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The Real Colors of Skin Part I


Have you ever colored in your character and felt like the orange or brown colored pencil didn’t quite work for the skin tone? Or, the pink was just too pink and looked more like the color of a piglet?

You are not alone!  Skin color can be a vexing thing to figure out when you are first beginning to color and paint.  The truth is, it is even more vexing when you become a more advanced illustrator.  So, it is good to start practicing and observing now…

Not only can skin color vary from one part of the word to another, but it even varies from elf to elf and person to person.  Skin doesn’t have just one color. To paint realistic looking skin, you will want to practice a variety of color combinations.  In Part II, I am going to show you a way you can go about coloring skin with colored pencils.  For now, let’s just investigate a little more.

I find that one of the best ways to learn is from observing real life, so let’s look at some people for a moment instead of at a drawing.


Here are three people:  an Asian girl, a Caucasian boy and an Afro-american girl. I have highlighted some of the prominent tones in their skin so you can see how different they are.

These colors are all predominantly light shades of brown and pink, some have more yellow undertones and some even have a slight blue tint!

Skin color is also highly affected by light.

There are some general rules, though:
– the forehead tends to have a more yellow undertone,
– the middle part of the face (where the nose and ears are) tends to have a more reddish tone (because more blood circulates to these areas under the skin),
– and the chin tends to have a more blue undertone.

The blue tone is most visible in men because of their continually growing beard, but it is also visible in children and women, just in more subtle shades.  To some extent, this odd-sounding shade occurs because of shadows (shadows from the nose, for instance).

The key to coloring skin is using multiple colors and mixing them together.  We are going to practice this in the next tip!  Until then, take a good look at all of the different skin colors around you and try to observe what colors you see…

—By Valkiri

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The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories