Friday, September 4, 2009

Painting Skin

...continuing from previous posts...

The Sketch
Part 1 (background)

* * *

Painting skin can be tricky. Here's an example from my current painting, "Gemini." This basic technique can be used for a variety of other skin tones by experimenting with variations for the shadows, and the main glaze.

Most of the time I use combinations of cooler colors for the shadows. Greens, purples, blues. For the main glaze, I use yellows or browns, mixed with a touch of red and diluted.

In this example I'm using some non-standard pigments (Kremer) which were being used throughout the rest of the painting as well. The WinsorNewton colors (WN) are fairly standard and can be found in other brands as well.

Base layer of shadows
With a mixture of the Red Cabbage Blue and Elder Purple, diluted, I paint the shadows. I find it easier to do shadows first because when the main glaze is laid on top, the shadows get smoothed out nicely. If they are painted on top, you might run into problems of lifting and splotchy looking skin.

Main Glaze
When that has dried, I mix together the colors for my main glaze and swipe this on top. I make sure to leave some edges of white showing for highlights. Also it can be useful to leave bits of the shadow layer showing through as well. The cool shadows and the warm main tones side by side make for interesting contrasts that really bring out the depth.
For this particular image I did mix a bit of opaque white into my main glaze mixture. I don't often do this, but I wanted the chalkiness that this would add to the glaze. These two figures are almost like statues, and a semi-opaque glaze over the purple tones adds to this effect.

Over the warmer main glaze layer, I also did some light glazes of Stinging Nettle Yellow, which has a faint greenish hint to it. This provides a more bronze touch to their skin as well.

Emphasizing the Deepest Shadows
With a fine brush, I go back and emphasize the deepest shadows with a more concentrated mixture of the original shadows color, also mixing in a bit of Burnt Umber or Payne's Grey needed for the darkest areas.


  1. very helpfull and interesting thank you for sharing your tipps and tricks.Gemini is a wonderfullPicture I like it very much !!!

  2. amazing - such a simple 'sounding' technique but we all know it takes an artist's hand to pull of ;)

  3. Hello Stephanie,

    you are one of the reasons I decided to start learning to draw... again. Thank you for sharing this article. And your wonderful artwork.

    regards from a german fan.

  4. you are very generous to share your techniques. Many illustrators are quite guarded with their methods. Thank you very much!

  5. i love your details! i love how you take advantage of watercolor! what an inspiration! thank you! i love your mermaids most particularly. keep it coming!

  6. Stephanie,
    you are my idol, I am literally typing and re-typing sentences of awe into this blog...
    Your art is so amazing and inspiring, It has truly struck me as oustandingly stunning!


  7. WOW!!That's just so awesome!! You are an amazing aquarelist! (watercolorist)