Color Study: African-American Skin Tones

My friend Laetitia, who owns Scrappy Chic Boutique in Decatur, Georgia, sent me a note late last night that she was having trouble coloring skin tones.  In particular she said,

"my person looks jacked up. The caucasians look fine its the blacks that are a hot mess. Any tips you could offer??????".

So I decided to put together a color study.  This is something that I typically add to my sketchbook so that I can see at a glance how colors work together in the Copic Spectrum.

Working with the (E)arthtone colors, I started first with the Natural Blending Groups, and a combination of three colors for a simple blend. These are represented in the top row.  In this scenario, you have a midtone color (your favorite), with a highlight and a shade.  The Color Family (E) and the first number (Saturation or Amount of Gray) remain the same.  The last digit(s) are where the color is deepened from pale to bold intensity.

  • E11 / E13 / E15
  • E13 / E15 / E17
  • E25 / E27 / E29
  • E35 / E37 / E39

(click picture for a larger image)


Then I started playing with shadows instead on the bottom row.  Here, I increased not only the intensity (last digit) but also a slight decrease in saturation, therefore increasing shadow (or gray) (first digit).

  • E15 / E37 / E59
  • E13 / E25 / E37

Of course skin tones come in so many varieties – and that is why I love the variety of Earthtone colors available to us.  It's also possible to work with the Red, Yellow-Red and Yellow colors depending on what you are trying to achieve.

And I also point students to a favorite post on Marianne Walker's blog, shows some variations across many shades in the Earthtone range.

So hopefully this helps a little with color choices, Laetitia.

Also remember that if you have questions for me, a great place to send them so that everybody can benefit from the answer is:  Submit a question and I will answer it to the best of my ability.  Every now and then I open up live sessions, which are announced on my Facebook page at   This is SO MUCH BETTER than sending me an e-mail.  Like many of you, my Inbox overfloweth.  So take a look and see if there are some questions / answers there that help; and submit some of your own!

OK.  I'm off to Laura's house to color with some new stamps and work on creating some new class concepts.  Just wait till you see the altered-scrappy-inky Copic/Tattered Angels/Prima class that is swimming up in the cerebellum at present.   LOL.

Happy Saturday!

P.S. Stamp image is from Prickley Pear Rubber Stamps.


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