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Skin Tutorial on “Yuki”

Hi Everyone!

Yesterday, I finished my recent piece, “雪 -Yuki”. This piece is done as Colored Pencil Magazine’s January Monthly Art Challenge.

Title: 雪 – Yuki

Prismacolor and White Gel Pen on 11″x14″ Stonehenge Paper in Pearl Grey

Reference: Sally Robertson (with permission)

This project was a lot of fun!  I decided to take this challenge as an opportunity to go back to my Japanese heritage. The title “Yuki” means snow in Japanese, and also a girl’s name. I decided to utilize this portrait to express my interpretation of snow personified. As I worked on her face, I let the art evolve on its own to see where this goes. Soon I came up with the idea to have the background as a scene of a quaint mountain village, almost as though it is a scene out of Japanese folk tale. The scene was created from studying the traditional Japanese architecture in Nagano area. The sign on the upper left corner says “Snow Inn” (Yuki-yado) to reinforce the snow theme of this piece.

I previously talked about the colors used for the skin, and I am going to talk a bit more in detail this time. The truth about rendering realistic skin tone is that it is achieved by layering many, many colors. Below is a chart of the skin colors used for Yuki. I loosely grouped the pencils by the general color group. Please note that they are all Prismacolor pencils.

They are 26 colors in total. I kept these colors in a shoe box lid while working on it so that I can keep track of all the colors used.  The process of skin rendering consists of layering several colors lightly, stepping back 5 to 10 feet every now and then to see the overall picture and grabbing a few more colors to add.  As you can see below, the initial layers will not look pretty or smooth and that’s perfectly fine.  Just focus on building the colors and burnish only after you have achieved the color you like.

Initial layering process for the skin

I used to avoid purple/blue/green hues, but I learned that adding a little of these adds so much complexity and realism.  Since they are not the colors often associated by a healthy look of the skin, less is more.  Make sure you are using plenty of warm tone to balance out the cool tones.

After using these 26 colors to render the skin, it wasn’t quite perfect so I added three more colors to adjust the skin before its completion.  These minor adjustments make a HUGE difference in creating the liveliness and life-like quality in the skin, as you can see below:

Before, the skin color looked a bit too washed and a bit too pale for a typical East Asian skin.  Adding Salmon Pink, Sand and Beige increased the overall value of the skin and added the complexity of the skin tone by introducing the slight hint of beige-yellow undertone.  When introducing a new color, start lightly in the area where the skin is more shaded to test first.  Step back and look at the overall piece and see how the new color mingles with the rest.  If you like it, continue covering the area lightly, if you don’t, cover the area over with some other colors.

When you are happy with your results, burnish to create a smooth texture. I like to burnish with light tones such as Cream, Light Peach or Beige, depending on the overall color of the area. With your super-sharp pencil, burnish gently in a small circular motion, filling out all the gaps created by the “tooth” of the paper.  …And voilà!  You should have perfectly smooth skin.

(This blog was originally posted on 2/9/2015)

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