skintones in oils as a relative beginner to oilpainting


Well-known member
Hi friends,

I was a relative beginner to oilpainting when I created this piece - I had painted in watercolors for years and was told that clients would always prefer their portraits to be painted in oils. so I did a lot of research then - also in the old "wetcanvas" forum - about how to paint human skin in oils. we had wonderful discussion about that in WC! anyways I had come up with my basic palette for skintones that I am still using today, and today I came across with this quick shot at portraiture in oils depicting then 17 yo Felix (from a photograph). It was completed in 2 sessions. I am still happy with my choice and so I am posting it.

my basic skintones - when glazing - are: Indian Yellow, Rose Madder, Burnt Siena, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, and Ultramarine Blue. I hardly ever use Black but for the pupilla of the eye. For blue eyes I mix Viridian Green with Rose Madder and add a dot of White.

Nowadays I love to use Lead White for the lighter parts of the human body and only for the highlights a bit of Titanium White.

what pigments do you use for creating skintones?




  • felix.jpg
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That looks much like the basic palette I began with, except that I usually use cerlean blue. I have tried many other palettes but generally go back to pretty much the same one. The portrait BTW is lovely.
My basic palette is a cool and a warm for each- titanium white, lemon yellow, cad yellow mid, cad red light, perm alizarin crimson, ultra blue, phthalo blue. I sometimes add a violet, cad orange and Australian leaf green for more subtle light effects.
I like ultra blue/alizarin/raw umber for dark hair, and alizarin/viridian mix for "black".