One of the most common questions people ask me is “How do you make skin tones”. Unfortunately there is no magic recipe. There is no one way to do this. People come in more than one color as it turns out. WHO KNEW?!?!!? On top of that the lighting and surroundings reflecting on the skin play a role. If you try and find or mix one single perfect color you’re going to end up with a flat cartoon character. To create natural looking skin, the trick is to layer. It takes a LOT of colors, and a LOT of layers.

Just look at some of the colors used in these two kids.
If I tried to pick just one perfect color, they would come out flat.


So often students will show me a painting they are having trouble with. They recognize that something is not right, but they attribute the problems in the piece to the color. The color is rarely the real issue. The issue normally centers around a poor drawing in the first place, bad blending, or weak contrast. The color is at the bottom of my list of things that break a portrait. Sure, it plays a role, but if you have a portrait where the drawing is terrible, but it has perfect color, its still a bad painting. If you have a portrait that is drawn, shaded and blended really well but has inaccurate skin colors, its still possible that your painting overall is quite good. I’ve seen paintings where the color was not at all accurate but they were amazingly beautiful. I’m not saying not to work on your color mixing/matching skills. I’m just saying that color is not the top priority when painting a portrait. Don’t stress yourself out over that. Save your stress for the initial drawing!