Back to work……

Now February has arrived, I think it is time to pick up my brushes again and get back into my ongoing theme of the whole business of how to get realistic skin tones, in Acrylic.  This particular artistic quest has been in active progress off and on, for a whole year now.  I have dabbled in Acrylics for a long, long, time, previously to that, but, never really managed to gain much satisfaction in the area of color mixing and more specifically, in my skin tones.

So, at the beginning of last year I took two online courses with Will Kemp Art School – one on Color Theory in Acrylics and the other was a short portraiture course, also in Acrylics. Will Kemp has an awesome website that I like to visit, filled with freebie links to you-tube videos of his about various stuff.  I personally like him because he responds to all questions and comments on his website and he has a great teaching manner! Very accessable and encouraging! (Oh and I love his work – he is the only teacher I have found online who teaches how to paint Acrylics but in an oil painterly style (probably because he comes from an oil-painting background that is strongly influenced by the Old Masters) Anyway, this guy speaks my language – enough said! and the videos I downloaded for these courses are mine to keep – forever!!

The picture at the top of my post is the last thing I painted at the end of last year – My daughter, in acrylic on canva paper. The underpainting was a mid tone of Raw Umber and Titanium White and then I penciled in the basic lines of her face, including the edges of any significant shadows. Then, I did a Bistre, or tonal underpainting, in a darker version of the mid tone.  When all that was dried and satisfactory, I mixed up my skin tones using a palette that was based on that of Anders Zorn (Yellow Ocre, Cad Red Medium, Ivory Black and Titanium White) – at the moment I am favoring Zorn because I have realised that I was just confusing myself by trying to complicate my palette too much.  Later this year I plan to go back and reintroduce some of the other pigments that portrait painters know and love, since my eventual goal is to get the most realistic skin tones I can muster!

Now I am working on a new practice painting, with a much warmer, Burnt Sienna, ground….Experimentation is the name of the game and the thing about skin tones is to judge the values as correctly as you can …the mid tone of the starting canvas and also using a mixing palette that is grey (paper disposable ones) has been a great help to me in judging the correctness of skin tones…..I will report back, soon! Oh and if anyone reading this is inspired to comment a few pearls of wisdom on the theme of skin tones in Acrylic (what does and does not work for you?) or ask a question about my evolving process….Please, feel free to do so!!!

Oh and here’s the link in case anyone wants to look Will Kemp Art School up –


5 thoughts on “Back to work……

  1. Hi Hilda, I too have been puzzling over skin tones. One thing which worked for me was to devote a little time to a test sheet, where I just mixed whatever I felt like together, and noted down what I’d mixed beside the colour. This has been incredibly helpful. Variations on the following have produced a range of warm and cool tones which are now staples for my skin repertoire: Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cad Red, Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Violet Dark, Ultramarine, Cyan & of course White. I know that sounds like a lot of colours, but when you play with mixing them, you can achieve a huge range of skin and shadow tones. Hope this helps a little! 🙂


    1. Thanks Rebecca – yes, I agree, it’s best to experiment for yourself. I tried a couple of different palettes from books (one on oils and one on acrylics) that were helpful, but, also really hard for me to replicate (because every brand has its own color bias, never mind the fact that I was translating oils into acrylics!) So, then I had a go on my own, and that was more successful….and yes, it is great to keep a record of what you do, as you go along, so you can replicate it later. What bothered me about all that was that often I would get muddy and wierd results! That is what I am working on right now, getting the colors I want and not having to mix away for ages with trial and error. Is your palette for oils? Hope you post some more about your experiences! Your process sounds so interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My palette is just the colours I’ve chosen to use in acrylics for skin (Golden heavy body, if you’re interested). And yes, ‘mud’ can ensue, but sometimes a bit of mud can be quite useful…;) Anyway, I’m glad you’re enjoying my ramblings. Good luck! 🙂


      2. I AM enjoying your ramblings! I’m pretty rambly myself, when I get going! I only recently started to add Golden paints into my collection – before that I was strictly a Windsor and Newton girl!

        Liked by 1 person

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