Flesh tint colour
A massive fine art distributor in the Uk is spearheading a movement to make flesh-colored paints more affordable. Jackson’s, a fine art supplies retailer headquartered in London, has pledged to “win art materials suppliers to task for the cultural prejudices perpetuated in the name of paints.” The change, according to the company, is in reaction to recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations against racial injustice.
According to a recent blog post on its website, it was inspired to launch the movement after getting “a lot of correspondence about the prejudice against caucasian skin and flesh tones within colour ranges supplied by colour manufacturers.” The company was inspired to act by the historical colour name Flesh Tint (or Flesh Tone), which is believed to have arisen in the 17th century in relation to portrait painting.
“By their own existence, the names of flesh tint shades and other paint names that refer to skin are exclusionary, since they suggest that there is only one colour that can reflect skin. The Art Newspaper quotes Lisa Takahashi, an artist and content manager at Jackson’s, as saying, “By excluding these titles, there is an open field for what artists may use to produce colours that reflect (or portray and mimic) the colour of the skin they choose to reference in their works.”
Flesh Tint, Jackson’s own artist oil paint, has been dubbed Pale Terracotta, and the skin tones pastel set has been expanded to provide more colours to accommodate a broader range of ethnicities. Takahashi says, “It’s a slight but important shift that helps us to abolish a part of exclusionary culture.”
ShinHan, Tombow, and Winsor & Newton have all been approached by the company, seeking official comments on their contribution to rectifying their respective product lines. “While Flesh Tint is a historical colour term, this is not a part of our heritage that we will be taking forward,” London-based Winsor & Newton says on Jackson’s page, replacing it with Pale Rose Blush.
The blog’s writers have a range of responses. “As a Black woman new to art, it irritates me when I see Flesh Tone but none that represent my own,” one spectator says. According to another, this is “pure pandering nonsense.” Why didn’t these businesses want to celebrate the many stunning skin tones seen all over the world? … You catered to those who sought to separate us, as if Flesh Tint were a tube of white supremacy.”
What are the best paint colours for skin?
It’s a matter of personal taste and style as to which colours and how many you use to paint skin tones. The only certainty is that one or two tubes of paint called “skin pigment” (the names vary depending on the manufacturer) would not suffice.
The colour in the picture is a tube of Utrecht’s “Light Portrait Pink” acrylic paint. Naphthol red AS PR188, benzimidazolone orange PO36, and titanium white PW5 are the three pigments used. I’ve used it for almost 15 years and have just used a smidgeon of it, as you can see. And when combined with other shades, I find it too pink to be effective for any skin tone. Maybe I’ll use it for a pink sunset drawing one day?
One of the best offers for combining a wide variety of skin tones are:
- Titanium is a white metal (with watercolor, the paper acts as the white)
- Titanium polish
- Gold cadmium (medium or dark)
- Red cadmium
- Burnt sienna
- Umber in its normal form
- Blue Prussian
- Payne’s hair is grey (not essential, but useful)
If you don’t want to choose cadmium pigments, use your favourite red and yellow instead. The benefits of cadmium red and yellow include the fact that they are both warm colours with a high tinting intensity (so a little goes a long way). It’s well worth playing with all of your red and yellows to see what you come up with.
The blue can also be any colour you choose. Prussian blue appeals to me because it is dark when applied thickly but translucent when applied lightly.
Those aren’t the only choices available to you. Over time, everyone creates their own personal interests. Using golden ochers, deep purples, ultramarine blue, and greens as a starting point. Pay heed to the skin’s intrinsic colour as well (not their dominant skin tone). Is it a warm or cold colour, a blueish hue, a cool or warm purple, a golden ochre, or something else entirely? If you’re having problems seeing this, match the colour of other people’s palms to your own.
A little darker colour blended into a brighter colour has a far better effect than the same amount of light mixed into a shade. For eg, instead of yellow being added to umber, umber is added to yellow.
Make a meaning scale or a tonal scale (Realistic Skin Tones)
Before you begin your first figure painting or portrait, you must learn the colours you’ll be using. On a small piece of paper or card, create a value scale by steadily changing light to dark.
At the bottom of the scale, make a list of which colours you use and with what proportions (or on the back when the paint has dried). This color-mixing knowledge would become instinctive with practise. Knowing how to blend a variety of skin tones allows you to focus on drawing rather than interrupting it to mix the appropriate hue.
When painting a skin-tones value scale, it’s good to have a grey value scale on hand to judge the tones of and hue you combine. Squinting your eyes at the blended colours often assists in assessing the value or hue of the colours.
Start by determining the spectrum of tones in that individual person when painting from a sketch. The palm of their hands will most likely be the lightest colour, a shadow cast by the neck or nose will be the darkest, and the back of their hands will be the mid-tone. Block in the key shapes with these three tones, then widen the spectrum of tones and refine the shapes.
To start, make a value or tonal scale (Expressionist Skin Tones)
It is not necessary to paint a figure or portrait in authentic colours. Paintings in unrealistic colours in an expressionist style can be very dramatic.
To make an Expressionist spectrum of skin tones, pick the colours you want to use, and create a meaning scale from light to dark, much as you would if you were using natural skin tones. It’s easy to know what colour to aim for when you need a mid-tone or a highlight colour when you have this handy.
Glazing to Provide Skin Tone
Because of the many coats of thin paint, glazing is an ideal technique for producing skin tones of depth and an inner glow. You can either blend the skin colours ahead of time and glaze them, or you can use your colour theory experience to make the layers of colour mix optically on the canvas as each layer alters the look of what’s under it.
Since each glaze or sheet of paint is so thin, variations in skin tone or colour can be very slight, glazes are especially good for bringing out subtle variations in skin tone or colour. Since each new glaze is spread over dry paint, you can easily rub it away if you don’t like the effect.
Using Pastels to Build Skin Tone
Boxed pastel sets for portraiture and figures are available from several pastel producers. It’s not impossible, though, to develop your own palette of colours, which has the advantage of allowing you to choose from a range of products of differing degrees of hardness. Extra-soft pastels, such as Unison, are perfect for adding the finishing touches to a figure’s highlights.
Since skin tones are created by layering pastels, starting with a sympathetic colour as a foundation or base layer may be beneficial. The skin tones that follow are darker and more realistic in colour.
Using a cold yellow base colour where the skin is close around the bone, such as the feet, elbows, and forehead. Using an earth green foundation where the skin is in darkness, such as under the chin. Using a light blue, such as ultramarine blue, where skin is in recessed shade, such as around the eyes. Using a soft carmine or cadmium red where the skin is over flesh.
Smoothing Blotchy Skin Tone
Although Lucian Freud’s paintings are notorious for their splotchy skin tones, if you want smooth skin tones, glaze over the whole figure when you’re almost done drawing.
Forum for Artists Tina Jones, the host and portrait painter, says she uses “a transparent sheet of white (either very thin titanium or zinc white) all over, often more than one layer” to create her portraits. After that, a red and yellow glaze is added. These ingredients work together to balance out skin tones and merge any colour splotches into the rest of the skin.
When it comes to matching skin colours, the adage “less is always enough” remains true. Using fewer colours or a small palette helps you to learn how they communicate more easily and makes it easy to combine the same colours over and over. The darkest tone you need determines which shades you need. Limit yourself to two or three colours plus white at a time, then play around with various colour variations until you decide what suits you best.