• Carli Christina

Painting Skin Tones with Gouache Paint

Hey everyone, welcome back to another painting tutorial.

If you'd like to see the video, check out this link:

However, as usual, I am providing a written form of the video in case it helps anyone! Let's get started.


I started this painting on very thick watercolor paper and taped it with painting tape onto my deck easel. You don’t have to do this, but I like to have a boarder of blank paper around my paintings. I do this for two reasons:

It looks clean when it is not framed, and I measure it to be the exact size of the picture frame glass so I know where to put my signature, making sure it doesn’t get cropped out when framed.


Use painter’s tape! This blue tape is meant specifically for painting, meaning it isn’t too sticky (doesn’t rip the paper or leave a residue) and it creates a perfect clean line. If you use clear tape or regular masking tape, you will risk the water from the paint leaking through as well as ripping the paper when you peel it off afterwards.


I started off the ivy leaves with two different green colors: one mixed with yellow for a warmer tone and the other mixed with blue for a cooler tone.

I placed the warm green on the leaves that are above the hand where the direct light is going to hit the painting.

After that, I placed the cool green underneath the hand and in the folds of the leaves to give the illusion of shade.


This phase is always scary when it comes to skin tones because it looks like a muddy mess when you first start.

Skin is made up of a lot of colors. Think about the colors of our structure:

1. Blood vessels – red

2. Veins – blue, green or purple

3. The actual color of the skin – too many to list

4. The undertone of the skin – each skin color can shift and look completely different depending on the undertone of someone’s skin

– and much more. Because of all of these factors, lots of different shades have to be used.

I started by adding a peachy color to the well-lit areas of the hand, then layering more red/orange and white in the places that reflect light. I added a green/beige color to the areas that are about to shift into a shadow. For the shadows themselves, I used a navy blue color.


This looks muddy but trust me when I say that as you continue to examine your reference and begin blending in more colors that you see as you go, it will get better!


Using more black, white and beige (the basic general skin color used from the photo reference I personally used) I blended out those undertones with a small detailing brush. This allows for smoother gradients in the gouache.


I used a similar process described in PHASE 3, but since it was leaves I was painting there weren’t nearly as many colors involved. I basically when back in over the base color I painted with light and darker shades of the cool green and the warm green to add more depth and detail to the folds in the leaves. On the highest points, I added more white paint to give a glossy look.


Carefully paint in the vines with green. Don’t press too hard on the brush, it will make the line fatter. Try to keep even pressure throughout this part to create a more uniform line. You may have to clean up the edges of these lines later with the color of the background.

I then added white and black to the vines and gently blended them in with the tiniest brush I own. This gave them much more dimension.


After mixing together some black and blue, I went in and did a gentle sweep of color in the areas I know will generally have a shadow. After doing that, I took black paint and placed it where I know there will be immediate and direct shadows– right underneath the leaves for example.

Once the black paint is in the correct spot, I began blending the edges outwards to give the illusion of a shadow being cast.


For the butterfly, I started with a light blue base. I outlined the wings with a darker purple/blue, blended it out where the wings have a shadow on them, then got a lighter green color to place where the direct light is reflecting off of the wings. I used this same color, just muted down, on the other side of the wings to give the effect of light going through the thin wings.

I finished that with some white lines to show the ripples in the wings and some black paint to create the wing markings.


Finishing touches were added, such as:

1. Bright highlights

2. Enhanced shadows

3. Fine details to take the painting a little further.

And here is the final product:

To see the product in my shop, click here.

I hope this tutorial was helpful! Thank you for your time and I will see you soon! Bye.

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