Easy Method for Mixing Skin Tone in Acrylic

Nagaland Girl in Acrylic on Canvas

Acrylic paint is always being my favorite medium when it comes to painting a portrait. Despite its flaws as the quickest drying medium, it gives me immense control to correct any mistakes immediately. Many Artist complains about its quick-drying property as a difficulty for blending, but I found it more interesting because you don’t have to wait too long to experiment new techniques.

I have not used any medium or retarder for bringing down the natural drying time of the Acrylic paint. I use water as my medium for this painting. My simple technique is to keep moistening the palette as often as possible with a mist water spray bottle and it will keep you going as long as you want.

The beautiful girl in this portrait is a Naga girl from Nagaland. The mountainous state of North Eastern Inda. In this painting, the girl is wearing their traditional costume, which is very attractive and colorful. This was a commission portrait but unfortunately, the reference picture given to me was very poor in detailing, because of which I was struggling to get the most out of it. But at the end the output was satisfactory.

Preparing for the right color palette:
Skin Tone Mixing Palette for Acrylic
Palette 1:

In this example, I am going to discuss the skin tone of the face of the girl,  which has many variations in color and complexity than the rest of the body parts. As shown in the picture, my first palette consists of eight colors. Most of which is primary color in nature. But I have considered using two earth colors like Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre.

Skin Tone Mixing Palette for Acrylic
Palette 2:

In this second palette, I have considered adding two more colors, like Burnt Sienna and Permanent Orange to achieve the face skin tone more easily. Moreover, as the whole painting has a Purplish and Pinkish overall tint in it, I considered using Crimson as a dominant color for the whole painting.

I love to start mixing an Orangy tone with White to achieve the first base color. In the first palette, the Orange is achieved by mixing some Cadmium Yellow with Scarlet Lake and White. But in the second example, I am using the Permanent Orange directly with White. It is up to you, which method do you like to prefer.

After getting the light Orange base, I add Yellow Ochre into it to bring make the Orange less intense. Further adding little Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber into the mixing you will get the actual skin tone which will resemble most of the human skin tone in general.

At this stage, it is not possible to tell anyone how many portions of each color do you need to achieve the desired skin tone. Only practice will make you perfect. For this type of practice, I usually prefer to use very little color from the tube at a time to prevent wastage. For a beginner, It will be suitable for you to make the consistency of the color like watercolor. As I use layering and glazing most of the time for Acrylics, this type of consistency goes a long way.

Steps for Painting the Portrait:
Nagaland Girl, Stages of Painting in Acrylic

As I have mentioned earlier that, the whole painting has a Purplish and Pinkish tint to it. For that reason, I have considered using something similar to the whole face (Picture 1) and body as a base coat. I don’t mind if it dries over time. Because my next coat of slightly Yellowish tint will make the Rosey tone down (Picture 2).

Though the face of the girl is quite Pinkish, it has lots of Yellow, Green, and Blues in places. Between eyes and nose and in the jawline there are greens which are achieved by adding and adjusting layers with Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue.

The darkest dark tone for the shadow of the nose and in the jawline areas are achieved by mixing Ultramarine, Burnt Umber and Crimson. Addition of little Yellow Ochre and White is necessary for the adjustment of the saturation.

The hair color is mostly achieved using Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, and Crimson. Highlights in the hairs are again a mixture of Crimson, White and Ultramarine and little Cobalt Blue.

Dress color and ornaments in the neck are mostly mixed with Scarlet Lake, Crimson, and a little bit of Cadmium Yellow. I am using White for highlights, and Ultramarine Blue and little Burnt Umber for the shadows on the beaded necklace. Headband color is mostly a mixture of Scarlet Lake and Cadmium Yellow. Shadows are again with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber.

For more exclusive skin color mixing technique you can go for this tutorial.

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