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Painting dark skin on Marcus


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How do you usually paint skin?  Do you start dark and layer up to a highlighted flesh tone?  I imagine it is not different, you just stay in the darker shades.  If you prime black work up with layers of dark then slowly lightening brown until you can do one final highlight in the brightest shade.


It is the same idea as with any skin tone, start dark and work up to what you want.  (y'know, in theory...)


I have discovered that sometimes a wash will give you fantastic darker skin tone... over time.  I notieced it on my younger sons space wolves... many of them look more eskimo than viking.  And my oldest son has a decidedly Samuel L Jackson looking Sgt Telion.  


I'm waiting to see if Lady Justice goes from vanila to caramel before I do my Viktorias.  I think it's the old GW brown wash...  :)

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That cool mini article is really handy, and I recommend everyone checks it out - I have it bookmarked.


It's a tricky one for sure, I don't actually have a defined recipe I use as I've done so little of it (really should change that, it's a definite weak point in my painting!), but I think I'd start with something like this (in Vallejo Game Color):


Base colour of charred brown, dark fleshtone and some bronze fleshtone (I often add a bit of khaki or bonewhite to bronzed flesh but it might not be necessary here). Mess with the mix until you get the colour you want to work from. For softer more feminine skin, I'd use more dark fleshtone to warm it up more, for more rugged skin a bit less of it.


Shade with charred brown and a touch of black (don't go too far towards black though or you might get a weird charcoal effect), possibly with a tiny bit of night blue in it to take out any orangey hue.


Highlight by adding bronze fleshtone and maybe a little khaki or bonewhite to stop it turning too orange, but you won't need much (if any) I'd think. 


To paint it from shade upwards, just switch over the first two stages, so you start with brown/black, then use brown/fleshtones and keep going up with more fleshtone until you're happy.


This is mostly theory though, so it's not guaranteed. I know there's been a few really good dark skintone paintjobs on the forum, so hopefully whoever did those (I can't remember offhand, embarrassingly, even though I've asked them for ideas before, and probably used some of their info in this post!) can chime in too and give you more ideas.

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Thanks guys...most apprieciated.. :)


@DADDY4COUNT...don't really have a set way to paint skin, just what ever comes to mind to be fair, always up for trying different methods  ^_^


@DGRAZ...that indeed is a really useful guide,thank you i shall be having a dabble with some of the recipes for sure.


@MAKO...cheers bud, never really tried shading with paints like that, but having read your tutorials in the Wyrd Chronicles will certainly give it a try, very inspiring stuff  :D

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I've also made good use of that Cool Mini Or Not article for my Infinity Japanese Sectorial Army and my Eden Clan Bamaka.


For the African skin tone of my Bamaka guys I just took three of the colours on the CMoN article partly because the shop where I was buying the paints didn't have all the colours and partly because it made it cheaper. So I started with the Black Brown #822, then gradually mix in Flat Brown #984 and then Cork Brown #843. I also threw some watered down dark blue in the darkest recesses. Blue works well as a shade for brown.


This was one of the pygmies painted using that recipe (the skin is more or less finished but the rest is WIP at this stage):



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I hate that tutorial so much! Seriously, it doesn't really tell you anything and it always, always gets linked to. Seriously, I've never seen a "how do I paint black skin" type of thread without a link to that blasted tutorial. I mean, on the surface it looks really in depth and well researched but it really doesn't tell you anything except give you color swatches from random pics (some with weird lighting screwing up the "recipe").


A useful skin recipe article would mention stuff like giving the skin enough variance and subtle shading through the use of purples and blues and reds or that you should always highlight skin up to very light to give it lustre. And so on and so forth. This one is a vastly superior tutorial for example: 



Light brown, Fenris Grey, Hormagaunt Purple, Purple and Black washes and Bronzed Flesh.


Edit: sorry about the harshness but I'm just so fed up with that CMON skin tutorial since it seems that most people somehow think that it "solved" the problem of painting skin when that is one of the hardest things to paint well (since human eye is extremely good at discerning the realism of skin). That tutorial gives no practical advice but has seemingly made it so that getting good tutorials on the subject isn't easy since that has saturated the market, so to speak.


Also, the photograph references are weird. The pic of the Japanese lady is extremely overexposed but the writer of the article slavishly follows the tones given by Photoshop. Not to even mention the "Romanian". Second, the paint suggestions are somewhat archaic. Vallejo is all good, sure, but suggesting seven different model colours for a single skin tone is silly. If I want to paint good I don't take seven shades of brown. I take three and then two other colours (like blue and red or something and then I mix. I understand a different approach, naturally, but just that there is scope for stuff other than that article. And there isn't a single picture of a model painted with those colours.


Here's a second good tutorial on painting black skin that is actually helpful:


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That CMoN article (note I say article, not tutorial) is very useful for giving a guide to the basic tones to get skin looking right. It isn't a recipe book, or a tutorial, just a rough guide to show approximate colours. The rest comes down to preference, trial and error. 


I, for example, disagree that skin should always be painted up to very light. It depends on the tone you want. I also know at least four different ways of adding in accent colours and tones, that I've seen various top end painters use, and I do something similar to one of them (the others I never got the hang of), albeit with less skill than the person I learned and adapted it off. 


I agree, that article doesn't go into depth on how to countershade, and add variance, and all the other little painting tricks to make skin look just right. But it doesn't pretend to - it just says "here are the rough colour swatches for basic skin of these different nationalities".


The tutorial you linked to has more information on one specific skin tone, and how to paint skin well as a general concept. The CMoN article has a rough idea of a large range of skin tones. They don't do the same thing, so they aren't really comparable.

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Note that I edited my post a couple of times to explain my opinion in more depth (and posted another link to a good tutorial). But really, at one point I searched several painting forums for good tutorials on black skin and every single thread had links to that article (often several times in the same thread, even) and to no others. Jinn's article I found when I got desperate enough to comb French forums (and I don't even know French(!)) since I thought that maybe they had a tutorial other than that one super-annoying article.


So yeah, it's colour swatches, but when someone asks for help, they get that and nothing else in 99% of the cases I've seen (as far as links to tutorials go, some threads naturally have posts with some advice on them like yours did). And to top it off, the colour swatches aren't all that good and certainly not practical.


As for highlighting to light on all skin types - it really goes that way in real life:



Even extremely dark skinned people have extremely light highlights on their skin. Now, I can be persuaded that there is always an exception to every rule but I think that in this case that exception is extremely rare.


Edit: also, I really need a more jovial avatar - I'm afraid that everything I say is coloured by that scowling zombie face. I need to paint a happy Malifaux mini...

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Oh, I won't disagree that the highlights are there, but they don't necessarily translate well to miniatures given the tiny scale. I think it's important to consider every case individually based on the lighting effect, sweat level, cleanliness, age etc, though I'll freely admit I haven't painted enough dark skin to say which is more common, muted or bright.


I'd say there's rarely an absolute answer in painting, given the subjective nature of it. You prefer to go light each time, I prefer to stay darker as a standard tone and go lighter if I feel it really needs it - both valid opinions, both have their place.


That's why, in my opinion, recipes aren't always as useful as the general concept used to come up with them. Easier to follow, possibly, but the reason to use X shade, or do Y type of thing, is more helpful as it can be applied to different situations.


Dark skin tutorials are rare, as you said - a lot of people have had to make it up themselves and have never seen a tutorial for dark skin. I myself have had to learn what I could about skin tones using that very article you hate as a base to begin from (I've never read a tutorial on dark skin, just started with that rough idea and worked from there). I prefer to offer my thoughts and reasoning than tutorial links though, since I generally have a better idea of how to explain things using those, and I like to pretend it helps people see how to adapt ideas to their own preferences (though I have no proof it's helpful  :P ). 


I actually think the rarity of non-white miniatures (until recent years, when the diversity has really improved) has done a lot more to reduce the number of tutorials than that article has. Back then it just wasn't as big a topic in painting. Fortunately, these days there's more of it and people are better at it so it's more common and tutorials will appear slowly. Perhaps one day I'll even do one myself, who knows...

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I have done this on my PP Kromac the Ravenous model and was more than satisfied with the results (I really should finish that guy at some point). I used the old Citadel paint line (no mixing) so my recipe there wouldn't assist much (unless you happen to still have them) however the new paint line would approximate to;

  • Citadel Mournfang Brown
  • Citadel Agrax Earthshade Shade paint
  • Citadel Doombull Brown Layer paint (thinned heavily)
  • Citadel Tuskgor Fur Layer paint (again thinned heavily)

you could also try subbing in the following;

  • Citadel Rhinox Hide Base paint
  • Citadel Skrag Brown Layer paint
  • Citadel Deathclaw Brown Layer paint
  • Citadel Gorthar Brown Layer paint
  • Citadel Squig Orange Layer paint
  • Citadel Bane Blade Brown Layer paint

The two different base paints will offer either a dark brown with a tint of red (Mournfang Brown) or a dark brown with a tint of grey (Rhinox Hide). The layers will then either emphasize the reddish tint (the listed recipe or the Skrag Brown/ Deathclaw Brown) or the greyish tint (Gorthar Brown and Bane Blade Brown). With the layers it is important to keep them thin. You may want to finish the skin up with either another layer of Agrax Earthshade or you could try Reikland Fleshshade, Seraphim Sepia or even Druchii Violet to pull everything back together (and offer some more diversity in skin tones, mimicking real life).


Playing with these paints should create a full range of fairly realistic "dark skin" tones.


Hopefully that helps at least a bit.


PS I could post a picture of my WIP Kromac if you want.

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First of all, I really didn't mean to downplay the advice you gave - I felt it was useful and good. It's just that often that article is linked to in lieu of advice like yours since (it seems) many posters seem to consider that article so comprehensive that they simply have nothing left to add since, on the surface of it, the article is extremely in depth (though it isn't).


But good as your advice was, it lacked pictures and those are, at least to me, super important in painting advice on such a grand scale like "painting skin" (an enormous topic). In small things like, I dunno, "how should I shade gold?", a simple textual answer (use black, then green or purple, then highlight in silver and finally tone it down with a rich brown wash) is sufficient but in big topics like this I'm personally unable to glean enough from just text. Though I freely admit that it may be a personal failing of mine but that's why actual tutorial articles are so valuable to me.


I do agree with your assessment that non-white minis were very seldom seen even a decade back and maybe that is still affecting the dearth of tutorials but OTOH things like OSL or painting flames or sheer fabric or whatever were really seldom seen before yet nowadays you can find a dozen tutorials for those subjects.


Finally, for the light highlights on dark skin - I must say that I've never seen a really top job on a mini that didn't do that (meaning that all that didn't do it would've benefited from doing it, IMO), but I am willing to be proved wrong. Of course I believe that there are far more "objective" facts to painting than is probably usual - most likely due to my rather extensive background on studying human vision, colour reproduction and how it is experienced by people (my Master's touched on those topics quite a bit). So with that in mind, I'm very willing to agree to disagree on this and note for the guys following this at home that Mako is a far, far better painter than me so my opinion should probably be taken with a grain of salt :P

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Pictures are handy. I have precisely none of my own work, so was a bit limited on that one!


I can't argue on the vision stuff, that's definitely not my specialty! Realism vs stylised vs bolder, more 'cartoon' like stuff I suppose is where I was going with that. Realism certain is less objective than the other styles. If you like realism, it's a much tighter job to get it looking just so (one I'm not very good at...).


It is a weird one about OSL and flames, but I guess it's partly down the the massive GW saturation for so long - almost everyone was white and male, but people had flames and OSL everywhere. The sheer fabric is a bit strange though (trying not to picture orks in negligees...).


My opinion should be taken with at least as much salt, you're a damn good painter yourself and different perspectives are always good to see. From anyone of any level for that matter, everyone should say what they like and don't like (nicely, of course ;) ). I reckon I'll be considering my highlights a little differently next time I do dark skin thanks to this chat!

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The pigmy looks great, especially the eyes..well hopefully going to get chance to start on his skin this week...hopefully it will turn out alright..shall try and get some pics posted of the progress i make with him, looking forward to the challenge tbh..lol  ;)

Thanks! Good luck with Marcus! :)


I see that CMoN article as being more for people who already know how to paint white skin, they just need advice on what colours to go for when painting other ethnicities. So it doesn't tell you exactly how to use the suggested paints because it's assuming you already know that. I like it and it works for me, but you're right in saying that it's not a fully comprehensive tutorial!

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