Painting multicultural skin tones in watercolor

One of the things I really like about “The Story Circle” is painting multicultural skin tones of all the different children.

There are a plethora of kids of all ethnicities, plus the teacher, and the other supporting characters throughout the book. My skill in painting different skin tones in watercolor could be one of the reasons I was chosen to illustrate this book. I do know the editor I’m working with was excited to hire me because of my use of bright and happy colors. She mentioned as much in one of our email correspondences.

This little boy has a medium brown skin tone and dark curly hair. In this short video, you can see I’m working on the form of the fingers. This spread features a trio of goats. I’ve gotten quite good at drawing goats since one of my work-in-progress picture book dummies has goats as the main characters. I like goats.

You’ll notice in the nearly untouched areas, I’ve painted in the shadows first. I did the same thing with the skin tones, but instead of a blue-gray wash, I used a pale green olive wash. Laying in light washes for shadows when painting multicultural skin tones in watercolor helps to give the skin a life-like depth. Skin is translucent in reality, so the light does tend to pick up colors from underneath the topmost layer of skin, pulling colors from the muscles, veins and bones beneath. Especially on the hands and face where there isn’t a lot of musculature underneath it.

Here, I’m painting a white house. You’ll notice the shadows in my first wash are a purplish hue. Painting white is hard because in reality, it tends to pick up the cast light colors from the surrounding area and items. In this case, I also wanted to make sure that the house, which is in the background, didn’t fight visually with the goats in the mid and foreground areas.

painting multicultural skin tones

I added the dark interior color to the house’s windows and began putting in the dark path and its details. I wanted to make sure I didn’t paint the house either too light or too dark. The first pale wash is on one of the goats. See more of the process of this image by visiting my Instagram account.