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SKIN: a tutorial - Part 1

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By navate   |   
© 2009 - 2020 navate
UPDATE 7/31/2011: I've uploaded a slightly revised version. Content is still the same. :)

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.

: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.

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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anonymous's avatar
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TEG48's avatar
TEG48New Deviant


Adanel's avatar
This looks very useful and well explained!!! Thank you so much for posting this!
Metalraptor's avatar
MetalraptorHobbyist General Artist
Excellent tutorial. ^_^
lsfg's avatar
lsfgHobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you, great work!
Tabanca83's avatar
Tabanca83Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great Tutorial and very very helpful!
bubblegum1120's avatar
bubblegum1120Hobbyist General Artist
It was really good! TYSM 
schattenimspiegel's avatar
schattenimspiegelHobbyist Digital Artist
I love you're tutorials :D
wwwPaiThancom's avatar
Leelah-sama's avatar
Leelah-samaHobbyist Digital Artist
but desaturarted shadows are SO EYE CATCHING
OnyxPen's avatar
OnyxPen General Artist
WOW!!! What software did you use? Would this tutorial work with Sketchbook Pro Mobile?
arenirart's avatar
arenirartProfessional Digital Artist
Thank you for the great tutorial! 
LuckyFy's avatar
This is definitly going to be usefull.
Thanks for the tutorial ! C:
Stahlgeist2154's avatar
Awesome - great reference material! Thank you.
MezzanotteMarionette's avatar
MezzanotteMarionetteStudent 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.
navate's avatar
navateProfessional 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.
MezzanotteMarionette's avatar
MezzanotteMarionetteStudent General Artist
makes sense! I'll keep this in mind! :)
B-LightY-Jung's avatar
B-LightY-JungStudent 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! ^_^
Black--Forest's avatar
Black--ForestHobbyist 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
Sol-Caninus's avatar
Sol-Caninus 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!)
lostpapers's avatar
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
Aerite's avatar
AeriteHobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much! <3 This is extremely helpful. I'll try my best to learn more about colour theory.
dragons-and-castles's avatar
dragons-and-castlesHobbyist General Artist
Thank you for making this! This has been truly helpful!
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