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Pale Skin in Colored Pencilby Jessica Douglas
When I said I'd do a tutorial on how to color skin tones in pencil, I realized that was a HUGE order. People come in so many colors and textures that I honestly wasn't sure where to begin. Finally I decided I'd start off with the simplest to do, which is my own skin tone. I'm very pale, so when I want to get a color right, all I have to do is glance down at my arm or up in a mirror and I can see what color my skin is. There is a danger in doing this, which is that skin also reflects the colors around it. If I'm in a green shirt, my neck and collar will have hints of green through it. If I have a red shirt, the same thing. So it doesn't always work out as a reference, but it's a good place to start.
One thing to bear in mind: I scanned the works in progress with the brightness toned down and contrast up high, so that you'd be able to see the pencil strokes easier. Because of that, the scans will look slightly rougher than what you're producing on your paper.
Before you begin, it's good to know what type of skin you're going to be coloring, and exactly what colors you'll need. I use Prismacolor pencils. The brand will have a slight bearing on the effectiveness of this technique, because of the unique, waxy quality of Prismacolors. The colors I'm using are:
When starting out, you want to make sure and erase any stray pencil lines in your sketch. Colored pencils are slightly translucent, so if you've got a line across a cheek or nose, it's going to show through with the lighter colors. This layer is the easiest layer. I've gone over all of her skin with the cream pencil in a very, very light layer. Always try to keep your hand light when you're working; it's not about forcing the colors to blend together, but letting them naturally blend on their own. For this layer the direction of your pencil strokes doesn't matter, what's important is just getting an even layer of cream across her skin.
Looks exactly like panel 1! Only not. Look along the underside of her cheek, nose and mouth. I've done a fine layer of cloud blue, to mark where the reflected highlights will be. My light source is coming from the top and in front of her, so the underside of her cheek and nose is what will have the reflected light.
Now you can really see it, because I've gone over with deco blue to brighten. The reason why I did cloud blue first, is because blue and yellow make green. I don't want completely green highlights, I want some blue in there. Cloud blue has enough white to keep it from mixing with the yellow into a green color. So the edges where it was lined with cloud blue are still very blue, while the areas that blend in towards the cheek are very blue-green.
More blues, this time I wanted to get a feel for where my darkest shadows would be. I used Blue Slate to lay those areas out.
Well there are areas of skin that have a pinkish tone to it. Now was the time to start indicating those areas, on the lower layers of pencil. I also wanted pink 'make up' for around her eyes, as well as pink lips. I used deco peach in order to mark out where the pink would be. The tip of her nose and the top of her shoulder were colored, because I just happen to think pink noses and shoulders are adorable. That's all.
Now we start getting into the greens. Pale sage is my all time favorite color for blending blues and purples into yellow. I've placed it across her entire lower cheek, the eyelid, over all of the shadow areas, along her neck, and also in the corners of her eyes. Don't worry about where the green and pink overlap. They're contrasting colors, so when they mix together they'll make something aproximating a brown, which is fine for skin tones.
This is a light layer of sunburst yellow. Use this color with care. It says it's yellow, but it's actually very orange when used on top of other yellows. And very yellow when used on top of orange.
AH PINK! It's a little shocking when you get to these layers, but remember, it's an under layer, it will blend out soon enough. This time I used nectar to accent the darkest pinks around her eyes, nose, lips and along her shouder. This isn't dark because of pressing hard, I just used a very dark color, plus at this point you're starting to build up layers to where they'll naturally be darker.
And you thought it was dark before. Well it wasn't dark enough. The very tip of her nose needed some more depth to it, as did the crease of her eye and her lips. Chestnut is close enough to pink to work in this case, but dark enough to give some nice shadows.
It's time to blend the sunburst yellow in a little more. I've used beige to lightly color over the light side of her face. Again remember that the contrast is up very high on this scan, so it's not DARK all over. It's just another light layer like your first layer of cream. Don't forget to color over the areas that you previously colored pink, her mouth, her nose, and her eyelids. You want to blend those areas, not keep them separate.
Remember what I said about wanting the edge of her cheek to stay blue? Well now's the time to go over that edge again and give it a bit more blue. You're going back over it with cloud blue again. Also get the underside of her nose, that highlight against the very dark pink. You're going to start seeing the pencil smooth together very, very subtlely now.
This is another case of subtle changes. You'll probably have to flip back and forth between panel 11 and 12 to see the difference. What I've done here is gone back over with cream to start smoothing out the colors. Cream is your 'blender'color here. It also lightens areas that you've made too dark. The difference is most notable along her uppermost cheek, right below her eye.
Time for more blending. This time I've gone over with blush pink to highlight where all the really pink areas are on her eye, lips and nose. Don't worry if it seems 'too pink' along her cheek or eyelid. You're going to be blending that out. Remember to use light layers, this makes it easier to make changes as you go.
WEEE PURPLE! Some of the darkest shadows are purple, and it's a lovely color to use. I don't mess around, I jumped straight to violet, which is a massively purple color. Just like before, you're going back to all the darkest shadows to give them a layer of purple. This is the time to put in the shadow for the nose now, and also use a little with the dark areas of the pink as well.
As nice as purple is, it does need to blend in. Go back to your blue slate pencil to begin blending it in. Where the purple is on the lower cheek, you can let the blue overlap into the green areas, so it blends out softly. Where the purple is below her hair you want a sharper edge, so keep the blue just over the purple areas, so you don't blend out your shadow's edge.
By now your greens are almost all gone, and that's not good. Plus you do need everything to blend. So for this step we're going right back to the pale sage. Go over the entire shaded cheek with your green, and the corners of her eyes. Also tip along those shadows under her hair, so that it blends into the cream skin just slightly. It should start to blend very nicely now.
Time for more darks. This time we're using green for the dark shadows. Green Ochre is a really nice olivey green. Use it sparingly, just to touch along all of the darkest shadows. Keep your layer very light, again you can always fix it later if it's placed in the wrong area, but only if you keep your layers light! And to show what I mean, I disliked the dark area on the tip of her nose, so I took a little bit of white and went over it to create a highlight instead of a shadow.
Guess what. It's time for another layer of color. Celedon green is your friend, to go through and blend out the rough strokes of your green ochre. I'm actually using two colors here, because when I reached her back, I decided I wanted it to be more blue than green, so added a bit of blue slate along the undersides of her wing and her back.
Her eye was losing its contrast and nice shadows, with all the blending we've been doing. So it's time to go back with chestnut again and give it a layer of dark shadows. Just in the very darkest areas. Not very much blending here, I mostly stuck with coloring the darkest crease of her eyelids.
A face isn't just a flat area, it's got depth, and she needed some depth in the highlighted areas. It's time to introduce gingerroot. This is an odd color in that it looks light on the pencil, but when you color it over beige it looks incredibly dark. I've used the gingerroot for all of the lightly darker aras of the light side of her face. Along her nose and just under her hairline mostly. It looks dark, but remember, we always go over later to blend things out and lighten up what we need to.
See? To save time, I did two steps here. I went over with cream to soften up the shading from the gingerroot. I also picked up that fantastic violet and darkened up the purples a little on the lower side of her face.
Pale sage to the rescue again, to blend out the grainy texture of the purple. I've focused on her face mostly, ignoring her arm and back. Normally I color all areas of her skin at the same time, but well... I got lazy.
Now we're getting into subtle darks again. Dark Umber is a fantastic dark brown, with a slightly reddish tint. I've lined along the creases under her eye, the very deepest parts of the shadows under her hair, under her neck and arm. I've also done a bit of outlining along her cheek and face. Not necessary, I just like the look.
To finish up, I used a little copenhaggen blue to line the areas of her skin that had blue highlights. Then I went over with a bit of cream to smooth the last of the roughness out of her skin.
I've done nothing new to the skin, this is the scan without the contrast amped up so that you can see the smooth, pale color. Also, you may have noticed that I didn't draw eyelashes on her eyes. That's because they're drawn in later. Dark pencils will go over the pale skin just fine, though you may have to press a little bit harder then usual. So that's it. I hope this was some help for you all. Remember, the key to getting smooth skin is to use many, many, many light layers.
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