Dr. DDevil: Painting Fair Skin Without Fear

Heeeellllllloooooo Hobby Enthusiasts.

Dr. D here with another painting article and I just have to apologize for how long this one took. Multiple things took up my painting desk at the same time and this kept getting delayed. The life of a hobbyist, am’i’right?

That being said, the one tutorial request I get the most from hobbyists is how I do skin and faces. Thankfully most faces are attached to skin, so I decided we could knock both out at the same time. It is time to attack one of those true painting bug-a-boos.

I will warn that painting skin to any decent level is going to require blending. So, if putting in a little bit of work is too much to ask then you are going to want to just turn around here unless you just want to laugh at my bad jokes. All of the new contrasts and speedpaints that have been coming up all over the place can only get you so far when it comes to improving your skin tones. I will never judge anyone’s painting preferences, but solely using those kinds of paints will reach a certain plateau of quality. It does get the job done though.

As always, I think in order to do a miniature painting tutorial we will most likely need a miniature to slap some paint on. How about everyone’s favorite Tsar-era Russian survivalist, Kraven the Hunter. Don’t forget to order from Bearded Dragon Games of Oneonta and use the code PCME10 at checkout to get a swanky discount. Tell them Dr. D sent you!

Clearly, he enjoys sexy leather pants.

Kraven is a very fun model sculpted by the lovely people from AMG. This model will likely be used for more tutorials in the future so that I can do an article on painting leather, but today we are here for the human skin. Thankfully, tons of different paints exist to show off all KINDS of skin tones. Honestly, one of the best parts of painting skin tones on your models is the variable nature of how our skin develops. It changes depending on things like exposure, age, genetics, being shot and put in a grave by your enemies so that he can take on your rogue’s gallery in an expression of supreme ego…..

One of the tricks of army painting is that you need to have very consistent colors throughout an army to keep it coherent. When it comes to skin color you can change it up on every single army and it wouldn’t look out of place at all. The great thing about humans is that we come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and people from the same family can have slight variations in skin tones. This gives us ALOT of artistic freedom.

You can clearly tell he is very athletic.
Don’t poke your eye out on his spear.

So when it comes to paint selection, you actually have a lot of leeway when it comes to the colors of your choice. I will be doing separate skin tones for dark and tanned skin tones in the future so don’t worry! Today we will be focusing on the lighter side of the spectrum.

I am sure this is some celebrity lady, but I assure you I have no idea who it is.
Here we have another fair skinned person, and you can see that it is slightly more pink that the picture above. People of the same ethnicity can have slight little variations which can tell an entire story on its own.

The paints I have used for this article are as follows:

My painting desk looks like a very rough neighborhood. It’s FILTHY!

Vallejo (V) Panzer Ace Shadowed Flesh

V Basic Skintone

V Panzer Ace Flesh Highlight

Citadel (GW) Khorne Red

Monument Hobbies (MH) Titanium White

GW Screaming Skull

GW Abaddon Black

Depending on the model I would usually recommend doing skin either first or very close to the beginning. This is due to the fact that the skin is most likely the bottom layer of the model since people don’t put their skin on top of their clothes. This also allows you to be a little sloppy with your brush strokes.

So lets put the 3 most important paints on the pallet so that you can see how the layering is going to be done.

This shows the base, midtone, and highlight colors next to each other. Rub these together and you can make a PERSON!

First, we are going to put the basecoat onto the model. I use V Panzer Ace Shadowed Flesh mixed with just enough water to stop it from being thick. I have had this bottle of paint for a very long time, so yours may not be as old, dusty, and decrypted as mine. Just make sure the paint goes on nice and smooth. This isn’t rocket science…..put paint on model and then stop when done. Truly, we are breaking some real ground with this one.

It is going to look very dark and that is ok.
This model has alot going on so just don’t get lost in all the details yet. Make sure you cover ALL the skin since going back is kind of a pain in the butt.

When you are putting the base color down I would even recommend going into the mouth if it is open since the inside of the mouth is also just skin when you really think about it. Since it’s the darkest color it will add to the overall model, but you will probably not do any more work in the mouth until you paint the tongue or the teeth.

Once you have that basecoat down, you have a decision to make. Now is the time to pick the “gritiness” of the skin. The more contrast you have the more gnarled or war-torn the person is going to look. Less contrast will give the idea of a softer life without as much woe or stabbing.

So when you are doing the next layer keep this in mind. What we paint, no matter what colors we are using, it is going to be altered by the paint underneath it. So that will be the color you have already placed on the model. The reason this is important is that no matter how you paint your model that darker flesh underneath it will slightly tint the color that lays on top of it. Now you are going to decide on how pale or tanned this model is going to be. I went with a roughly 50:50 between Shadowed Flesh and Basic Skintone. If you want the model to be more tanned, older, or grizzled then add more Shadowed Flesh. If you want them to be younger, female, or less grizzled than you want to add more basic skintone. If you are indecisive I always just go with randomly mixing it together to see if I feel lucky……punk.

Roughly 50:50 mix of shadowed flesh and basic skintone.

Once you figure out your establishing skintone are going to want to start slapping this paint on the higher points. Kraven is a good example since he has defined muscles and some great abs. You are going to want to put the paint on all of these areas, but make sure you leave shadowed flesh. The more shadowed flesh you leave the more “grizzled” this model is going to look. So with models you want to look softer you might even cover up all but the very deepest shadowed flesh. Just try and be mindful of the story you are trying to tell while you are putting the paint down.

You will notice the model is going to become much lighter after this.
Don’t worry too much if you cover up too much of the basecoat. I always like to err on the side of lighter than darker.

This is going to come back up when it comes to all of these skin tutorials, but whatever color that is on the model right now is the color of that model’s skin. Everything we do from now on is purely to improve the depth of this establishing layer. Kraven is a very very old Russian, but he is also a hunter filled with strange chemicals that no man should ever ingest so I decided middle of the road in terms of skin colors would work out perfectly.

Next, I just took 100% basic skin tone and slowly worked up the highlights. If you get some transitions that don’t look super great don’t panic since we are going to go back and address these issues near the end. If you went with more of a shadowed flesh blend you can just add more basic skintone to your previous mixture and leave the pure skintone for the final highlight.

So remember the rule of highlighting. Bring it towards the center and towards the face if you are not using a very specific light source. So upper, inner corner of the abs, the nose, and the cheek bones should all be hit with this highlight. I tend to start at the face and slowly work out so that I can keep my direction constant.

Model is slowly lightening up to what you would actually expect a person to look like.
Closer up.
Look at the definition of the muscles. It is subtle and doesn’t require big harsh lines that ruin the illusion of muscle definition.

So now we are going to start highlighting and add even more definition. So I take the Flesh Highlight color and I take about a single tip of a paintbrush’s worth and I mix it with some Basic Skintone. It is approximately a 25:75 Highlight to Basic Skintone mix, but again you can play with this a little bit and see what comes out of it. I would suggest you mix in a little water as well to help keep the paint more translucent since this will stop you from destroying all of your delicious details. A thick skin highlight color will very quickly desaturate your skin however. This may work out perfectly for models you want to be extra pale or with very thin or sick skin, but it could also infuriate you if that was not your goal.

Notice how quickly that skin color becomes much more desaturated with just a tiny bit of the highlight.

Seriously, make sure that this paint is nice and wet. If you glob this paint onto your model it is going to make the skin look very strange and stand out. This is the point where less is more when it comes to applying the highlights. So if you are starting to think it looks good enough then go ahead and stop before you put too much pain on the model.

This could honestly be a good stopping point if you so desired, but here in Dr. D land, we don’t got no brakes.
A good example of keeping that basecoat in a place that you can see it with the full highlights. It might seem a little jarring right now, but the next few steps will help tone that down.

Ok, now its time for that extra little dash of Dr. D craziness. We are going to take some MH Bold Titanium White and we are going add just the slightest dash to our previous mix. This would be something like 10:25:75 White to Highlight to Basic Skintone. The most important part is that it also equals 110%, and that is what you have to give in order to get the best skin possible.

I will be here all week lady and gentlemen.

Make sure the white is very watered down since we don’t want to ruin all the hard work we have done with a thick paint.
It is a very subtle blend.

Now this color needs to be added very, very sparingly. Hit the bridge of the nose, the brow line, and the tops of abs. Depending on where the arms are you should just hit the very tip tops of muscle to give it a little glint of highlight, but not enough to ruin all the hard work.

What a handsome boy
Always remember to paint the colors around whatever you are painting to see if it will work. It is very difficult to judge a paint job by itself.
Still maintaining that army muscle definition.

We are still in the “you can leave this model be and be happy with the results territory.” This next step is to add a tad more realism and to help with some of the gradation of the colors. I do this by adding a VERY thin layer of a purplish red into the depths of the skin. To keep it simple, human skin is ALOT of different colors since the things that are under your skin technically show through it. Your skin color is tinted, just like paint, by the things that it sits on top of. The only reason this is important for painting is that we know your skin is filled with blood. This blood is what gives your skin the blue and reddish hue.

Don’t think about it too hard, nerd.

Just slap the paint on the pallet and don’t swallow your tongue.

Now we are going to bring it all down and give it a little bit of skin coloration.

Now you are going to want to make sure this is VERY watered down.

You want this paint to be very very thin. Translucent event

Now when want to put the paint into your brush and wipe any of the paint out that would make this like a wash. You want to tint wherever you put this paint. If you use it like a wash you are going to create a MESS and probably yell at me from your home. I don’t want that curse put on me thank you.

Just a tiniest bit of red is going to tint the skin enough to look more human. You may not notice it…….but your brain did.
You might notice a purplish hue, that is alright. Just wait until you get paint on the surrounding materials before you make any judgements.
Definition baby

So there you go. That is the technique I follow with every single one of my miniatures. It is cumbersome at first, but once you get the hang of it you will notice that you can really get through models pretty quick. Depending on your models and armies you will notice that most of the skin you paint will be faces and hands. Thankfully, these techniques will apply to all of those locations so you should just keep practicing until you get the hang of it.

BONUS ROUND!!!!!!!!!!

So something that I have noticed is that people with skin usually have eyeballs too. Since I don’t think I could do an entire tutorial for just eyes, lets do it secretly right here. Don’t tell me that I have never done anything nice for you. So to get the perfect eyeballs all you need is 2 colors.

“Jee whiz, that’s amazing Dr. D.”

You got that right disembodied voice of the internet. Let’s go over it real quick like.

Ok, so first we need to discuss how to actually get to the eyes. The eyes are located on the face. Check, got that done. One of the most difficult things to remember about doing eyes initially is that you are not POKING the paint into the orbital part of the model. Paint does not apply well if you just ram the bristles into the area. This means we need to adapt and overcome. When putting paint down for eyes you need to come at it from the side.

“But what about the models big snoozer?”

Another great question. We will need to go verticle! So you want the brush to be moist enough to easily put the paint down, but not so wet that the paint becomes water while you are putting it onto the model. Get a dollop of paint, wipe off the excess on the back of your thumb, and attack them like the pictures below. Take a deep breath and hold your breath. This will actually calm the nerves that control the sway of your hand and makes it much easier to get into those hard to reach places. Put a little dot in there, and then flip the model over to do it on the other side. Make sure you breath again after that or you might hit your head when you pass out.

First, we go for the right eye.
Then we go for the left
I colored in all the parts of the model near the skin to give you an idea of how well we did when it was put next to the other colors.
Shot of the rear with all of the other colors put in

Now that you have what is essentially the “socket” of the eye we can move onto the eye itself. So the white part of the eye we see is called the sclera. This can be very tricky to place inside of the eye since it has to be inside the black that we just painted and it can not spill out of the socket. So we do the exact same technique as we did before for the black, but now we have to put an even smaller dot inside of the black part. We are going to use GW Screaming Skull for the actual eye. You may be tempted to use a pure white for this. You will notice that this will look very wrong and you are not entirely sure why. Pure white is actually exceptionally difficult to find in nature.

Just use the skull color please.

You will mess this up when you first start trying to do this, and that is ok. We all have to make mistakes so that we can teach others later. That’s what I told myself as I say there weeping in the dark with my paintbrushes. They were my only friend, and they told me to keep practicing.

So I am here to be YOUR paintbrush friend. If you mess up its ok, just take the black out and reapply the socket.

Those soulless eyes.

Now you have the sclera of the eye down. The middle part of the eye is a hole called the Iris and the pupil. Due to the scale of the models we paint, we are not going to worry about the color of the eye. Some people will do that, but it will not be visible at the distance we play these games at. So black will get the job done

You can do this with a brush and it works just the same way. Try and make the black dot even smaller inside of the white part of the eye.

Just a little dot can make all the difference.

My super secret weapon however is using something called a micron pen. These are use by artiests to paint tiny details on things like easel paintings, but it will get the job done if you get the right size. I always use my pen for the last part of this process and it always turns out great after a couple million models worth of practice.


You did it. you made it to the end. I congratulate you on reading this far down and even ignoring my terrible jokes. I will tell you that the next tutorial will probably be a model that comes charging into my home….and it might even have a guest to accompany him.

Until next time you crazy hobby aficionados. I love you and I love that you are hobbying nearly as much as I do.

But I am still the master…..for now…….

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