Portraits-Mixing Skin Tones

Primary Colors

Learning Goal

Using knowledge of how to alter color powers in value, hue, and intensity, students will be able to mix primary colors with white or dark brown to create realistic skin tones.

What NOT to use?

Try to never add BLACK pigments to skin tones to mix for darker values, as this will cause a graying of the mix overall. this leaves the subject looking "lifeless."

Instead try:

Darker Sienna Brown


Navy Blues

Big image
Mixing flesh tone acrylic painting: How to mix & match skin tones in painting
How to Mix Flesh Tone
by Mandie Erickson
Watercolor Painting of Lupita Nyong'o

Tips for Using Tools to Paint with Acrylic

Tools of Portraiture

If you don't already own the following tools, you may like to make further inquiries into them as I have found them extremely useful. I love to pinch pennies so have faith that I will never suggest something that you don'tneed.

  1. Stay-Wet-Palette: I have included instructions in another hub called Teaching Yourself To Paint at Home. I spend days if not weeks working on portraits and it is very difficult to consistantly remix the precise tones repeatedly. A stay-wet-palette will enable you to keep the same paint wet for days at a time providing that you keep adding water to the bottom layers.
  2. Retarder: A retarder will significantly slow the drying time of acrylics allowing you to work wet-on-wet. This technique of applying one wet colour to another on the canvas is vital to blending the different tones together flawlessly.
  3. Flow Medium: Similar to retarder, Flow thins the paint without damaging the structures between the molecules which bind the paint together. It slightly extends drying time but it's main use is to thin the paint. I use Flow to thin the paint to a watery consistency which I can then use to slowly build up layers of shadows or flushes of pink for the cheeks and nose.
  4. Soft, High Quality Brushes: for flawless blending.

Read more at Artist Daily



Mix a minimum of 12 different skin tones to match a specific swatch for accuracy.

Media-Tempera Paint

Practice on white paper, then apply paint to the worksheet.

Possible BREADTH

Create a gesso background and draw in dry media a figure on 18 x 24 paper.

Using color paint, create an abstract figure using line.

ART 2D 2

Create a portrait with realistic skin tones to match a color photo using tempera paint.

Bring a color photo at least 8 x 10 inches.

Divide the photo vertically and paint only the left side.

Each side of the face should have unity of color.

* IF no color photo is provided, you will be painting a portrait in full from blank paper after drawing in the pencil guidelines VERY LIGHTLY. You must use a reference photo in color of a person you know that is saved to your device camera roll and cloud storage.


  • Painted mixes are matching swatches in intensity, hue and value.
  • Mixing process allows for variety of color.
  • Student produces examples using control of the paintbrush and medium with balance of paint and water for application.

K. Little

Art Educator