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Thread: Theory Discussion: "Flesh Tones" Color Theory Discussion

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    Theory Discussion: "Flesh Tones" Color Theory Discussion

    Ok, So this is the first Round Table and the topic is "Flesh tones". I'll let you professionals dish out your thoughts/opinions/crits on the matter.

    Here are some subjects I think could be addressed:
    - Flesh tones/color on white backgrounds
    - Flesh tones/color on black backgrounds
    - Flesh tones/color of colored races
    - Flesh tones/color indoors
    - Flesh tones/color outdoors
    - Flesh lite from reflected/odd lights: night clubs, flames
    - Creature/Monster skin tones.
    Last edited by Sepulverture; November 25th, 2009 at 02:59 AM. Reason: Cleanup and re-organizing - Sepulverture
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    here are a few formulae ideas that can help when painting flesh

    in order to paint great flesh one must understand light and how light works.

    1 what temperature, color and saturation is the light? if one decides on the light temp, saturation, and value than one can surmise the answer to that same thing in the shadows.

    a. shadows can often be the opposite temperature/intensity/value as that of the light. they can also shift toward the compliment color of the light in terms of dominant color feel. radiosity from another reflective surface can easily change this by bouncing color into the shadows and shifting it toward the color which it is reflecting..

    b light has a range of temperature from warmest to neutral to coolest. a cloudy day would be a neutral light...neither the light or shadow would be warm or cool...it would be more balanced....however a sunset would be a warm light and thus the shadows are more cool visually.

    you can sometimes think of it like a visual teeter totter...the more down you go..the more the other one goes up. a sunset is very warm right...well the shadows are very cool...and both are very saturated in color often times. a neutral balanced light has less warm...and less cool...but neither is up or down...it can equal out.



    2light affects local color and light sits on top of the forms and flesh. there are places in the flesh that are thicker and where the light shines through to a higher degree (the cheeks and ears and nose for example). there are places where the flesh is on top of bone and thus is often more reflective in terms of the light source and reflect light source. this is especially obvious on caucasions...a red nose and ears...a lighter less saturated forhead (barring sun burn).

    justin sweet pointed out that he noticed that the darker the complexion...the more specular highlights he noticed.


    now here is an easy way to think about it. if you have a person with an olive complexion....that is the local color...now the light source will shift the large shapes of light toward that of the light color/saturation/temp/ and strength....ie the close one moves toward a bright warm light the warmer and lighter ones skin would become. step into the light my friend!

    b. now here is a key...in any given shape of similar value there is a SPECTRUM OF COLOR. this color shifts as it turns away from the lightsource and also can shift due to thickness of skin or other outside situations like a reflection or radiosity coming from ones shirt. THIS spectrum of color happening in a given shape of value could be called SAME VALUE COLOR VARIATION. even the lightest highlights will often have two or three or four colors in them if you really look...its not just a little yellow dot of light...there is usually a range of color in there. putting down this same value color variation will help suggest the feel of light.


    4 often times..either the light or shadow will dominate in color..temp..saturation...etc....

    the reason for this is because ones eyes tend to either look into the light or the dark right? your eyes adjust....the more you look in the dark the more color and shadows you see...but when you do that the more your eyes adjust and the less you see in the light. sit in your room with all the lights on...turn out the lights and you cant see shit...it has to do with the way the eye sees. now there are always reasons that this little theory can change (radiostity again or some others) but for the most part that is how all of us see. one can not dilate one pupil and have the other one small at the same time.

    5 knowing some of these things will allow you to place your light on your local color and shift the shadow colors toward an appriate color range as well.


    the stronger the light...either in value...temp...or saturation...the more the skin will shift in color. stand under a neon light...that changes everything right....well not everything...there is still same value color variation..there is still opposite value/color/temp/saturation happening there.

    all you ahve to do is look for it.


    the key to understanding color is drawing and painting from life. davi i cant stress that enough. you have to look and paint to truly understand what you are seeing.

    Im no expert...but these are some things i think of while i work.


    jason


    PS...go to www.sijun.com and read the "color theory" thread if you have questions about this stuff...there is a lot of info we all shared a couple years back that will help.


    check out this link to the leon bonnat painting...the hands....notice how the shadow color has the strength in terms of saturation...the light is less saturated...the light is also cool (ALTHOUGH ITS NOT ONLY COOL>>>IT HAS A RANGE OF TEMPERATURE...though the overall feel of it is cool compared to the overall shadow colors)

    you can find these theories put to use in the works of the masters. the answers are there...but also right in front of you. what colors do you see...what colors are coming from the light? what colors are coming from reflective sources?

    the best way to learn this again...is to paint from life...since that is difficult if you cannot..then simply LOOK LOOK LOOK.

    http://209.126.148.88/forums/attachm...tachmentid=195


    j
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    Great post, would anyone like to follow up, or discuss their thoughts on anything manley said.., maybe taking something he said further?
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    something to add to what i said about sunsets colors amplifying the coolness of the shadows...after thinking more...is that the reflect light of the sky is obviously filling the overall shadows with the color that is there. that is when the key light is the warmest (sunrise sunset) and the shadows the coolest due to the amount of reflect/fill light. the question i have is...without the reflect light of the sky..would the sun light be equally as warm as it seems in life?

    from seeing that kind of thing one could surmise that the warmer you wanted to paint a light source that if you throw in some cooler cools that the light will seem all that much more relative.

    how this applies to flesh is directly related to the color in the background of the image...the fill light color coming from the objects and environment. you can thus choose your background colors to help suggest the time of day in the light on your flesh. can you suggest three times of day in the light on the local color of your flesh...if so...how would you do that?

    who was the color theory guy that spoke of color relativity? was that albers? i forget...school...so far away already.


    my ideas arent rules to live by....and not all of them are my ideas.

    I love color stuff....


    j
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    i too love color stuff. jason and i could sit around literally for days discussing color theory...i think j pretty much nailed it on the head. my only comments are that one of my teachers once said to me "you paint with value, not color. if the values read, than it doesnt really matter what colors you use..." this rings very true. i 've used everything from pure cadmium reds and yellows to grays to pthalo blues and greens to paint flesh, and the thing i always come back to is that there are 1 million different scenarios to painting fleshtones, as long as the values read you're all good....i think keeping a limited value range 4-6 main values is helpful in most situations, but in certain lighting situations this wouldn't apply. i work a lot from photos, and a lot from my head,and not as much as i should from life, and i think i have different formulas/approaches fro each.
    ummmmmmm...oh! lighter complected people will usually have warmer highlights, where as darker will have cooler ones... and if i think of anything else i think i use alot i'll throw it in the pot...-c36
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    i was watching discovery channel the other day and they had some kind of shrimp, or some shit that had these crazy eyes that are supposed to be able to "see" more than we can. they have more color receptors or some fucking thing like that. i just felt cheated. stupid fish.
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    I find this discussion of flesh tones stimulating not in a freaky way or anything . But the possiblities are endless. I do agree with some of the things Jason and Elcoro mentioned. There is a common theory that lighter skin people or caucasions skin tones are easier to paint because you can see the colors much better like painting a white egg rather then one dipped in chocolate. The theory has its merits I agree but there are many variables to consider when painting skin tones on dark skinned or light skin people.

    Myself being darker complexion my skin does not pick up alot of highlights yet my friend who is about 75% lighter picks up alot of specular highlights. To add on what has been discussed everyones skin is diffrent people of the world have such a wide variation of skin colors skin thicknesses and translucency. For instance there'a group of people in Africa who's skin is as smoothe as fine marble yet their flesh is rather thick and healthy from many generations of living in that part of the world. Yet there are some people who live say in the Northeastern part of the USA with the same skin tone value but who have lived their for many generations. Their skin has become very weathered and gritty from the brutal winters we sometimes have so their flesh does not have that smoothe sheen found in their counterparts in Africa. So when trying to paint flesh tones especially if your working from your imagination its a good practice to consider these variables. I agree with Elcoro on that your tonal value should be strong but to paint and represent a figure in an environment rather realistically its very very important to look at what goes on in real life.

    The one thing I notice about alot of Artist they tend to paint with to much black and white. Each highlight especially in life will always have color in it..it may be very subtle but it will be there. Another thing to consider where the skin touches it will always be a saturated version of the persons natural complexion. So lets say there is a rather warm colored light source/sun and the sky dome color is blueish purple. The brightest highlight area will pick up that warm light, the fill lights cast shadows will pick up the blues and purples but the deepest shadows and where skin touches skin will probably be warmer and more saturated so you have about 3 main factors that are usually constant throughout the real world ofcourse..reflected light will play a considerable role on the intensity and variations of these (clothing,environment other light sources etc). This is very apparent in the works of the old masters like Anthony Van Dyke and Peter Paul Reubens. I encourage everyone if you havent already to go to your local museum if your fortunate enough to look upon a piece by the old masters do so and study just the flesh tones the other option is to work and see from life. It doesnt matter if your painting a Mona Lisa or an Orc from hell its all the same principles and theories if your aiming for realism.

    Those are my thoughts.

    J.P.

    Oh I almost forgot if you want to see some really awesome skin tones look at one of my Teachers work from SVA.

    http://www.stevenassael.com/assael_paintings.html
    Last edited by TARGETE; April 1st, 2003 at 07:34 AM.
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    very valad points from everyone, I'm going to allow the public to view this now and see if they ahve anymore to add or questions!
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    A couple more points

    One of the first things that I learned about representing skin tones is that the micro-texture of skin causes all kinds of exciting colors. These colors are most effectively represented (IMHO) via a pointalist or impressionist technique, the smaller the bits of color the better. This is why rough pastel work sometimes gives very believable vibrant flesh tones. There are real reds, even neons in there along with a range of blues and yellows. By representing these as pure dots of color and limiting the number of distinct colors, some of the vibrancy of the skin comes through. Another thing to remember is that highlights and cast shadows are going to tend to the opposite direction of the dominant light color. This means that in a warm light, the highlights and shadows will be cooler than the mid-tones. This is necessary to get the wider selection of wavelengths packed in there to indicate the brighter light - the reverse for the shadows.

    As far as a general "formula" for skin tone when colors have to be flatter (e.g. cheap printing or painting small faces), the most common mistake is to leave out green in the formula. When that face just looks too dead or like a mask - try adding a little green in the mix of the mid-tones.
    We don't know what we don't know, that is the beginning and end of it.
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    This thread is really awesome...I saved the sijun one to my hard drive just now too...awesome stuff. What do you guys think about these tutorials?

    http://www.gfxartist.com/features/tutorials/14030

    http://www.gfxartist.com/features/tutorials/14033

    helpful?
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    I got a q for someone- when you're painting from life with oils you can mix 2 colors so that 1 of the colors is dominating, how would you achieve that w/ painter or photoshop?

    I think if you're gonna paint from life a good thing would be to do color charts, like Jason posted in one of the threads here. Once you've done the color charts with your palette then you'll be able to mix the colors you see in life when you're painting. If you're just painting from life but have no idea how to mix the colors you see, I think you wouldn't be absorbing all that you could. Richard Schmid's book has a chapter devoted to color and he stresses the importance of the charts if you're gonna paint from life. So if you're painting the figure from life but mixing the wrong colors then I think the point would be missed.
    Last edited by Lev_0; April 8th, 2003 at 06:09 PM.
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    Great thread. LevO> I love your point. Can someone please direct me to that chart you speak of. I am currently painting from the model at school and I'm kind of having a hard time with it. For one, I have never taken color theory or any other class involving color, therefore I'm a newb. So, when I'm painting in class, I'm totally blowing it, cuz I'm just guessing as to what color to put down. I get confused and frustrated.

    If anyone could please take a look at my very first oil sketches here. I would highly appreciate it.

    Another small question. The back cover of Spectrum 9 has amazing skin tones. How does one go about adding those blues into the flesh?

    Another perfect example is norman rockwells pieces. I mean sometimes I look at his skin tones and it just.... boggles my mind, how he adds those blues and oranges without screwing it all up.

    Anyways, I hope I got my point across, and I thank anyone in advance to any help they can give me. I thank those that have posted already. This has been a great help.

    I must bookmark this!

    O
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    "Get reference.
    There is nothing wrong with using a photo to help you see things.
    No one complains about life drawing,
    so take a photo.
    its easy, and will improve your piece greatly."
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    I tried finding it but no luck. I'll try and looking again soon. Jason's post had 4 or 5 colors in mind, in Alla Prima, Schmid uses 11 colors, so there were 12 charts, each 8 X 15 inches canvases. Each color's mixed with every other color so you see what your current palette is capable of. First chart is each color alone mixed down to 5 values with white. Then the next chart is Each color mixed with every other color, then each taken down 5 values. I can post a more detailed explanation if you're planning on doing them. It took schmid 2 weeks to complete, at that rate I'd guess he did about 1 a day (my first one took me a day and that was only each color mixed with white, gonna be more difficult to mix with other colors first). I went out of my way to get all the colors schmid uses but I think even if you used a limited palette the exercise would be useful. Wish I could help you out with your paintings but my paintings don't look much better hehe. My paintings also don't have the correct colors, mostly because I have no idea how to mix what I'm seeing.
    Last edited by Lev_0; April 10th, 2003 at 03:35 AM.
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