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Skin Tone Swatches

Posted by Janet on July 12, 2008

Most artists I know would agree that it is so difficult to mix the right skin tone when drawing people. Here are two techniques I came up with that may make it easier for painting skin tone digitally.

1. Grab a bunch of photos of people of different colors from the internet and use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop to take colors from their skin tone, including highlight and shadow areas. Make a swatch library and save it. Next time you need skin tones, you just have to pull up this swatch library and you’re ready to go.

-Quick and easy.

-Colors may look flat when you start painting large areas.

2. Dab your finger in some power foundation and rub it on medium toothed bristol board. Then do the same thing with blush and bronzers as shown below. Makeup works well because they are made to imitate and blend into skin tone.

Do this with as many shades as you like and scan it. Take it into Photoshop and adjust the colors if necessary. Using the eyedropper tool, take various colors from each swatch. Click on a few places in each swatch and you’ll get a nice range of similar colors. Save the colors in a swatch library for future use.

-You have better control of which color you are making a swatch of, and making swatches of blush and bronzer colors will allow you to give your digital painting more depth when you layer the colors transparently on top of one another.
-You can use the same ingredients in traditional drawings to get quick skin tone effects. I’ve used it occasionally in color pencil and pastel drawings when I just don’t have the right colors. I haven’t experimented with the longevity of the materials, but they definitely work fine for small areas or if the drawing is meant to be short-lived.

-Most people don’t have all the shades for a complete spectrum and it’s not worth buying new shades to make a swatch.

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