How to Mix Flesh Tones with Acrylic Paint

The follow video lesson was created by Artist Will Kemp with Will Kemp Art School.  In this lesson, Will is going to show you how to mix flesh tones with acrylic paint.

Will is using Golden Heavy Body Acrylics except for the Alizarin Crimson which is Winsor & Newton

Here are the colors used:

  • Titanium White
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Winsor & Newton)
  • Burnt Umber
  • Ultramarine Blue

If you are looking for a more in depth study on mixing colors using Acrylic Paint, then you should definitely consider investing in Wills course on color mixing.  It’s a downloadable course that consists of 7 videos with over 4 hours of expert tuition.  Click the banner below to learn more or follow this link.

How to Mix Flesh Tones with Acrylic Paint

Good Morning Class!  I am Will Kemp from Will Kemp Art School and today I am going to show you how to mix and match your own skin tones using Acrylic Paint.  This is a really great exercise to do at home when you are painting portraits.  This exercise will get you used to mixing muted, realistic skin tones from  strong and vibrant colors.

A great starting point when matching skin tones is to use your very own skin as a guide.   So what we are going to have a go at is matching tones of paint actually on to the palm of your hand.  I am using Acrylic Paint so we can just mix them up, put them on and check our swatches as we go along.

What you can do if you have a color wheel handy, you see on this one I have a little hole cut into it, you can use this as a view finder since we are trying to have an idea of the hue of a color you are trying to match.  You can isolate an area of color through this hole and kind of spin the color wheel around until it aligns closely to what you are looking at.

Let’s take a look at my finger under here.  You can see how when I press that on, you see how the closest color to the color of my finger goes toward red.  Where as if I have another area of my hand, this here goes towards yellow and green.  It’s definitely not as red as when we looked at the finger tip.

When I am looking at my hand in general,  you are just trying to get a general feel for a tone of it.  What is closest in hue to whatever your subject is.   The green doesn’t really seem to sit very well.  The oranges are quite nice.  The reds look too red.  I’d say around this kind of hue is closest to my palm at the moment.  So I am just going to start with the yellow and the red to get us started.

Ok, if you have a look at that, you can see that that is really still too yellow, still too bright, so we are just going to tone it down.  We are going to use some of the Burnt Umber to tone that down.  Now we have a look and think that this has gone far too green then what we are after.  We want to try and get this redder than this, so I am going to add a bit more of the red back into it.  Ok, this is still looking too dark now, we are getting closer with it but I am going to have to add some white to lighten it up.  When you are lightening colors, we will be using either the white or the yellow.

Ok, we are getting closer but this is still  looking too yellow.  We are going to add a bit more of the red to pink it up.  A touch more.  More white.  I will show you a swatch on my hand.  When I look at this on my hand, I can see it is still too saturated, a bit too much chroma to it.  So I am going to knock that down a bit.  We are getting quite close now.  It is going to darken off slightly.  So I will leave that there. It is quite a nice base to work with.  Do you see when you add the white to it?  It is going to go a bit too pale, a bit too green.  Let us have a look.  Way too bright, so we will add a bit of the red to it.

Since all acrylic paint dry darker, this is a pretty good color to start with when matching a skin tone.

Often a common mistake in portraits with matching skin tones is they are too high a chroma.  So what you can always do if you are using this palette, is mix a black with the Burnt Umber and the Ultramarine Blue.  See how that mixture creates this nice grey tone?  So if you have this tone and you need to tone it down, you can  just add a bit of this grey mixture too it.  See how it tones it down very nice for matching skin tones.

Using black in your portraits is a really handy way to get a more naturalistic feel in your portrait painting.

If I were actually painting a portrait, I would start with colors that are a lot more muted than this like Yellow Ochre and Raw Umber so they are a lot closer already .  But it is really handy to be aware of how you can get a muted color from these bright colors so that then when you are using those other colors, it will just become a lot easier.


  1. Marigene Garcia says

    A very helpful and informative lesson on mixing skin tones. Thank you so much.

  2. Dawn Lahner says

    Very helpful – I always get very pink flesh colours and have obviously not been using enough yellow and blue. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *