most of my skin success has to be given to Wren.  She is an amazing painter and I learned a lot from her courses at ReaperCon.



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One of the fun things about skin is that you can use any colors you want. I use a lot of non-traditional colors in my shadows especially.  the triads will not give you enough contrast to make the skin look realistic.  So I'll add something like a dark red if I want a warm tone, or a green or blue if I want something cooler.  I did a face painting tutorial if it helps.








Here's monique I'm working on right now, using nothing that has the word "skin" in it. The midtone is clouded sea, the highlight leather white and the shadow deep ocean down to nightshade purple in the shadows.  One of the ways to get contrast in skin is to not be afraid to use a dark color in the deepest shadows.  I think of it like stage makeup you have to exaggerate the contrast to make it work well at our scale.  I go to google images a lot to look at photos and get a sense of how I want to shade a face, or the skin in general.  There's a good deal of science behind why skin looks the way it does.  Understanding that helps you choose where the highlights and shadows need to go.


Skin is translucent faintly pigmented layers upon layers over bone, cartilage, muscle, fat and vessels.  In areas with thin skin- elbows, knuckles, chin, nose, cheekbones, forehead, etc; the skin will look lighter because we see the white things shining through.  In thicker skin, the tone is pinker or more driven by pigments like melanin or carotene.  In areas with prominent vessels, the skin may even look bluer or greener.  Nail beds often look pink because of the capillaries near the surface.  So don't be afraid to use color to illustrate this!


But, to start with and in the simplest form, using a flesh tone with a light highlight and a dark shadow will give you the effect you're looking for.  the key is upping contrast and placing highlights and shadows realistically. Certain parts of the skin are always seen as shadowed (unless playing with funky lighting effects like underlighting) like under the brow, beside the nose, under the chin, the underside of limbs, etc.  Certain parts are always lighter like the tip of the nose and chin, forehead, cheekbones, elbows, bottom (if painting scantily clad minis), breasts and upper side of limbs.


I like browsing the inspiration gallery if I'm painting a new mini to see where folks have chosen to place highlights/shadows.


Have fun!!!!

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Triads won't give you enough contrast. Get a maroon and a light skin tone. Peach, warm Gray, or anything light and Rosy. Triads middle or highest highlight. Mix 50/50 base color. Add a little more highlight color to base mix with each layer. Use very thin darker maroon mixes and place shades in hollows of cheeks around and under brows, under nose and under bottom lip. As you advance you can glaze in other colors. But that should get you somewhere I hope.

Edited by czebas
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For starters the triads are great. You may think about experimenting with one tone above and below for more contrast, and then focus on pushing that contrast as you learn.


By 'one tone above and below', I mean poaching from the skin tone triad above or below, as three of them nicely chain together (dark - tanned - fair). So if you're painting a fair skin tone, do this:


Base in fair skin

Shade with fair shadow (don't wash, use layers thinner than your base coat)

Shade the darkest spots with tanned highlight (layer consistency again)

Re-establish base coat with a layer of fair skin (your 'midtone')

Highlight with a layer of fair highlight

Add small highlights with a layer of fair highlight + linen white




Base in tanned skin

Shade with tanned shadow

Shade darkest spots with dark highlight

Re-establish midtone with tanned skin

Highlight with tanned highlight

Small highlights of fair skin



Do a few models with that basic idea and then start branching out. Keep everything but the base coat a bit thinner than base coat but not thin like a wash until you're comfortable with layering. This should give you the feel for layering basic skin tones. I did just that for the first year or so I painted, here are a few examples: Tyden (bronzed skin triad, maybe?), Shanna (same as Tyden), Pirate Queen and King (I think the fair skin recipe above) and Ororo (dark skin triad).


I'd absolutely stay away from complicating things with color theory until you're confident in the basics. Just gradually work on using the easy stuff, increasing contrast as you go. If you look at my 2 most recent pieces, Zachary is just an extension of the technique I outlined above. As a gaming mini, I didn't go nuts with color theory. He's based in tanned skin and I used some redstone for variety (I like it for ruddiness); then I pushed the contrast with ivory (VMC) and really dark browns. But nothing fancy.


For Wallace, it's very similar to Zachary, but with a little more color interest, using some blues to cool things off and yellows to color shift the forehead, etc. But again, don't sweat that stuff for a while. You can see how I just keep building on the basic stuff I did way back in 2013, so I'm fully in control and understand what I'm doing.


For placement of highlights and shadows, I find it's useful to take a picture of the primed mini under a lamp. For Zachary and Wallace, I used this process heavily to good effect.

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Anybody got tips for a male scruffy face or five o'clock shadow? Or more generally speaking any thin body hair.


I think I accidentally succeeded with my innkeeper when I put too much brown (same as hair color) on the cheeks and then tried to cover it with the skin tones.

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Stipple watered down grey skin tone mix around facial hair areas. Use varying combos of tones for the hair mix. I do darker towards the center of the area. Glaze flesh grey mix over hair stipple some more. More times means more depth. Then glaze edges of areas with skin and grey mix to blend into the skin.its what I did on this guy.


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