Ron Lemen: Skin Tones Tutorial Part 2/Painting Heads
02/09/03 @841 | Dave | comments (23)

The Palette

Ok, so the first part was about tones, now this one is going to be a simple walkthrough of blocking in the stuff that is important first, and embellishing as you go. I will post a few different types of approaches, this happens to be my favorite. ITs like digital alla prima, just go for it baby!!!

The Reference

So, to start, here is the reference. Here is the color palette I chose (above). I wasnt in favor of such a startling blue in his shirt, so I reduced the intensity of the chroma. Here is the three values, or three major hues I chose for the image. THis is also, repeating what I mentioned in the first painting tutorial I did, where you start with 3 or 4 values first, and nothing more than that. 2 is too graphic, 5 is too confusing. 3 or 4 are a comfortable number to work with. YOu can go back to any master painting and find this theory instilled in their work, all the way back to the baroque period.


SO, my first step naturally is to block in those three major values in their respectful shapes. NO outlines yet, just big forms.

Step 1 blocking in the big masses with the three main values(hues) I have chosen for this particular piece.








Step 2 now I will go back in and map out my shapes linearly just to get an idea of whether or not my big shapes I started with are going to work. ANd if I have any discrepancies, now is the time to fix them...

note-I dont do this typically anymore. I am doing it to show you how I think with a big mass of color. WHat is going on in my head technically. Typically, I just paint, I dont chart, I have been charting for so long, I need to just paint or I would go crazy...






step 2.5-continuing this process, only I am getting more specific about the formal spacial break up of the face. The thirds division vertically down the head, that is, a division at the hair line, a division at the brow line, a division at the base of the nose, and the final mark at the base of the chin. then I break up the face horizontally. An eye space between the two eyes, etc. Then I get the rough shape of the features line drawn in, now its time to paint.


















Step 3 Time to block in the face. SO to begin, I noted that I have picked an image washed out in big value separations, it is equivelent to north lighting. Ambiguous shadows are always harder to paint than direct light. Its harder to make a convincing rolling of the forms. That is another reason I chose this image. Making it a bit more difficult to create. The first thing I look for is the plane changes, and I note them right off. That is what is happening here. I have noted in a darker value, the receding planes on either side of the head. SInce he is front lit, I placed about equal importance to both sides of the head. The value us from the same flesh hue, only darker in tone, darker in value to help roll the head form.





Step 4
blocking in the rest of the face based upon the color banding of the forehead, the features and the chin and jaw area. My last tutorial specked out how to achieve this. Yellowish for the forehead, reddish for the features, bluish for the beard area. In this case, he has a lot of reflected light coming up from his shirt, enhancing that blue value in the jaw and chin.

I am setting up the average colors for these areas without blocking them in entirely. I want to be able to make clear decisions about changes or not, and the only way I can do that is by putting swatches of color near each other to see how their relative values contrast one another.




Step 5 Ok now I am going in and blocking in the rest of the color for each of the major plane changes, that is, not worrying about subtelties, just thinking in planes. And I continue to do this till the form feels like it is coming "around". Starting to feel 3 dimensional...








Step 6 thinking now about all the various directions the planes of the face are facing, and concerning myself with the reflective light and how that effects the planes of the face. ANything facing towards up, will be effected very little, as it looks like there is no ceiling close to the top of his head.

Everything facing the sides is going to take on the hues of the reflector screen behind his head. SO cheeks will adapt some steel bluish tones. All the bottom planes will take on reflected light from his shirt. these will be the lightest reflected tones, and should really enhance the bottom planes, or accent them making them stand out more so than the other receding planes.

and in this step, I am also now concerned with details, age lines, highlights in the eyes, cut lines in the wrinkles of his face, etc.














Finishing. Now I am concerned with softening back harsh edges if there are any, losing significant details that shouldnt be at all. Making sure that the overall image I started with, those three big color blocks still hold up here in the end. This is most important to me. This phase of the game should be called the sacrifice of the painting phase. Go back and sacrifice those little nuances you worked so hard to achieve, but come to find they take away from the big picture, which is what we are trying to complete, and create.

OK, kinda short hand, but I think it works for what it is. Let me know what you all think, if it can be bettered, if there are missing steps you dont get, etc.


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Member comments

 02/11/03 @605

wow :)
thx ;)

 03/03/03 @903

I love th is tutorial it answers my question about skin tones perfectly!

 04/22/03 @824


 04/30/03 @893

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. What more can I say?

The only question I have is how big(pixels) did your painting start? At this stage in the learning process, is this something to even be concerned with?

 05/20/03 @155

Yup, did you take into consideration the resoulation of your canvas before you start?

Thanks a million! :)

 05/20/03 @320

got it!

 06/02/03 @815

Fantastico. Answers my long searching questions on skin tones brilliantly as well as bringing a composition to life, However I was wondering what size was you canvas before you started??

 06/29/03 @022

sencillamente genial !!!!!

 08/26/03 @058

I think it is great and I can only go so far because I don't even know what program he is using let alone what brushes and various other details that are left out...

 10/01/03 @651


 naitsirch79 wrote on 08/26 @058

Does it really matter? People always want to know if it was made in painter or photoshop etc. You can make it in bough! Using standart brushes.

 10/18/03 @664

Yea... Great tut, also nice pic! You arent using a mouse right...?

 12/17/03 @227

great tutorial,

i would be very interested to know what you set up your canvas size to be??

 12/29/03 @758

Excellent tutorial but i still don't understand the skin tones. I read your first tutorial but i still don't know how you're supposed to know where the skin is redder, yellowish and so on. If someone could help me, i would me most grateful.

 02/26/04 @574

............. and which tool ( brushe) you used???

 02/28/04 @754

it doesn't really matter what brush, just don't pick one that's super soft edge.

 09/16/04 @155

So thats how its done right. Amazing

 09/22/04 @015

ok, ok it is great , is cool...but what kind of technique u used to do all it??
acrilic? guache?oil??
anybody can tell me it?

 11/28/04 @438

Simply perfect method!

 02/11/05 @441

Very Fascinating

 02/24/05 @842

WOW!!! amazing, thanks many of my doubts abuot color was answered, just one question keeps bothering me, what are the hardware U use? i mean, you use a mouse? or a pc tablet or what? thanks for sharing man!!!!

 07/27/05 @456

this tutorial is great!!! I couldn´t believe the results when I tried it. Thank you very much Ron!
I started painting a boy´s head which shows the ear more than this old man of yours.. Do you have any ears tips? I can´t make them look well.
Thanks again!

 10/11/05 @080

do u use smudge tool??
i was amaze by how u paint and the effect u get but i dont quite get the last step. how do u make the colour blend at the end?? it look quite natural.. :)

 12/09/05 @318

thank you so much.
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