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How to color skin – Part 1 – detailed!

Each time I’ve asked for your wishes on tutorials or step by step guides, “skin” was one of the most asked topics. That’s not too surprising since illustrations of people (especially women) are featured in many coloring books from various authors (although Hanna Karlzon is the first I’m thinking of when it comes to that). So I took some time to show you how I do skin 🙂 It’s surely not the most realistic way, but I think the result is always very beautiful.


Please note that there is not THE way to do this. You’ll find several tutorials on the Internet and each one is a little bit different, so there surely is one for everyone. But what they all have in common is: layers! 🙂 You’ll see what I mean.

In the first picture you can see what we’re going to do. I think it’s a nice light skin tone that fits most hair colors and it’s also easily adaptable by changing one or two of the colors. I use this combination most of the time, because it’s what I’m good at and what I’m comfortable with.. 🙂

Colors to use (from dark to light):
Polychromos Cinnamon (189) *
Polychromos Light Flesh (132)
Prismacolor Beige (997)
Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor Dark flesh (30) **
Prismacolor Light Peach (927) ***
Polychromos White & Prismacolor White
Lyra Pure Splender ****

A little something on the tools:

*  I think the Polychromos Cinnamon is one of the best colors for skin there is. For me, it is not exchangeable with any other color and therefore is an absolute must-have.

**  You can use Polychromos Dark Flesh as well. I just don’t own this pencil, which is why I use the one by Lyra.

***  My absolute favorite color for skin – just as the Cinnamon. My must-have!

****  Please note that this is NOT the Rembrandt Splender. Sometimes it’s sold online as the same one, but it’s actually a totally different product. I will talk about splenders at the end of this post.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a splender – there’s no absolute need to go out and get one. You can do this without one as well, you only need your colored pencils.

Got your pencils together? Then let’s get started 🙂

First, look closely at the drawing in front of you. I’m using the greyscale illustrations by Emmanuelle Colin from Coloriage Wild again. They show you where to put your shades and your highlights and are perfectly suitable to learn how to do it right. In my last hair tutorial I talked a bit about shadows and highlights in general, and what I told you there is also important for skin. Look closely where the light and dark parts of the face are (the most easy way to learn that is to search on Google for pictures of women’s faces, really!). Shadows are where hair, a headpiece or something like that overlaps the face, behind the ears, below the nose, below the bottom lip, in the wrinkles around the eyes or next to the nose (if so), under the chin – and which is very important: below the cheekbones. People tend to forget this part, but it’s totally obvious if you’re watching any make up tutorial on YouTube..  😀 Shadowing and highlighting the cheekbones is what gives the face a realistic look, because each of you has them (they might be less or more visible).

If you are a beginner, it’s easier to start with a side view of a face. Front views are not too easy, because you have to do twice the work especially with the cheekbones. Additionally, you want the face to be nearly symmetric – and in the beginning, it may be hard enough to do it right one time, not talking about two times in the same face.. 🙂 Another thing with front views is the nose. That might look a bit weird in the beginning, and a weird nose will make the whole face look weird. So don’t go all in at first.

As always, we start with our darkest color, which is Cinnamon here. I colored the dark parts, such as the hair line, behind the ear, under the chin and the nose and other areas where the greyscale drawing showed me to put shadows.

Make sure that you use only very light pressure. To make it look even, smooth and realistic, there shouldn’t be any hard edges anywhere – a face usually doesn’t have them. Especially not a children’s face, which is what we’re doing here.

Now we’re bringing in our second color, which is Light Flesh. We’re going over the edges of our Cinnamon – again with a very light hand! – and carefully blend the colors into one another. Bring the Light Flesh only a little bit further to the White.

Third one is Beige from the Prismacolor range. You can see how it slowly gets smoother now. I softened the edges of the Light Flesh, still with very light pressure, blending the colors into one another. This is what we will be doing all the time! 🙂

Beige is also giving the face a more natural color. The other pencils we are using here do all have a somewhat pink or rosy undertone, and Beige will even this out a bit.

Now we’re bringing in the Dark Flesh. It’s only a very small part we’re using this one on, because I only want a little bit of rosy glow on the girl’s cheek. I will not be using this color again in the later process, it’s just this one spot. 🙂

This is where the fun part starts! 🙂 We’re now using our Light Peach from the Prisma range, and, as I told you before, it’s one of my favorite colors, especially for skin. Because, look what this color can do! I think it’s amazing. I’ve used it quite laminar here, to smooth it all out. I think it already glows, even at this point. Really, I’m always amazed by what this color does to a face. I applied it over the edges of my Beige and my Light Flesh and blended the darker colors with this lighter one. You should always do that to receive a smooth result.

At this point, I’m not bringing in the White yet. I started again with the Cinnamon and added another layer of color in the same order as I showed you. I did this the exact same way as before (only with a bit more pressure), and since you are somewhat a Pro now after all those layering stuff on this blog.. 🙂 To be honest, I didn’t think it was useful taking pictures of those steps, so I only took one after I was finished with the second round of color.

You can see that it still looks a bit messy, because it is not really smooth and because of all those little white spots. How do we get rid of them?

First, we use our White. I like to use a combination of the Polychromos White and the Prismacolor White, because they behave differently due to the material they’re based on (oil/wax). I use the Prisma White for finishing all those areas where light shines on the face.

The highlights are quite nice already, but you can still see some white dots in the darker area (where we started with the Cinnamon). It wouldn’t make too much sense using white there, so we grab our Pure Splender to push the pigments around and finally burnish the area.

What’s so special about the Lyra Pure Splender?

Well, the name already suggests that: it’s just a very big lead. There’s no wood around the lead, like it’s normally the case with pencils, so you can use this thing up to its very end (it also makes it a very heavy kind of pencil 🙂 ). The Pure Splender is also a bit more solid than its brothers (like the Rembrandt Splender by Lyra or the Colorless Blender by Prismacolor) – they are quite crumbling in texture. The Pure Splender isn’t, so it’s easier to use it for burnishing.

You can get the Pure Splender here. It’s not very easy to find.
Don’t confuse it with the Rembrandt Splender from the same brand. That’s a good product as well, but a totally different one. Some online shops use the same words for different products, so make sure that if you it, you get the right one. The Pure Splender I’m using here is only available with a dark blue outside. Everything that’s not dark blue is another product.

Do I NEED the Pure Splender?

No. You can use another one as well or none at all. It’s a thing that’s nice to have, but not necessarily needed.

Anyway, here’s my final result after using the splender, some white and correcting and evening out a bit of tiny stuff here and there. I think she’s beautiful! So this is definitely my favorite way to color skin!

I’ve recently seen people do shades with very dark colors, such as Indigo Blue or even Black. I don’t recommend this, especially when you are a beginner. It happens all too easily that your shades get too dark (and you can hardly lighten this up in the later process) and that you have strange edges somewhere. Black or Indigo Blue are colors that are very different from the other ones you’re going to use, which makes it harder to blend them into one another. I would always recommend using a dark Skin tone (such as Cinnamon, I think it’s perfect for that) for your shades, or maybe, if you want to deepen the dark parts a bit more, some kind of Dark Brown. I was told that real Pros are using Blues and Greens as well as Violet and Purple, but I want to be honest with you, I think that’s too difficult for me.. 🙂

In my next tutorial, we’ll give that girl here some hair.. 🙂

If you’re using this tutorial for your work, I would be happy if you credit me, either with this blog or with my Instagram @roxellence. I would love to see it! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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