Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Darker skin tones - tutorials

So I've often got requests on a darker skin tone tutorial but I've never gotten around to it, especially making them more dynamic.
Frankly, I use the same techniques as my Caucasian skin tones, and so never really saw a reason for it, until I realized that the darkest normal skin tone I really ever draw is a tanned skin at best, and then my really dark girl is actually Green... Reality check, I never really do darker skin tones. So I had to dig back to my old watercolour days and rummaged through my mental file cabinet about techniques for that and applied that to the Copic markers and Viola, I think I got something useful here.

Now, when it comes to the darker skin tones, you can layer a lot more different colours into the skin tone. Unlike light skin where you can only do this in a limited way or you just keep getting darker and darker..

For my examples I've done a medium skin tone, with an olive base and a dark skin tone with a yellow base.
You could essentially choose any colour for your base. warm colours work really well. then for the rest I've used the same brown tones for the over top layer.
Okay, just a little disclaimer here - this is far from the neatest cleaning job here! Ha Ha! I was very sloppy but the principle is the same :p
One thing to take note of with dark skin is that the darker the skin the more the highlights take control of the overall look of the skin tone. in the case of really black people it's difficult to shade at all so it's better to switch your focus from shading to highlighting. The key point to remember is to Blend blend blend!

Example 1
Step 1:
My base colour for this example was YG91 - Putty. It's a greyed yellow green (YG stands for YellowGreen then the 9 indicated the amount of grey, the 1 indicated the fact that it's a lighter colour)

I just do a rough coat of colour, nothing too fancy here.
Not too worried about getting it into her hair because it's going to be black, or nearly black anyway. Thats one of the benefits of working light to dark.
After this I've used the same 3 colours for both examples: E11, E13, E15

Step 2:
I layed in some rough areas of shadow with the E11, leaving some of the initial colour showing.
This wont always show through so prominently but in this stage we leave it showing through because if you layer too much it will all but disappear.

You have to do a little pre planning about your light source in every image anyway.
Step 3: 
In this step I've taken E13 and gone over the darker areas again. Not all the same areas of step 2 but just the darkest stuff really.
Laying in the foundation.
Step 4:
Now I take the E11 again and use it to blend out the E13. This time I go over the entire thing. try not to oversaturate the main green layer or you'll just blend it away. It will be visible in the end, but not as a colour purely, just as a tinting of skin tone.
As a side note, in any medium where you are colouring skin it always works best to use many transparent layers.
Step 5:
I started the darker areas again, this time with E15, again in the darker areas only, not wishing to wash out the area completely, but bring a deeper level of colour the the overall picture.
Step 6: 
Then again, blend it out with E11.
I just finished it off with some lip colour and Dark hair.
the light kinda washed out this photo but you get the idea.
In the original at least, she's got a fair amount of that YG91 showing through in her skin giving her a dark olive skin complexion.

I did her hair in E49 dark bark, just to really clean up my edges, LMAO!

Okay, so there is a medium skin tone. Nothing to exiting.
I wanted to try something a little darker as well.

Example 2
SO for my next one, we're going a little bit darker. I mentioned above about the highlights being very important, but I wanted to also note that I still shade to colour. I don't just highlight, so just keep your mind on the highlights as you shade and they will work with you.
Step 1:
Started this one off with a yellow, Y21.
Just a base coat really.
This is going to be very similar to the last one as you'll see.
step 2:
Layer of E11 just as before. Again, don't cover up the yellow just yet. If you do it now it will be completely drowned out by the end.
Step 3:
A layer of E13 ... familiar?
again, darkest areas, don't cover the base colour just yet....
Step 4:
Okay now blend it out with the E11, and go over the yellow. it will still show through.
Step 5: 
I dove in here with some E27 now, again only the darkest areas. You can be neater than I was here. 
For some reason, the more experimental I am the messier I am, LOL.
Step 6:
Blend it out with the E13 again, note how I've left a nice highlight on her cheeks, forehead, and nose? its showing through the yellow really well.Keep those, they're awesome! I also coloured her lips. she was needing it.
Step 7:
I took it one step further and added some E49 around her eyes, under her nose, chin and lip area. I think the contrast added here really punched up the highlights. I blended it with E13.
Again my final step was colouring her hair, I used 100 (black) for her hair in this one. nothing special done, just slapped it on to finish it off.

Now take special note that I've followed some of the information in my Dynamic Skin Tutorial from before, leaving the lighter tone along the jawline to create the contrast.

The most important things are to keep an eye on your light source.

So this turned out to be rather long, but hopefully not pointless.
I hope you enjoy my free tutorials, because I'd like to keep doing them but also get paid to do them too. I'm hoping for your support in the new year when that happens.

If you have any questions just ask me. Don't be afraid of me!

Here is the image used in this Tutorial Feel free to use it for practice! Just always credit me please :)


  1. I read this post last night and was really interested in the colors you used for undertone. I don't usually color any images that are detailed enough for me to think to make serious highlights and shadows, but I think this was a great tutorial! Black and brown people come in a wide variety of shades; thanks for the tutorial!

  2. yeah, there are as many colours of skin as there are colours of Copics really.
    It's hard to make a tutorial that will encompass enough information *faint*

    The images one cards are just mini illustrations :D

  3. This is super helpful, thank you!


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