How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings

Written by barrett barlowe
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How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings
Artist palette (Palette with oil paints image by petercoupe from Fotolia.com)

Premixed "flesh" tone might seem like a good idea but pigments are expensive and chances are you have the paints you need to make a custom flesh tone right now. Skin colour is made up of many hues individual to each person and you won't find the perfect flesh tone in a tube. Learning to make basic paint tones is key to improving your artistic work. Once you learn the basics, improvise a little and find out what colour blends give you the tone you need.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Turpentine
  • Glass jar
  • Paintbrush
  • Artist palette
  • Palette knife
  • Paper towel
  • Yellow oil paint
  • Red oil paint
  • Blue oil paint
  • White oil paint
  • Linseed oil
  • Green oil paint

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Pour turpentine into a glass jar and fill it halfway full. Put your brush in the jar.

  2. 2

    Squeeze out a 1-inch length of yellow onto the left side of your artist palette.

    How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings
    Yellow paint (yellow paint image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Add the rest of the paint samples to your palette. Next to yellow, place red, then blue, then green and finally white.

    How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings
    Palette knife (red image by Pefkos from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Pick up your palette knife and scrape up half of your yellow sample. Smear it on the palette, below your line of pure pigments. Wipe off your palette knife with a paper towel.

  5. 5

    Scoop up a thumbnail-sized amount of red with your palette knife. Press it into the yellow paint you just deposited in the mixing area. Blend the two colours together. The colour you have is vivid orange. Wipe off your palette knife again.

  6. 6

    Grab a large blob of white paint with your palette knife. Mix it in to the orange colour. Add more white until you create a muted orange. Wipe the palette knife.

  7. 7

    Add a pinky-sized amount of blue to your muted orange mix. The blue cools down the muted orange into a tan flesh colour.

  8. 8

    Add a few drops of linseed oil to your flesh-coloured paint. Mix it in with your palette knife. The paint should look glossy and smooth.

  9. 9

    Remove your paintbrush from the turpentine-filled container. Press the bristles against the side of the jar to remove excess liquid. Load the brush with your custom pigment.

    How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings
    Paint brushes (paint brushes image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com)
  10. 10

    Sweep your brush across the canvas board. The paint should flow evenly and smoothly. If the paint is too thick, add a little turpentine to the mix.

  11. 11

    Add some white to lighten and mellow your flesh tone. Add a tiny amount of green to warm up the skin if it looks too cool.

    How to Mix Your Own Base Flesh Tone for Oil Paintings
    Medium skin tone (Old man face in forest close-up 3 image by Yura Pavlyuchkov from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • Any basic oil pigments will work. Specifically, cadmium red, hanse yellow, cobalt blue, flake replacement white and viridian green make a nice mix.
  • When painting darker skin tones, substitute yellow ochre for the bright yellow colour. Burnt sienna is useful for very deep skin tones.
  • Always work in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

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