Coloring Skin – the shadow knows…

Coloring skin on stamped images is one of the challenges that many of my students face.  I used to be happy just to:

  • find a marker that approximated the skin tone I was trying to color, and
  • be able to fill in the image without having splotchy areas.

Of course Copic Markers take care of those two problems.  But once you start using them you have such an amazing variety of Earth tone colors to work with, playing in the shadows and shading the skin naturally becomes the next great coloring adventure.

This past week I was at the CHA trade show in Orlando.  Among my duties at the show, I was demonstrating at the Copic booth and had the rare opportunity to spend the day with my mentor, Marianne Walker.  I presented her with this fairy image, Kyra of 'Pretty Pixies', drawn by Valarie Wade and from Faerie Art Song stamps; and asked to see how she would color her.  Marianne opened my mind to using violet, blue and pink in my skin shading and showed me the different looks I could achieve. 


Thanks for the lesson, Marianne!

So here I colored in some images step-by-step to show you what I learned.   I have bumped up the clarity in these images so that you can see the subtle variations in color.  In reality, these look much more blended — but then you wouldn't be able to see what I'd done to achieve the look.

Here are my fairies-in-waiting.  They are waiting for a project to be placed upon and so I have left a small detail un-colored – so that I can match my papers to them.  In this case the small roses are the item I left OPEN for coloring later.

 I colored a blonde…


…and a brunette.


First, I start with a base of E00.  I work in small circles to keep the edges of my coloring wet and achieve a smooth finish.  Remember when achieving this look alone would have sent your spirits soaring?  I do!  Now we can do so much more.


Second, I applied a wide brushstroke of E01 along the curve of her cheek, the hollows around her eyes, top of her nose, back, inside of her arms by the wing, the top of the legs and the inside of her foot.  Just that tiny bit of contrast really starts to bring her to life. 


But as Marianne taught me this week, I was being too timid with my contrast.  The more contrast, the more an image POPS.  So the next step, I apply E13 more narrowly along the same areas with more of a flick feather on the top of the legs.  I also remembered to shadow her neck and around the top of her hairline.  You start to really think about where the shadows fall now.


Ok, I'm happy with the shading, but I really want them to look like shadows.  My thoughts on this particular color scheme is that the fairy is sitting on the slip of the moon, during sunset – so the darkest shadows are reflecting the deep violet and pinks of the setting sun.

And so here comes V95, a midtone, dusky violet.  Obviously has not be blended in yet.  But this will give you the more important idea of placement.


And then I wanted pink, so I chose RV02.  Soft, but enough color to show up against the violet.  I might have used an R81 – but I like this look better. Do you get an idea of how innocent and magical she looks?  Even without the colors blended…


The final blended versions are up at the top of this post. 

Here is a repeat of a card I made a little while back with this image.  While I still like the overall composition of the card — the opportunity to add those shades I've learned about to her skin tones woule really make it shine.  Don't you think?


So don't be afraid to play with violet, pink and blue for your shadows. 

And a quick mention on the wings too.  I used flick feathering to create their translucent appearance.  E01 was flicked downward from the top of the wing.  BV000 was flicked upward from the bottom of the wing.  Then, when I chose to color this moon green, I used a couple flicks of G21 where the wings overlapped the moon so that you were seeing THROUGH the wings. 


You can see some sparkle from the Lavender, Mint and Chocolate SPICA pens here too.  What is a fairy without sparkle?

There are lots of examples in the Faerie Art Song gallery for more inspiration.

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