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SKIN: a tutorial - Part 1 by navate SKIN: a tutorial - Part 1 by navate
UPDATE 7/31/2011: I've uploaded a slightly revised version. Content is still the same. :)
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This tutorial is very extensive and will be published in (at least) four parts.

:star: IN THIS SECTION: :star:
Skin basics: A simple but in-depth look that expands beyond the usual shadow-midtone-highlight formula, and how to use each tonal range most effectively.

:bulletblue: :new: SECTION II: Skin tones. how to apply the basic formula to light, medium, dark, and fantasy skin tones.

COMING SOON:
:bulletred: SECTION III: Background color and ambient light. How surrounding colors affect skin.
:bulletred: SECTION IV: Building a skin tone, blending and texturing. The technical section showing how to paint skin start to finish.
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This tutorial uses mostly digital work as examples, but the theory behind it should apply to ALL mediums. But of course it goes without saying that this is hardly the end-all-be-all of skin painting tutorials. Just my way of thinking about it.

I tried to make this accessible for artists of all skill levels. Intermediate artists will probably benefit the most. Beginners will probably find some of the principles discussed difficult to put into practice. But don’t be frustrated! The only “secret” to being a good painter is practice. :heart: And hopefully even advanced painters will be able to glean something useful. :)

Also-- this should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: the ONLY WAY to learn how to paint/draw anything well, let alone realistically, is to STUDY COLOR THEORY AND FORM. All the stuff I blather on about in this tutorial is meaningless unless you take the initiative to learn the fundamentals of color and figure drawing.
:star: Color theory resources can be found HERE.

Please, any questions, concerns, criticisms, etc: comment below.

Thanks so much for the DD! :)


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Daily Deviation

Given 2009-12-01
The suggester writes: I've seen many a skin tutorial in my day, but I have to say that SKIN: a tutorial - Part 1 by *navate is the best! Not only does it cover the basics, but it also takes into consideration points about skin that most tutorials do not cover, such as the difference between normal highlights and peak highlights. There's so much subtlety in skin and this tutorial gets right to the heart of this challenging topic. This tutorial series is not even finished yet, I'm amazed and waiting for the rest with baited breath. Thank you for sharing! ( Suggested by AngelaSasser and Featured by znow-white )
:iconschattenimspiegel:
schattenimspiegel Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I love you're tutorials :D
Reply
:iconwwwpaithancom:
wwwPaiThancom Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2016   Artist
Thanks!
Reply
:iconleelah-sama:
Leelah-sama Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
but desaturarted shadows are SO EYE CATCHING
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:icononyxpen:
OnyxPen Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2016   General Artist
WOW!!! What software did you use? Would this tutorial work with Sketchbook Pro Mobile?
Reply
:iconarenirart:
arenirart Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for the great tutorial! 
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:iconluckyfy:
LuckyFy Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2016
This is definitly going to be usefull.
Thanks for the tutorial ! C:
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:iconstahlgeist2154:
Stahlgeist2154 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2016
Awesome - great reference material! Thank you.
Reply
:iconmezzanottemarionette:
MezzanotteMarionette Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Student General Artist
I'm really wondering about the use of brushes and how it is you blend. I just got photoshop 13 and I'm not sure what the settings are for blending colors easier like actual paint.
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:iconnavate:
navate Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I don't use any special settings.  My main brushes are a hard round brush with jagged edges to block in color, then a spackled brush (a brush made up of dots or dashes so it creates a painterly stroke).  All I do is work on 50%-ish opacity to blend, using a cross hatching motion.  No tricks.  Same way I blend graphite or real paint.
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:iconmezzanottemarionette:
MezzanotteMarionette Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2016  Student General Artist
makes sense! I'll keep this in mind! :)
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:iconb-lighty-jung:
B-LightY-Jung Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2015  Student General Artist
Wow what a tutorial! Thank you so very much for this session I really learned a lot about applying the colour to skin! I am going to experiment with what you have taught here (alongside the second tutorial) and then apply it to my work! If you could I would like to credit you in the picture I'm doing and if you could also give me some feedback and critique, then that would be appreciated! ^_^
Reply
:iconblack--forest:
Black--Forest Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, thanks a lot for this tutorial, i tried it and it looked really odd first, but with adding the warmth it became suddenly really nice :) I would not have had the idea or the overall technique without this ^^ <3
Reply
:iconsol-caninus:
Sol-Caninus Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015   General Artist
Found this via Google Search and traced it back to you here for Part 2.  Good stuff. Thanks for contributing. (BTW - I have cats, too!)
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:iconlostpapers:
lostpapers Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2015
I'm currently trying to paint a skin with fairly natural look, but I'm still at loss with warmthed zones and "orange" coloring from sub scattering. It's not easy to understand which color to use on which part of a face.

Those tutorials are a blessing for my quest as I'll finally be able to understand which zones to color correctly. Thanks
Reply
:iconaerite:
Aerite Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much! <3 This is extremely helpful. I'll try my best to learn more about colour theory.
Reply
:icondragons-and-castles:
dragons-and-castles Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for making this! This has been truly helpful!
Reply
:icon3dmave:
3DMave Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2015
Very Good!!
Reply
:iconbiotic-archangel:
biotic-archangel Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
i've got lots of problems with making skin look realistic enough, and this is really detailed and helpful, thanks!!
Reply
:iconmiguel-narayan:
miguel-narayan Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
This is old and I was skeptical to try at first, I was never good at this but... this works like magic! thanks a lot for the tutorial! you're the woman!!
Reply
:iconqureeious:
qureeious Featured By Owner May 25, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Would it be okay if I posted this on kakaostory with credit? This is so helpful and I would love to share this with others thank you~
Reply
:iconalexandriatrimble:
alexandriatrimble Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2015  Student General Artist
Just wanted to comment that this is an extremely helpful and in-depth series of tutorials! Definitely the best, clearest one I've come across. Really helped me see how many colors are needed to create a nice skin tone. Credited here, just a practice study based on your supplement chart:
alexandriatrimble.deviantart.c…
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:iconbluemooze:
bluemooze Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2015   Digital Artist
This is fantastic!  Thanks
Reply
:iconwaterystar:
waterystar Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great in-depth tutorial that's presented well.
Reply
:iconhotcappucine:
HotCappucine Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2015
It's very helpful, thanks for sharing! ^___^
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:iconrileyjcooper:
RileyJCooper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015
I really love your detailed explanations. They make things clear without oversimplifying.
Reply
:iconspasticat:
Spasticat Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Super helpful, thank you very much for this!
Reply
:iconswirler7:
Swirler7 Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2014   Digital Artist
This is awesome!
Reply
:iconwithout-ink:
without-ink Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2014  Student General Artist
ohhh myyyy gooossshhh, this is gorgeous!!!!!!
<3333 definitely favouriting this for a rainy day!!! c:
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:iconortalshriki:
OrtalShriki Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Amazing tut :) Thank you so much.
Reply
:iconpurekitten:
PureKitten Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
that seems pretty helpful, thank you.
Reply
:iconhopfield:
Hopfield Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks so much for this, it's so clearly written and easy to follow.  I really struggle with colour and am happiest with just a graphite pencil, but you've inspired me to have another go at learning to use colour, thank you!
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:iconglowsydoodles:
Glowsydoodles Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
sorry, I know this is a super stupid question, but do I need a graphic tablet to do these digital paintings? Do you use a tablet and if so, what is it?
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:iconquasihedron:
quasihedron Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for sharing! :clap:
Well done! :D
Reply
:iconpippyboy:
pippyboy Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
thank you for sharing
Reply
:iconda-4th:
Da-4th Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2014  Student Artist
Wow! This can really come in handy. =D
Reply
:icongrophosforid:
GroPhosforid Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thx bro! :3 Great tutorial! And very very helpful! 
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:icontriangulor:
triangulor Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is really helpful thank you :)
Reply
:iconsiva1986:
Siva1986 Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014
wow
Reply
:iconalecakachunks:
AlecAKAChunks Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Student General Artist
You're a genius, I love you. A true artist is you wise one.
Reply
:iconwesai:
wesai Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very nice.
Reply
:iconxawesomenessofcoolx:
XawesomenessofcoolX Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014
Thank you for making this, it was really helpful. :D 
Reply
:iconsteph0804:
steph0804 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014  Hobbyist
Amazing! Your tutorial is by far the most comprehensive yet understandable one I have been able to find-- thank you!
Reply
:iconzunachina:
Zunachina Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2014  Student General Artist
too complicated :P (I'll have to come back when I get a bit better with realism :3)
Reply
:iconi-do-care:
I-Do-Care Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2014
That is a wonderful tutorial. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to teach! You describe it so clearly, and the before/after comparison at the bottom really shows the difference your tips can make. :+fav:
Reply
:iconcowgirlem:
cowgirlem Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Professional General Artist
I love this! Goes into the level of detail I needed! :)
Reply
:icongildedframe:
GildedFrame Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
This is so helpful!!  I'll most certainly be referring back to this!!
Reply
:iconkhadrimx:
Khadrimx Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is by far the most helpful skin tutorial I've seen online. I struggle with color/color theory. This broke it down in a logical way to help me understand. I can't wait to try and put it into practice! Thanks :3
Reply
:icon1devilishdude:
1DeViLiShDuDe Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very cool! :D
Reply
:iconlldmate:
LLDmate Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Simply amazing!
Reply
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