Painting Skin

Painting skin is one of the hardest color to get just right.  Here’s how to avoid the Orange Spray Tan look for your miniatures!

Painting human skin in a realistic way is one of the hardest thing to do in miniature painting.

This is mostly due to a couple of things. First, most beginner techniques are not suited for this. There is also a gazillion colors dubbed as «flesh» and picking the right ones can be a head scratcher.  Last, and most important, everyone knows exactly what skin should looks like.

But with a few simple tricks, you can have great success painting skin.

The Foolproof Method for Painting Skin

Find a method that works one, and expand on it.

If it works, try it, changing only one step at a time.  This allows you to play with the tones and learn what work and what doesn’t.  And if all else fails, you still have your go to method.

Here’s mine.

  • Base coat with Bugman’s glow
  • Cadian Felshtone layered on
  • Shade with thinned down Rhinox Hide
  • Cadian Fleshtone layered on again
  • Mix some white in the Cadian Fleshtone and highlight again.

This is the way I paint skin on almost every model.

Depending on the quality of the piece, I will add steps (like adding purple shades) or remove steps (stop after the wash) but the idea remains the same.

Flesh Wash / Reikland Fleshshade / Flesh Tone

Steer clear.

Most of the flesh toned inks are mostly orange.  You’d think that paint range manufacturers are all from the Jersey Shore and that orange is somehow the normal skin tone for them.

I have had a lot more success with flesh colors that have a lot more pink in them than orange.  The same applies to the washes you add.  Often, Agrax Earthshade will look better even if it’s a lot more muted.

Base Coat is Best Coat

As mentioned previously, there are seven colors branded as «flesh» in the Games Workshop range, just as many in the Vallejo lines, and quite possibly another four in the P3 range…

Stick with one or two that are neutral and that you can shade with other tones or highlight with other tones.

GW’s Cadian Fleshtone is the one I feel is best suited for this, and you could work with only that one. All other flesh tones are basically Cadian Fleshtone mixed with another color to produce a tan/pallid/northern/guido color variations.

Stick with the basics to get better results.

Oil paint

Beside weathering, oil paints are superstars when it comes to painting skin.

Burnt Umber and Violet thinned down to a wash will add a realistic feel and incredible depth to flesh.

Of course oil paint comes with its own set of challenges.  If you are already using it for weathering, there’s no reason not to use it when it comes to painting skin.

This is a real game changer, as blending tones is how you create realistic skin, and nothing does it better than oil paint.

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