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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hasslefree Moderns-Painting Dark Skin

Finally I have completed the last two miniatures of the five figure Hasslefree Moderns team.  I like to think of them as hired assassins.

At the end of the post, I will include a walk through on how I approached a darker black skin tone.

Figures are 28mm and were sculpted by Kev White.

 I have included a group shot to show the five figure team together.

To aid in the discussion about skin tones, I have included a close up shot of the females face.

All paints used were from Reaper Miniatures.  

I photographed the paints as some people do not use Reaper and may be able to find comparable colours by their favourite manufacturer.  From left to right are:  Nightshade Purple, Dark Skin Shadow, Dark Skin Base, Dark Skin Highlight, Green Ochre and Twighlight Purple.

Normally I would use Dark Skin Base as my base colour. This time however, I used Dark Skin Shadows as my base and worked into the shadows by adding increasing amounts of the Nightshade Purple until I was using pure Nightshade Purple in the deepest shadows.  

I then applied thin glazes of Dark Skin Base and worked up to Dark Skin Highlights to create two mid tones.  From there I added increasing amounts of Green Ochre to the Dark Skin Highlight until I reached the highest highlight.  For this I used pure Green Ochre.  All layers were applied as thin glazes.  Although this is time consuming, it does allow for smooth transitions as one works up such a steep gradient.  

Finally I added three thin glazes of the Twighlight Purple.  That final glazing step unifies the layers and helps to provide depth of colour.

I want to take a moment to discuss the difference between painting Caucasian skin and Black skin.  The basic principals are different with a black skin as the gradient from shadow to highlight is very steep.

This can be illustrated by looking at these paint samples.  At the top is the darkest and lightest colours for a dark Black skin and the bottom is for a warm Caucasian skin.  A fundamental difference between Dark skin and Caucasian skin is where the contrast occurs.

In Caucasian skin all the contrast occurs when going from mid tone to shadow. The transition from mid tone to highlight is subtle and is to be kept very soft.  The opposite applies to Dark Skin.  In Dark Skin, all the contrast occurs when going from the mid tone to the highlight.  The transition from mid tone to shadow is less exaggerated.  This is due to the differences in the reflection of light in the respective skin colours.

Those principals can easily be seen when looking at photographs.  Notice the depth of shadow in Cillian Murphy's face and subtle transition from mid tone to highlight.  However, when looking at Omar Epps, we see the opposite is true.  While there is little difference between mid tone and shadow, there is a great deal of contrast between the mid tone and the highlights.  

I realise this is quite wordy, but I hope that it is of help to some people when they are painting character figures.   


  1. Hola Amiga
    Encantado de leerte otra vez,espero que se te a ya resuelto los problemas,o por lo menos estén aliviados.
    Buenas las minis y la explicación y mezclas
    un saludo

  2. That's a very interesting point. I tend to use the Foundry triads for skin colours but I find their dark tones still look to dark once all three colours applied. So I tend to lighten the final colour or use a suitable Vallejo colour for the fourth highlight. So I guess I'm on the right track, just not thought about it how you explained.

    1. The Caucasian skin tones in Reaper are the same way. I usually have to mix increasing ratios of the base colour with the shadow colour until I get to the deepest shadows.

  3. Anne you are a true artist, you make me want to hang up my paintbrush and take up knitting. Thanks for sharing and putting me to shame

    1. You should look at the work of people like Jen Haley and Jessica Rich. They are the top two female painters in the world and they make me cry.

  4. it's a whole science, dear :) Good thing you is a scientist!
    That black lady reminds me of that 70's character from the movies, but I can't remember her name now.

    1. Ya, it can get pretty involved. I'm just now getting into the more advanced techniques. When the Challenge is over I'll be teaching myself some Colour Theory and applying that. Hopefully my skills will go up a notch. We'll see.

    2. was you tempted to put some shading on your walls too while you was painting da house? :)))

  5. just popping over to wish you happy St. Patrick's dear! Hope you had a nice day! I'm off to have a shower after a long day and six hours of travelling and then I'm of to bed :)

    1. It was fine except for the eejit that pissed me off on FB.

    2. Don? I read it :) I don't think his intention was to piss you off, poor chap, but that is what you get for being a stalker LOL
      I've put shamrocks on my blog and I've entirely no idea if that is offensive or not, dear, you must tell me, I thought it was a nice thing.

  6. Thank you for sharing your way of painting skintones! The figures are marvellous!