How to Mix Skin-Tones with Watercolor

Hi friends! I get asked a lot about mixing skin-tones in watercolor. That is kind of a loaded topic because really there are many ways to do this and also many different shades of skin. The common aspect to all skin tones is that they are neutral shades. Today I will show you my go to skin tone mixes that will yield a variety of tones and also show you how to use a convenience palette such as Jane Davenports Neutral palette. I will also show you how to mix skin tones from her crazy bright palette to illustrate the point that you can use whatever colors you have to make some pretty nice skin tones (but it takes a lot more work to do that from bright colors!)


The above example uses colors from a traditional watercolor palette, I like mixing skin tones best from these colors. The next two examples are using the neutral palette from Jane davenport with many convenience colors:


I don’t know why I made these ladies look so grumpy LOL! And just to prove that you can mix neutrals from any palette I painted the face below with colors from the Jane Davenport Brights palette:


Want to see the color mixing in action? Then watch the video for a free hour and a half long skin tone mixing workshop!


I would like to share my favorite color recipe, you can adjust it as you see fit but it is very versatile!

  • Yellow Ocher (or raw sienna, golden ocher naples yellow deep-any earthy brownish yellow will work)
  • Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber (or whatever rich brown you like, try to find one without black in it if using a mixed pigment)
  • Permanent Rose or Alizerain Crimson (cool red for lighter/cooler skin tones) Cad red, pyroll red, scarlet (warm red for warmer/darker skin tones)
  • Ultramarine blue (this does a bang up job at mixing with brows to make shadows or cool down an area) *Cerulean blue is helpful to mix in to fair cool skin-tones like the example on the bottom right of the first image.

Sometimes you need to add in a green because the blue yellow combo will not give you a nice green, if you do make sure to use it elsewhere, such as mixed with red for a shadow and mixed lightly into the skin color, just remember that red is the opposite so you can use it to tone down any green. Mixing skin-tones will teach you a lot. Not only do you need to learn how to neutralize and balance your colors but also saturation, you need to add water to lighten up a color and omit it for richer darks. It is a wonderful way to develop your skills so I hope you give it a try! Thanks for stopping by and til next time happy crafting!

PS if you found this tutorial helpful please share it with a friend! (Handy sharing buttons below:)


5 Responses

  1. Lovely! Thanks for info!


  2. Thanks for this video!I always have problems with skin tones.
    I started skin tones in a portrait chalk pastel class and tried to cheat using my powder and blush to get my own face lifelike! I have the same kind of skin color your Asian lady has and it’s hard to mix. You tend to use too much yellow ocher.

    I appreciate you offering these videos to us while you are on vacations … I guess you know we are addicted to them and can’t start the day without a “dose of Lindsay”.

    I had to grin when I saw the turquoise pan in your watercolor box looks like you’re scraping it out with a toothbrush …. seems like you need lots of it where you are! The day I see that pan is empty I know you’ll be coming back home …. better take a whole pan with you next time!


    • Of course I meant I tend to use too much yellow ocher …. your color mix was fabulous! Good idea to use cerulean and burnt umber to cool the yellow ochre down a bit.


  3. Hi lindsey,
    I hope u r having an amazing vacation!:)
    I recently purchased the jane davenport set and love them, however I am very very knew to paint and I am having trouble with her cute pigment names. I went to her sight and looked at the info but have no clue what the numbers mean or how to look up what the names of the colors are, please help!!


  4. I found this video so very helpful. I mixed up some skin tones and was amazed at the result. I can see how easy and hard, at the same time, that it can be. I really appreciate all that you do to teach us.


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