B1 Intermediate 3203 Folder Collection
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Hi everyone, I am getting set to mix some flesh tones for a portrait I am working on
and just thought I would go ahead and record this for those who are interested. I wrote
a blog a little while back about mixing flesh tones and included several still shots, but
thought I would go ahead and do a video to make it easier to see as well. A lot of times
I get asked, "How do you mix flesh tones?" There are several different ways of doing
that but, basically, I'm going to go ahead and show you how I start out. This isn't the
only way to start out, of course, but it's my particular way of mixing flesh tones. And
each portrait is different, each painting is different so that all depends as well.
The portrait I'm going to be working on today is an outdoor portrait which is a very high
keyed portrait which means the value range is very high. So, instead of going all the
way down to my darkest value, I'm actually using half the scale. Basically, three-quarters
of the scale I would say. Instead of using my darkest dark, I'm using more of a middle
dark value range, using those values up, so it all depends. If I was doing an indoor portrait
I'd obviously mix darker values as well and darker colors. To go ahead and get started
here, I'll show you what colors I have laid out here on my palette. These are all Winsor
Newton colors. What I have here is Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow,
Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Scarlet, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Red Deep, and then Permanent Alizarin
Crimson, and then this color here, this sort of flourenscent green color is Cadmium Green
Pale. I have a Sap Green, a Prussian Green, I have Viridian, Manganese Blue Hue, and a
French Ultramarine Blue. And then down here for my white, I have Titanium White. The way
I organize my palette is based on temperature, so basically the warm colors are over here,
it moves from warm over to cool colors. But then also, within each of these different
color families I have a warm and cool version. Like a Raw Sienna is cooler than a Gold Ochre,
the Cadmium Yellow Pale is warmer than the Cadmium Yellow, the Cad Orange is warmer than
the Cad Scarlet and so forth. The reason they get cooler is because they are moving towards
the cooler side. So say I have a Cadmium Yellow Pale. The reason Cadmium Yellow is cooler
is because it has more red in it, so it gets cooler in that respect. And that's basically
how I lay out my palette. I don't use black on my palette, not to say that I don't use
black. Occasionally I will, but I use it for more of a blue, actually. If you mix an ivory
black with a little bit of white, you'll get a bluish tint. There's nothing wrong with
using black at all, John Singer Sargent used it very well and was able to incorporate it
into flesh tones, but he used it as more of a graying agent, as more of a bluish color.
But, anyway, let's start mixing colors here. Basically when I'm mixing colors, I'm using
some warm mixtures to start out with. I like to use a Gold Ochre and then sometimes I'll
mix the Gold Ochre with a Cad Scarlet and mix those two together. I'll add some white
to that and then basically I get a warm color to start out with which is fine because later
on I can add the cooler colors into it, particularity the complements. You get different values
here by adding different degrees of white. It's interesting to note that the more white
you add to a color, the cooler it actually makes that color. OK, that's Cad Scarlet and
I could do the same thing if I took Cad Red and mix those two together and add some of
that white in there and you get a slightly different version or variation because it
leans towards the red side, whereas the Cad Scarlet leans toward the orange side. It's
actually in between a Cad Orange and Cad Red. You can see the difference here if I lay them
side by side. This one definitely has more red in it. Anyhow, I'll move it back here
to keep it over in it's family. Now I'll go ahead and mix a lighter value as well. The
reason I put so much white on my palette here than any other color is because I go through
a lot of white when I mix flesh tones. Talking about palettes, this palette is actually just
a piece of glass that I've laid over top a piece of foam board. And basically what is
does is it provides me with, I prefer to start out on a white canvas, there are some artists
that work on a toned canvas, which means you put a light wash like a burnt umber or some
sort of an earth tone on there. Some people tone their canvas grey. It all depends on
how you work, but the way I like to work is on a blank white canvas. So by putting a white
piece of foam board underneath, it just gives me, allows me to judge colors a little bit
easier. And I've done this for so many years, I'm just used to working on a white palette.
Joe Bowler, an artist from Hilton Head, South Carolina, a fantastic portrait painter, got
me started using a glass palette back when I was in college, and I've been using one
ever since. Actually, this whole color scheme here, the way that I set up my palette, is
basically Joe Bowler's palette as well, give or take a few colors. You don't necessarily
need all these colors. As an artist, a lot of these are convenience colors, meaning that
you don't have to mix every one in order to paint. When it comes to working with color,
you really only need the three primary colors, a very limited palette You could do it with
a yellow, a red, and a blue, and then white as well, and mix a huge variety of colors
that way. But for me, I just like to use the extra colors. It just makes it easier for
me. And that's pretty much the reason why I have so many colors here. Another thing
that I'll mention here is that the palette knife that I'm using is a larger palette knife.
It has a larger trowel shaped handle which makes it easier. There are some that come
with a straight handle, but when you mix paint you end up with a big glob of paint near the
handle, so it makes sense to me to use a trowel handle. It's a good size for mixing a lot
of paint. So, let me go ahead and mix some more paint. I've got some warm colors to start
out with and then I'll introduce some of these cooler colors, too. I'll do a blue, a French
Ultramarine Blue, which is a beautiful blue and doesn't take a whole lot to change the
color when you use that French Ultramarine. We'll go with a darker value here. When I
talk about Value, I won't go into detail now, but value refers to different degrees of dark
and light that are measured on a scale from black to white. So every color has a value
that is automatically assigned to it whether we realize it or not. As an artist, it's very
important to realize that so you can work with color more effectively. Value sets the
stage on which color performs. In other words, color can't survive without value, everyone
of these colors I'm mixing has a value, whether its a lighter value or a darker value, but
it's going to fall somewhere on the value scale from black to white, somewhere in there.
The reason I use the black and white scale is just for the fact that it's easier to measure.
Sometimes color can trick you, especially when using reds.A lot of times when I'm judging
values, I notice, for myself, that reds sometimes play a trick on your eyes. Sometimes I think
they're lighter than they actually are. If you take a photo, or a black and white photo,
or convert your photo to black and white, you'll notice you get the true value relationships.
A lot of times that is what I'll actually do when I'm working on a portrait. If I come
across an area that I'm having a difficult time determining whether the values are too
light or too dark because I'm working in very subtle skin tones, very subtle values, I'll
take a picture and convert it to black and white on the computer or on the camera and
take a look at it just to see what the actual value is compared to the other values in the
painting. Anyhow, back to my demonstration here,. I tend to go off on rabbit trails quite
often. Also to let you know, my children just got home from school not too long ago and
they may barge in. If so, you'll know the reasoning behind it, but hopefully they won't.
So what I'm going to do is mix some French Ultramarine and what I want to do is mix a
little bit of Viridian as well. Viridian is a very cool green. The reason it's so cool
is because here you can see the Sap Green contains a lot of yellow in it. It leans toward
the warmer side. The further up you go, you get to Viridian which has a lot more blue
in it. Because there is so much blue in it, it leans more, it's a lot cooler in comparison
to say a Sap Green. It takes a little more Viridian though. It doesn't have the same
tinting strength as French Ultramarine. When I say tinting strength, I'm talking about
the ability to change, the ability to tint a color very quickly, meaning it takes more
paint, more Viridian to get the same value when you mix it to white than it would if
you mixed the French Ultramarine Blue with white. Let's get a little more of this white
over here. When I start out, I like to get a bunch of different values of warm and cooler
colors just so it makes it easier. It's less time consuming later on. It takes a little
time in the beginning, but you actually save time later on because I don't have to go back
and mix all these things and I can just start dipping into each one of them. The reason
I do the different values is because I'm trying to get similar values over here with the warmer
colors and get the similar values with the cooler colors as well. Then when the time
comes, which I'll show you in just a few minutes, when I do want to mix a couple of these colors
together, instead of changing the value every single time before I add it to one of these
values, I can add a similar value, almost the same value and just change the color without
changing the values, which is very important. If I wanted to add more of a bluish, more
of a blue to this color down here, just to kind of neutralize, kind of make more of a
grey color for skin tones instead of adding this dark blue. If I added this darker blue
into this, or even added straight Ultramarine Blue into this color here, I'm not only changing
the color but changing the value, which you don't want to do. When I'm painting portraits,
I like to find which value I need first of all, and once I determine the value, I can
then mix the color to match that value. I just find it easier to do that as well. I'm
going to take a little bit of this Ultramarine Blue and this is that Permanent Alizarin Crimson.
I use the Permanent Alizarin Crimson. I used to use just the regular Alizarin Crimson but
I guess they found out that it wasn't quite as permanent. So now they have some a Permanent
Alizarin Crimson. It's a little more expensive, but I'd rather use a paint that is going to
last, especially when it comes to a commissioned portrait, because you are creating an heirloom
that will be passed down from one generation to another and you want it to be able to last.
So what I've done here is make two different versions of this purple color. I have more
of a cool version, which has more Ultramarine Blue, and I have more of a warm version which
has more Permanent Alizarin Crimson in it. Now I can take those and I have to get some
more white here, but I can take those and add more white in them as well. Color is a
very intuitive thing. Every artist sees color differently and every artist mixes color differently
but it's an intuitive reaction. Whenever I'm painting and put a color down on the canvas,
I'm always reacting to it, whether it's too cool, too warm, whether the value is not right,
or just in general whether or not I get a feeling of whether or not it works. And if
I don't think it works, I'll go ahead and put down another color or I'll adjust the
color somewhat and it's that back and forth reacting to color that is very important.
It's not a set method every single time for each painting because every painting is different
and requires different color combinations. And, actually, color itself, when it comes
to mixing flesh tones, there is no one particular color that is going to make up flesh tones
or give you the illusion of skin color. When it comes to color, one of the keys to painting
flesh tones is the combination of colors- how you mix warm and cool colors together
and how you get, what I call, grays which are different mixtures of complimentary colors
in different degrees which I'll show you here in a minute. But you can't just have something
like this color for flesh tones because this is just way too warm. And you can't have something
that is too cool. If all the flesh tones are too cool, it will tend to look lifeless, and
doesn't have any life in it, so you have to strike a balance between the two. A lot of
times when I'm painting a portrait, the end game of a portrait is really somewhat difficult.
It's more than somewhat difficult. I'd say that it's one of the most difficult parts
of the portrait.That is one of the most difficult stages for me because it's at that last stage
that I'm trying to balance that color, trying to get enough warm and enough cool and enough
grays in there to balance each other out so that it gives the illusion of life inside
that skin, just like when we see flesh tones in real life there is a mixture of warm and
cool colors. When I talk about grays, grays happen when the form turns. Say you have a
light coming down on a subject and it goes around where the light meets the shadow. In
between there, that's usually where grays occur. For an indoor portrait, it's definitely
more of a grayish color. For an outdoor portrait, it's actually more of a color change as well.
You might go from a warm color directly to it's compliment and then switch over to more
of a warmer color so that it goes warm, cool, then warms up again as the bounced light is
being reflected back into that shadow. But the way I mix grays, once I get a basic mixture
like this, is by taking these cool colors and warm colors and mixing them together.
So over here we had the Gold Ochre and Cad Red. So that leans more towards the red side.
So if I took a little bit of this Viridian and I mix that together, I'm going to get
something that ends up what I call graying down. It becomes more of a grayish color.
See how that works? And that gray is very important because I can take it and and introduce
it into the flesh tones and it helps to balance out all this warm color that is going on.
I can take another, a darker, you can get all sorts of variations, and it also depends
on the value. Like I said earlier, the value is extremely important so I try to determine
the value quickly at the beginning. Now I can take this, the Ultramarine Blue and mix
it into the Cad Scarlet and Gold Ochre because the Cad Scarlet leans more towards the orange
side. So if I took this and mix it in here, I'll get a different gray. Now the reason
it's so important to mix compliments is because by mixing the compliments, you are always
going to get the correct gray. If I was to take black and mix it into these mixtures
to try and gray it down, it wouldn't be the same. Even though these two, you see I mixed
the Ultramarine Blue with this mixture over here. When I place this gray, I'm not sure
if the camera will pick it up, it's so subtle, This gray is different than this gray. This
gray is warmer, it's a little different. It's a different color. Now if I took, well, I'll
show you what happens if I didn't take the compliment. Instead of taking the Ultramarine
Blue and mixing it into this combination here, if I took a little bit of that Viridian and mixed
it into this, I'm going to get something different. It's not going to be the same. Try to warm
it up there, but you see, it's different. You can use this in the flesh tone somewhere,
but the reason it's different, it's going to different than the other two all together,
is because it's not the compliment. When I talk about a complimentary color, the primary
colors are red, yellow and blue. And when I talk about a compliment to those colors,
I'm talking the compliment to yellow would be more of a purple color. The reason that
purple is the compliment to that yellow is because the purple contains equal amounts
of the other two compliments, blue and red. The same thing with red. The compliment to
red is green, the reason why it compliments red is because it contains equal amounts of
the other two compliments, blue and yellow., so that is why it works. But you can see here,
I can mix this flesh tone here that wasn't the direct compliment, and you can see we
have three different grays. They are very subtle, but these little variations are very
important when painting skin tones. Let me move this white out of here. I can take this
yellow, this is a warmer yellow so the compliment to a warmer yellow is a cooler purple. So
I'm going to take this purple here, and mix these guys together. That's more than what
I wanted, so let's try a little more purple in there. As I mix these two together I'm
going to get a different gray. You can see this one is different than all three of those.
So we have different grays here that happen. Let's try a little bit of Cad Orange. Cad
Orange is the direct compliment to this Ultramarine Blue. When I say direct compliment, when you
have a color wheel, and you have one color and one hundred and eighty degrees on the
opposite side of that color is going to be the direct compliment and that is what I'm
talking about when I'm talking about direct compliments. When it comes to color and values
and all that, the principles of painting is what I call them, the foundation, the things
that you really need to know. I discuss all those in my instructional art DVD series that
I came out with, so I won't spend time on that now. This is a different gray. You see
all the different grays you get? That is just all from mixing compliments, just simple warm
and cool mixtures together. Now if I wanted to, let's see. This is just a paint scrapper
that you can get at any hardware store. When you use a glass palette, it makes it real
easy to clean it right up and just scrape it right off. If I take some Raw Sienna, a
lot of times you can just use this, a straight Raw Sienna sometimes, if nothing else works.
Not too much or else it will look fake. Raw Sienna is a nice color. It doesn't have a
lot of tinting strength. It's a weak color when it comes to using it in mixtures. It
doesn't take a lot of white to really lighten that up. So that is just one thing to keep
in mind when using Raw Sienna. Sometimes I'll use that, and then if there are other areas,
like in hair, you can take some of this Cad Green Pale and mix that in there. You can use that in blonde
hair. Sometimes there's another thing that I use. I'll do this one too. Another color combination I use. It's kind of strange.
It doesn't always work but ,sometimes it does. But basically you just try by putting it down
and if it works, then use it. If it doesn't, then scrape it off and try something else.
Here is Manganese Blue which is sort of like a turquoise type of blue, kind of like a tourquoise
blue. Definitely more of a warmer blue than Ultramarine Blue because it contains more
yellow. But sometimes I'll take a Manganese Blue and mix it with a Cad Scarlet and then
after I mix it with Cad Scarlet, I'll take a little bit of that Raw Sienna and throw
that in there too, and sometimes that works good,too, for a shadow area, but it doesn't
always work. You have to try different color combinations. I will say this though, it's
interesting, when it comes to color, there are times that I go back and forth, warm and
cool colors within a value so that I'm basically keeping the value the same but I'm changing
the temperature within that value very slightly. So I'm changing, I'm going from warm to cool
within that value to help turn the form because I know that if I change the value, let's say
if I have a shadow area that I'm painting, if I lighten that value up, I'm going to make
it bounce, make it pop out of there. The value is going to jump out and that is not what
you want. You want it to stay in value but you want it to help turn the form, and by
doing warm and cool color changes, it really helps to give you that illusion as well. But
that is just something for you to think about. So as I'm doing that warm and cool thing back
and forth, a lot of times I've basically exhausted everything that I think that I could do. I've
tried direct compliments, I've tried mixing more of an orange color, more of a red, I've
tried basically every combination that I can and every warm and cool situation that I think
would work. And when I get in a situation like that, there are times when I throw everything
out the window and basically I reverse the principle. So instead of being a warmer color
where it should be warm, I will reverse it and make it cool and sometimes, for whatever
reason, it seems to work. Sargent did that quite often, especially on an indoor subject.
There are times in drapery or in a women's dress or something where the light should
have been warm because the light source is warm, where he's reversed it and made it cool
and it just works perfectly. So there are times where you have to reverse the principle.
If nothing else works, then reverse it and see what happens. And of course if you reverse
it and that doesn't work, then don't keep it there. Basically, the important thing is
to experiment, to try different things. You are always a student, never stop learning,
never stop experimenting. That's the thrill and fun of being an artist because you get
to play with this stuff all day. Of course by the end of the day you have to have something
done on canvas, but you get to experiment and get to practice and get to apply different
techniques and different color combinations, and you remember the things that work and
definitely remember the things that didn't and you don't do them again. Anyhow, this
is basically how I get started on mixing flesh tones, What else can I show you here? Cad
Scarlet by itself works really nice. Sometimes I'll use that with Titanium White if I need
a cool highlight. I'll add some of that cool Cad Scarlet because it's not as warm as that
Cadmium Orange and not as cool as that Cad Red, so it's a nice balance. It seems to work.
I don't want to use a straight Cad Orange because you will see it is much warmer when
you compare it to this. This is much warmer than the Cad Scarlet mixture. And it's the
constant comparison to the warm and cool, that back and forth thing. Let me grab a little
more Titanium White. I'm about to run out of that. And then I'll mix
a little bit of that Sap Green, that warmer green I was talking to you earlier about.
Sap Green is a much warmer green. You can see when you compare the Sap Green and Viridian.
It's more of a yellowish green. The compliment to a yellowish green is more of a purpleish
red, so something in here, if I mix those two together and get a different gray. Another
thing as I'm mixing paint, make sure you have enough to mix. Don't try to save paint, even
if finances may not allow you to buy a ton of paint, because paint is not cheap. But
if you skimp on paint and only mix a little bit at a time - let's take one of these little
palette knives here, and all I do is mix little things like this, the thing is, you are not
going to get enough paint down because as soon as you dip into that, that paint is going
to be gone in one or two strokes and you will have to mix more. And by mixing more, it's
easier to mix a big pile of paint instead of going back and constantly mixing the same
value, the same color and saves you time in the end. This is a different gray. Cad Red
Deep is a beautiful red, let me clear some of this over here. I will use this when I
want a cooler red in an area. It doesn't take a lot of Cad Red to do the trick. When you
mix it with white, it looks a little more like a grayish red as opposed to mixing just
a Cad Red. Cad Red doesn't look as gray when mixed with white, or even Alizarin Crimson.
Permanent Alizerin Crimson. If you are looking for a nice pink, a cool pink, Permanent Alizerin
Crimson and white, Titanium white, is a nice, beautiful pinkish color. I should mention
this last one here before I run out of space on my palette. Let's do this. Prussian Green
is a beautiful grayish green that works really well in flesh tones. Let's put a little white
in there. It's not as powerful as Viridian when it comes to tinting, but it's a very
nice in-between green, between Viridian and Sap Green. It's not as powerful as a Viridian
but it's not as warm as a Sap Green either, very nice. You can mix that with some of these
colors as well. You'll get some nice results. Anyhow, this is basically what I would do.
I wouldn't take this much time at the beginning, but this is what I would basically do before
I start a portrait, or before I start painting on a portrait, just to get some different
colors laid out so that when I want to go into painting, I can take a brush into these
mixtues. I have something I can just dip into, if I need to gray it down. There are all sorts
of beautiful color variations you can get by using warm and cool compliments and putting them together. Anyhow -- I hope this
has helped explain a little bit better how I go about mixing flesh tones. This isn't
the only way to mix flesh tones and these aren't the only colors you can get, obviously.
You can get hundreds of colors in different variations just by doing this all day long.
But, basically, it will give you a good idea of how I start out. And let me mention this
too, the reason I start out with a warmer color and then add the cooler colors into
it is because it's much easier to gray a color down than it is to get color back into that
gray. For instance, you saw how easy it was for me to gray this color down, by adding
a cooler color. I can gray that down pretty easily, but if I gray it down too much and
then I realize I need to make it warmer and I need to get that reddish color back in there
again- so let me go ahead and get the value right first- then we have to add some of that
back in there. As I try to get more color back in there, it's still becoming gray. It's
not as brilliant as when it first started out over here. It's not as brilliant. So that
is why I find it easier to mix cooler colors into warmer colors to gray it down. It's much
easier to gray a color down than it is to try and warm it up again. Anyhow, hopefully
this will be of interest to you. And pretty soon I'll post how you can use these colors
on a portrait and how they apply and that is coming sometime soon. I wish you guys all
the best in your studies. Take care and I'll talk to you soon.
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Mixing Flesh Tones for Painting Portraits

3203 Folder Collection
黃曉峰 published on July 16, 2013
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