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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 )
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: 
Cheza3 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. 
Cheza3 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
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  Student 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  Student 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. 
navate Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Everyone's coloring style is different and that is ok.  But if you stick to only one highlight and shadow color, you will get flatter color.  I find it much easier to blob in the color variation before I start to blend.  It's actually easy to tone it down if you feel it got too crazy--either over-blend or use low opacity of a neutral color on top to tone it down.

I forget how many faces, sorry.  It was a really long time ago and I'm still working on repainting the existing + some new skin tones for the updated version of this tutorial.

I do not keep reference sheets but if it helps, go for it!
triangulor Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
WOW this is really great! You certainly know your stuff. One issue I always have with using advice like this is its often really hard to know where to put the variation in value on a face. I end up putting it in randomly just trying to get the skin tone to look varied and interesting but it usually ends up looking strange and as I work on balancing out the skin colour, blending things that look wrong, I find myself completely erasing all the colour variation completely and ending up with something flat and single valued. You have obviously worked really hard on this and I doubt there is one simple answer but do you have any advice on how I can start? Or an exercise that will help me improve? I have tried just looking at references but often it is really hard to see this effect in real photos or perhaps I am not used to seeing it.
navate Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Hmm, there isn't a formula but try to think of plane changes in terms of hue instead of value.  Does that make sense at all?  I mean planes as in, the way the surface of the skin curves away from the viewer.  Try to throw in color variation in these areas instead of thinking you need to make it darker.  This will help you get much more structural definition without making the skin look unevenly lit or over rendered. 
triangulor Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah that makes sense, I will give it a try! At least it will be a start for me. Thanks so much :)
triangulor Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
URGH I am an idiot I meant to say hue wherever I say value replace with hue. Yeah I can paint with a variation in value but what I can't seem to get is all the other variations.
Albinowolf54 Featured By Owner May 22, 2014
why is the white skintone considered neutral??
navate Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Because of the under-tone.  All tonal ranges have a neutral tone.  "Medium deep" is the neutral undertone for medium skin, and "neutral dark" is the neutral undertone for dark skin.  As for why we start with neutral light skin, I explain it in the tutorial:  it's what most other skin tutorials cover, so it is best jumping off point for me to introduce my approach for applying that formula to all the other skin tones.
miss-american Featured By Owner May 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you very much for this tutorial :)
amaoto9345 Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014
thank you thank you~ ><
HeavenlyOdyssey Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Incredibly handy, thank you for sharing :-)
cedreek14 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist
thanks, this is very helpful.
Kinglucifer Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2014
Thanks you so much for sharing this awesome tut
Feralkyn Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2014
These are GREAT, thank you!
obiobi8 Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
HEY, thanks for the useful tutorials, they re really helpful......
I think you should upload this section 2 also on your website.....some people might not know it exists.....
jeasterl Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014
thank you, this seems easy to understand, it will help me with the arguments i have with my colored pencils (i know there is more colors needed and they will not tell me what they are) 
steph0804 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2014  Hobbyist
I cannot thank you enough for these tutorials!! :D :D :D :hug:
AnnaRIART Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this amazing tutorial!  I am new to digital realistic drawing and  relied intensively on this and am close to finishing an artwork. I learnt about undertones (did not know existed) and have a good starting point for all races now! I was wondering if I could link your tutorial to the work once it's done? Thank you very much =) It's great you want to help others too, I really admire your spirit.
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November 29, 2009
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