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Watercolour Skin Tones

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Hi there! Thanks for your question. I don’t have these down to an exact science, but there are just a few colours I tend to use for skin tones with different ratios for each. I’ve tried to break it down according to how I think about them - I’ll first figure out whether the person is cool or warm-based. Cooler skintones have more blues in their undertone, and warmer have pink/yellow undertones, and there’s also the occasional neutral skin tone that almost reads as a green (sometimes found in olive-skin types). I always start with a very, VERY light wash of a colour, and this could be either a pale version of their final skintone or the undertone - usually a blue, yellow, or red. Afterwards I’ll start layering colours on top of that, to finally reach the darkness of colour I want. The colours used for the images below are lemon yellow (cool yellow), new gamboge (warmer yellow), quinacridone red (warmer red), quinacridone magenta (cool red), phthalo blue, and burnt umber in Daniel Smith watercolours. Sorry for the wonky face drawings, but here we go:

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A very, very watered down mix for those who pretty much burn if they go out in the sun, new gamboge & quin. red. These types are very pale and tend to be bright pink-based. I’d say you could get away with the skin base being the white of the paper and just use straight-up watered down red for the very porcelain.

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A darker version of above - starting to use more yellows in the mix. New gamboge & quin red. Still pink-based.

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Starting to use more yellows here, with lemon yellow coming into the mix alongside new gamboge & quin red.

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This is the same exact mix as above, except I layered down lemon yellow first, and then the mix of new gamboge and quin red on top of it later. It’s similar but reads more yellow.

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Getting into the more olive-skinned territory with the addition of phthalo blue.

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More blue, with new gamboge and quin red, and darker make a tanner skin tone.

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Started using burnt umber into the mix for a richer colour, leaning red here with new gamboge and quin red.

A darker almost brick-coloured skin tone, with new gamboge, quin red, phthalo blue, and quin magenta coming into the mix.

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Reddish undertone with new gamboge, quin red & magenta, phthalo blue.

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Gold-based undertone - this one’s just new gamboge and burnt umber.

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More neutral undertone with new gamboge, burnt umber, and phthalo blue.

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Dark skin with blue undertones - burnt umber and phthalo blue with the smallest smidge of quin magenta.

I’ll usually put a bit more saturation into the skin tone mix for blush and lips, and some blue into the shadows. Again, definitely start light and layer layer layer until you find the colours you like. Experiment with what you have and see what works for you. Hope this helps!

It’s outlaw week on Sketch Dailies (twitter/instagram). Join us! Billy the Kid, Blackbeard, Bonnie & Clyde

Materials! Here are the things I use the most often:

Sketchbook: Stillman & Birn Gamma (I think 5.5x8.5”). It’s a nice cream-coloured paper, and takes even heavy watercolour washes beautifully. I don’t like their heavy covers, though, so I generally recover it myself with lighter chipboard (this one covered in leather for travel beat-ups), and also round the corners with a corner punch. On the right you can see what the cover usually looks like.

Onto my little zip bag of materials, and where to get such materials:
1. Jetstream 0.7mm ballpoint. I really like sketching and writing with this, even though it gets gloopy from time to time. Smooth and sexy, exactly what people look for in a ballpoint, right? Jetpens.
2. White uni-ball Signo - for pattern details, highlights, etc. Jetpens.
3. Pentel pigment brush in…medium? Small? I don’t remember. Nice, dark waterproof ink. Jetpens.
4. Col-erase, carmine or scarlet red. Most art stores carry this.
5. Pitt Oil-based pencil. Buttery, less smudgy with watercolours than regular graphite. I’ve only been able to find this one at Opus in Canada.
6. Tri-tone coloured pencil - I’ve only started using this recently, but I love the coloured line variations you get with this. Also harder to erase, so I use it to “ink” my col-erase drawings. Most craft/art stores seem to have this, too.
7. Watercolour paints (top two rows) - mostly Daniel Smiths now (WOW these are pigmented), a few W&N and Holbeins to finish, still. danielsmith.com
8. Gouache paints (bottom two rows) - M. Graham. I squeeze all of these out into little half pans and let them dry for transport. Two whites - one opaque one not so much. dickblick.com
***EDIT***: I now use the Kremer Pigments 14 pan box watercolors. I find these transparent yet can build up to opaque. They’re soft and buttery, and I’d really have to say blow any of the other brands I’ve used out of the water (ahem). Also very reasonably priced - try ‘em out! Wish they’d make a half-pan version of this set, though (hint hint).
9. Derwent Inktense blocks - broke these off to use as transportable ink from time to time. I don’t find myself using these often so I may remove them. dickblick.com
10. Small metal watercolour kit from Kremer Pigments. I’ve removed the middle metal thing that limits you to how many pans it can hold. Not a lot of mixing space but you can’t expect too much for how small it is. I also stuck magnetic tape on the bottom of the half pans to attach them to the palette.
11. Tiny bullet pencil sharpener. dickblick.com
12. Little flat-ish water container (probably originally for oil paints) I use to refill my brushes. Michael’s, art stores.
13. Mono eraser! I used to have to hoard these from Asia any chance I could. Now they’re everywhere.
14. Small Piston waterbrushes. These don’t hold a point super well and I’m always needing to refill, but I like the feel and they don’t constantly leak water like the nylon waterbrushes do. Blue Heron Arts
15. Global canvas pencil case to hold it all! dickblick.com

And of course I forgot to number my disgusting blotting tissue in the back there - I smuggle these from super nice restaurants whenever I get the chance, and they last for years!

And there you go - this kit is small and portable for me and I love it.

Photos of a few recent sketches… Scans and prints coming soon!!

Bucket list of working on a Disney-princess-balls-out musical-complete-with-power-ballad: DONE. Frozen comes out tomorrow, and it is beautiful. Go see it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bucket list of working on a Disney-princess-balls-out musical-complete-with-power-ballad: DONE. Frozen comes out tomorrow, and it is beautiful. Go see it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Noho neighbors

It’s finally cooling off here.

It’s finally cooling off here.

A smattering of photos from my instagram page. I’m too lazy to scan things. -____-

Guh. I’d better stop before overworking it. Preview for a piece done for the Journey to the West show later this month at Qpop!

Guh. I’d better stop before overworking it. Preview for a piece done for the Journey to the West show later this month at Qpop!

Some noodly peoples.

Sorry, Klimt.

Sorry, Klimt.

Gaaaaaals’ day out….

Gaaaaaals’ day out….