How to Create Skin Tones in Prismacolor Pencil

coloured pencil ends image by sonya etchison from

Skin tones can be rendered by incorporating highlights, mid-tones and shadows with a base flesh tone colour. Lee Hammond's book "Lee Hammond's Big Book of Drawing" recommends an assortment of pencil colours that can be used to effectively make up these natural skin tones.

This selection of peach, beige and brown hues, offered by Prismacolor, was developed especially for colouring flesh. Prismacolor pencils are popular because they are inexpensive but can lay down a rich deposit of colour. The manufacturer sells individual coloured pencils and box sets featuring commonly used flesh tones.

Select the coloured pencils, choosing four complementary colours. In natural lighting the skin has many tones, not just one, and introducing other colours can help to give the skin a more natural appearance. First, choose a base colour, such as Prismacolor's Beige pencil, as the foundation on which all the other colours will be built. The other necessary colours would be one for the highlights (Light Peach), mid-tone (Burnt Ochre) and shadows (Sienna Brown). These coloured pencils can be further enhanced by drawing on a textured Bristol vellum, because the friction can help extract more of the waxlike pigment from the coloured pencil.

Fill in the drawn object with the Beige base colour, using the "smooth stroke" technique featured in the book "Drawing and Painting People: The Essential Guide." This stroke is achieved using a pencil with a very sharp point and softly colouring the face using thin lines that are close together. Lay down the base colour before melding the strokes together with a Torillion blending tool so that they are seamless.

Apply the mid-tones and shadows to the drawing, using the two darker pencil colours. Burnt Ochre is a medium brown colour that can be used to give the skin tone definition. This colour can be applied, using the same smooth stroke, in places like the temples and under the eyes and cheekbone area, to help give definition to a drawn face. For darker creases and shadows, the Sienna Brown Prismacolor can be sketched using a denser, heavier stroke. This deep hue can help accentuate shadows under the neck, or orifices such as the nostrils and ears. Add the Burnt Ochre and Sienna Brown strokes a little at a time on the page, blending them with the Torillion along the way. It is easier to add more pigment to a drawing than to take it away.

Introduce highlights to the skin tone by adding the Light Peach colour to areas where light would naturally hit the object. If you're drawing a face, this can be the middle of the forehead, the top of the cheekbones, the tip of the nose or the bow of the lip. Use the smooth stroke, blending the lighter colour into the Beige base-tone with the blending tool. Highlighting the skin can be the finishing touch, helping to giving the flesh of the face a natural appearance.