Skin Tones - from guest blogger Jasmine Smith

Skin Tones - from guest blogger Jasmine Smith

Hi guys! My name is Jazzy, @j.l.s_art on instagram, and I am so excited to be a brand rep for Waves of Expression! I primarily do portraits, so I’m going to be talking a little about that today. Unlike other mediums, it’s hard to undo anything that’s already been done while using watercolor. This makes layers a necessity for building up intensity in a piece. Today I am going to be talking about the importance of building up layers while painting skin tones. 

The first thing I did was choose a reference with plenty of fun undertones to work with. A few of the colors that I picked out from the photo were red, orange, yellow, and purple. From there, I did a sketch and got to work. 


While working on a sketch, try to keep it light so that you will have less to erase after completing it. Sketching lightly also helps avoid having your sketch show through in your final product if that was not your intended effect. After completing the sketch, I always like to photograph it, flip the image, and check the proportions of the drawing. I often find that it helps me achieve some clarity after staring at a drawing for so long. 


Next, I got my materials together and prepared the paper. I used a ¾ flatbush and a small, round paint brush. Along with that, I set up 2 cups of water, paper towels, tape, and my paints. My paints included Sap Green, Phthalo Green, Ivory Black, Payne’s Grey, Violet, Magenta, Crimson, Vermilion, Yellow Ochre, and Yellow Mead. From Waves of Expression’s paints, I used Potion, a Mystery Watercolor, and two samples. 

I erased the harsh lines from my sketch and applied a layer of water to the back of my paper before taping it down. Doing this will help prevent the paper from bubbling up or pooling while you’re painting, which is something I struggled with when I first began using watercolor. 

Once I had finished this prep, I was ready to begin painting. I laid down my first layer, remembering to keep it light and block out highlights. I like to give an indicator of my values and return to add more pigment and build intensity later. For the skin tone, I started off using yellow ochre for the base, magenta as a mid tone, and violet to block in the shadows.

From here I began building up my skintone by layering the yellow ochre and deepening the shadows using violet and crimson. I would first apply the crimson as a transition shade before adding violet to the deepest shadows. If the crimson was not transitioning smoothly, I would either add more water and bring a crimson wash lower, or add orange slightly above it. While building up the layers, it's important to avoid going too heavy over your highlights. I recommend leaving them until the end and then adding a wash of the base around it. 

From this point, I continued layering these values until I was satisfied with their depth. I added a slight blush to the cheekbones using crimson and desaturated the green in the eyes by adding a wash of Crimson. I then added purple for the shadows in the pupil. The paper I decided to use began peeling, so I did end up dapping the peelings off and taking a break to let the paint dry completely before continuing. 

Once I was satisfied with the skin, I moved on to the hair. I used magenta as the midtone, purple for the shadows and crimson for the highlights. I later redefined it with green and black in the shadows to give it more depth. 

Then came the fun part: Glitter!

I went in with one of the samples on the eyelids, cheeks, lips, nose, hair, and clothes. The sample was a beautiful coppery red color that was full of glitter. It was magic when I started adding it to the warm tones in the painting and it really brought the piece to life. 

The other sample I received was a shimmering sage green with glitter that reflected as green and blue. I added it to the eyes and reintroduced it in the background as a compliment to the crimson in the hair. It added a whimsical feel to the piece that I love. 

I used the yellow mystery watercolor in the undereye and around the highlights to blend them into the surrounding skin tone. The small green flakes of glitter in the yellow watercolor helped tie in the background and make the piece more cohesive. Finally, I used Potion on the eyelids, cheeks, cupid’s bow, and lips to give it a nice rosy blush. 

Overall, I believe the waves of expression watercolors added life to the piece and enhanced some of the other colors I had used throughout the piece. It inspired me to take the painting in a more whimsical, fae-like direction and I love the results! 

Here is the finished piece. Until next time!

  • Jazzy

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