|Pigments for Dark Skin Tones|
- Having lots of earth colours, beiges and creams at one’s disposal for every skin colour imagined, causing a chromatically cluttered, confused and dirty result.
- Making assumptions about the colour of different skin, such as using any brown that is handy and using it for a portrait of an African or Indian person.
- Again, due to assumptions, using yellow pigment as part of the Chinese skin colour palette.
- Neglecting to use light tones or bright colours on a portrait of an African or Indian person, even when apparent, because the notion of dark skin gets in the way.
I have found numerous oil pigments unnecessary for rendering different skin colours. I never use “flesh tint” and am much mystified to the popularity of yellow ochre, which in my view just makes the colours appear dirty and jaundiced. The basis of all skin colours, including ethnic, Indian, African and Chinese skin can be mixed by the use of the following limited selection of oil paints of various ratios.
- Titanium white
- Burnt sienna
- Burnt umber
- Permanent rose
- Cadmium red
- French ultramarine
- Pthalo blue
Guide to Skin Colours:
As guide, I have found the following skin colours can be mixed by various ratios of oil pigments. This is a guide only, but may help in getting the base colours for different skin types. A good range of art materials for portraiture of course would help. List of pigments begin with the most prevalent.
Pakistani and Indian Skin Colour
There are many casts of Indian skin, but generally I have found them to have warm colours from chocolate to warm coffee. The following oil pigments can be used:
Burnt sienna, ultramarine, white and burnt umber. Small amounts of pthalo blue can be added for shadows, and additional permanent rose for a little warmth. Be careful when using cadmium red or the skin colour could look orange. If this happens, tone it down with a little ultramarine and white.
If Indian skin has a cool cast, a little pthalo blue can be added, although I have sometimes found a greenish tinge in some Indian skin, in which case, I will add (the tiniest) viridian and burnt umber to the skin colour.
African Skin Colour
Generally darker, this skin colour often appears cooler, but shades can vary. The following pigments can be used for African skin:
Burnt umber, burnt sienna, ultramarine and white. Very dark skin can be achieved by the use of burnt umber and a little permanent rose. Ultramarine can be added for shadows. Pale colours may consist of burnt umber, a touch of permanent rose and white. Avoid simply adding white to a very dark colour (such as burnt umber and pthalo blue) or it will turn out grey. A little burnt sienna may take the coldness out of the skin colour.
Eastern and Chinese Skin Colour
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Burnt umber, pthalo blue, white and burnt sienna. Olive skin can be achieved by mixing burnt sienna, a little burnt umber and white. Darken Asian skin with a little ultramarine for warm shadows. Take care when lightening Chinese skin or it could look too brown. If this happens, introduce more burnt umber and/or little pthalo blue with the white.
The Colour of Dark Skin
Dispelling presumptions about the colour of an ethnic person’s skin is the key to painting realistic portraits of ethnic people. A limited palette of oil pigments is all that is required. Close observation will reveal unlikely colours within ethnic skin, such as violets and blues, but the basis of all skin colours can be found within the aforementioned colour guide.
Speed Art on Painting Ethnic Skin
|The final image.|
The First glaze
The upper glaze.