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SKIN: a tutorial - Part 2 by navate SKIN: a tutorial - Part 2 by navate
Whew… okay. This section is very long, and a little intense. I realize I am simultaneously telling you to choose a unified palette, AND throw color all over the place. It’s definitely the most difficult and advanced section of the entire tutorial.

:spotlight-left: DOWNLOAD THE SUPPLEMENT CHART HERE :spotlight-right:
Import it into a program with a color picker, and go nuts. Compare the swatches, look at how the colors, saturation, and values changes. It will help, promise.

:star: IN THIS SECTION: :star:
Skin tones: how to achieve a range of skin tones (light, medium, dark, and fantasy) using the basic formula laid out in Section I.

This tutorial is very extensive and will be publish in four parts. If you just found it, please be sure to start with Section I!

:bulletblue: SECTION I: Skin Basics. Expanding beyond the usual shadow-midtone-highlight formula, and how to use each tonal range most effectively.

: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.

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.

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: You can find color theory resources here in my journal.

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

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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-09-13
SKIN: a tutorial - Part 2 by ~navate One of the most comprehensive tutorials I've seen on DA - don't forget to check out the first part as well! ( Featured by Elandria )
angela-sparkle Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, you really covered it all! Thanks <3
JoyChaos Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
one of the only people who also made one for different dark shades and not just white skin and olive tones. thank you so much
CadaverCrafts Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2016  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
This is seriously so useful and great for me right now, you have no idea how much this helped me!
Burning-Heart-Brony Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for the tutorial, it explained lots!
Homura Bowing Icon 
viktor52 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2016
So helpful! Up until now my skins looked bland and flat. Ton of help! Thanks!
aetheldeviant Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2016
thank you, thank you, thank you- so much!!  This is what I was looking for to help me past a plateau.
nuhyamin Featured By Owner May 24, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
where is part 3
navate Featured By Owner May 25, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I created the first two parts as a gift to my fans while I was in college.  Now, I cannot afford to do free work, so while I plan to finish this series I need to set up some sort of crowdfunding to make it happen. 
Lithe-Alluvion Featured By Owner May 4, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
wonderful work! thank you so much for this!
peas23 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2016  Student General Artist
thank you for the information, it is very helpful. but how do i utilize this on a real canvas? Like, do i put the base color first and add mid tones and other stuff from there, or something else?
nakedhobby Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2016
This a great resource! Thanks.... (new to digital painting)
CptnEdge Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2016
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us :)
YumeHunter Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
:clap: Very Well said! I am an absolute beginner when it comes to learning how to use swatches ( trust me ^^;;) I am very pleased with this. Very in depth. I hope to show you my picture one day ( though I am still a beginner)
JGiampietro Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2016
This is so helpful, thanks! Question, what paint brush are you using in Photoshop? 
navate Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Several custom brushes; mostly a hard round with jagged edges and a spackled brush (a brush made up of dots/dashes that creates a painterly stroke).  I also finish up all my work in Corel Painter.
Angelzplay Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2016
thank you thank you thank you. I can use this to paint my shoes "NUDE" yeap I'm snatching the word nude from its standard beige to include my dark skinned African-American counterparts. Just y'all wait. I'll use this as a base for my own skintone and match it exact. Ill be sure to post pics when I do it friends.
Dahkur Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is an incredible useful tutorial! I always struggle with skin tones and seem to start anew with each drawing. I will take your lessons to heart, thanks so much for sharing.
Kunoichi98 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Thanks soooo much for the amazing tutorial!!!!!!!!! I can't wait for the next one and I especially can't wait to try it out!!! :happybounce: 
OG-Athrodite Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so beyond helpful! Thank you so much for making these, you're a wonderful artist! I'm sorry if this has already been asked, but do you have any tips for making skin tones other than porcelain look flushed, or will you cover that at some point?
navate Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Add stronger warmth colors. 
OG-Athrodite Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Zireael07 Featured By Owner May 27, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
This is amazing!
almashassan Featured By Owner May 11, 2015
Hey Lauren, thanks for writing such a detailed and helpful tutorial. I have one question regarding the colours. Do you premix the four mid-tones and apply as a single tone like base or apply them separately? 
navate Featured By Owner May 12, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
I apply everything separately.  Blending comes from sort of cross-hatching with low opacity.  Skin isn't a uniform color, even if it's evenly lit.  That's why the numerous mid-tones in the first place.  
almashassan Featured By Owner May 16, 2015
Thank you so much for the clarification. That cleared my doubt regarding, painting skin tones. 
Kmb29913081 Featured By Owner May 4, 2015
Amazing, thanks for this, its a great help :D
candaceleeparks Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for taking the time to help others like this <3
HuynhThiNhuY Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
don't know how to say thank you. It help me much much!!!
bluemooze Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2015   Digital Artist
Awesome and inspirational.  Thanks
waterystar Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
A thorough continuation in this series.
Awano Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Love the detail you go into! And the amount of effort put into this, I will definitely be using this for my drawings now seeing as I only used about 4 swatches in my colour palettes :P 
designsbycheyenne Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2015  Student General Artist
Thank you!
RileyJCooper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015
This is fantastic; thank you!
dlapastel Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2014
Nice job.  I'm always grateful for those who share, so thanks for this.
Red-WereZ Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Brilliant tutorial! So helpful!!!! :D
UltimateChimeraBlood Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Never knew how to color dark skin. This helped a lot!
ceremono Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2014
thank U so much, I love it
Dahliia-Graphix Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
These are amazing tips thank you.
quietpeople Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2014  Student General Artist
This is super helpful! Loved how you showed the information for darker skin tones as well - there's not many tutorials for this. Also loved the corpse skin, but think it looks very hard. Thanks for sharing.
monarchmobile Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014   Digital Artist
wow, i love this

it's really detailed and it's one of the only skin tutorials where everybody isn't just super pale white, it's lovely
OrtalShriki Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow so talented! Thank you for sharing :) i love the way you wrote all well and presented with photos. :) HI5
VulpineShadows Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2014
Are these done in photoshop or in what program? What version number? 

You are very talented, by the way. :) very good painting and tutorial
navate Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I use Photoshop CS4 and Corel Painter 8, but the program edition is irrelevant.  You can get the same results in any edition from the last ten years. 
wajdanali Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
jezreelian10 Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
This tutorial really helps me a lot! thank you so much!! :D

I used it here :D…
differnt Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014
i dont know how to thank you for ur work , i think this is the best skin tut i found! 
but im still cant do it :( pfff sad thing  
the skins i made either muddy or artificial! mayb i do something wrong in blending or placing the colors!  can u explain please a lil more about where to place exactly colors? 
navate Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
It's going to take a lot of practice.  Just keep trying.  There is no formula for where to place the colors.
be0711 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014
Zardi Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2014
This reference is awesome, well-organized, and you clearly know what you are talking about!
Bronzewinged Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Hobbyist
Thank you very much for actually showing different types instead of just the common light skin.
I'll need some time to digest this and later make use of it (I'm quite sure that I already use some of it).

When I do simpler "skin detailing" I usually use only a single shadow and highlight colour. Often blending heavily to create new tones. The reason for it is that I then can add to it even more if I later feel like it. It would propably be hard to go backwards an simplify a multi colour thing (unless drawn again). 

How many different faces did you draw in total for this (even if they might have doubled as another project)? I can see several different ones in the "showing the base colour" where you show a small sliver of the artwork. 

Is it a good idea to keep a characters basetone and perhaps a few shadow and hightlight colours in a sheet of some sort? Since this makes you able to make a palette that can be varied depending on light and what ever other things you want to change/draw. A certain good basecolour or sometimes colour in general can be hard to find sometimes. Atleast if you ask me. 
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Submitted on
November 29, 2009
Image Size
1.9 MB


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