Mother of dragons, skintone step by step

Hello everyone. This guide wants to be a personal way of painting skin with acrylics, so every painter can take it as a reference, but it doesn’t want to be the best way to paint it.

It’s just one of the several ways.


The subject is the mother of the dragons by Kabuki Studio, which was kindly given to me and I enjoyed it really much. It is a very large figure with large parts of skin. She is of course beautiful and you can make her in many different ways.


When I paint, the first thing I do is looking for references. I’ve been studying female figures for a long time and after several attempts I have simplified the procedure a lot.

It is important to understand how human skin reacts under the light, so it’s useful to analyze the colors to be used and their peculiarities.

The first thing I do is reading the piece. Understanding the folds of the body, the various details, the way the body rotates, the muscles, the best parts to bring out. It is very important to have a clear plan, because doing it during painting can slow down a lot the process.

Always remember to work around the volume, like a geometric figure.
Every time I paint a part, I try to find its geometric shape because it helps a lot to understand how to put the lights and midtones. For example, the leg is made up of cylinders and spherical parts.

The light will then fall on the surface not simply from top to bottom, but it will rotate around the leg. And that’s what we’ll work on.


I start with a black primer. I prefer it because the whole procedure will be based on exploiting black with the following colors, also black helps with contrast.

As a primer I usually use black Molotow because it is very opaque and has a fairly matt finish. In general, the other primers are also good, so it depends on the taste of the painter.



Very often painters use mixes for the skin, with pre-made colours. This choice is handy and fast, but I find it not suitable because I don’t know what colours are in the mix. We know that painting the skin requires all the primary colors plus black and white. Even a single drop of color or an incorrect percentage can give problems on the next steps.

My method is based on the linking of colors. In this phase I will use only 3 colors. We need an orange and a very saturated magenta / fuchsia. Here it goes to taste, but generally good coverage is needed to speed up the procedure. Then you will need a yellow sand colour that will turn off the saturation of the other colors so don’t worry if you see the colors too bright.


For this purpose I use a fluo orange, very opaque and I make a grisaille.  I use an airbrush for the first colors because I would waste too much time painting on black with such a bright color. What I do is painting the profile of the leg, leaving the central black part. I do not worry about dilution because we will soften the work in the next stages, so even the color spots are fine because we can paint around and use them to give a more natural look. Just remember human skin is full of flaws.


As a next step, I add a very saturated magenta as a base colour,  gently veiling both the orange and the black part, still leaving areas of shadow.



I have noticed many blacks are actually very dark blue. This effectively allows to exploit this feature with the following colors.

So I will use a sand-yellow color to build the volumes of the leg. Having painted the grisaille each part will vary its color with the addition of yellow. Moreover the yellow sand serves to turn off the colors. Do not use saturated yellow or the color will increase the brightness even more.

The fuchsia is used for the reflected lights, useful for improving the volumes around the body area, the orange will heat up towards the light area and the black will turn green. This is a starting point for working.


As you can see from the photos the green nuance is pleasant to the eye and gives the piece a feeling of authenticity. So I do not add green, I just work on the black to get a green tone.

Certainly this is some kind of emulation, I don’t know how the veins are arranged, I am not an experienced sculptor or artist. What I often see in many pieces is a color a bit too uniform to look realistic, maybe tanned or pale but never much interesting for my taste.

An airbrush layer with Vallejo thinner medium + some water (50% / 50%) is absolutely necessary to stabilize the color and protect it. This is necessary because we are using so many thin veils of color that it would not take much to ruin it and remove everything if we were using a brush.

This must be done at the end of EVERY passage of color.
Do not exaggerate because otherwise it becomes too opaque.


I keep adding glazes of sand yellow to soften the nuances, taking care not to overdo them, especially in hot and cold areas. As you can see, I have not yet used white in the mix, because I will need it later. By comparing the photos, you can see the passage adding more sand color, and then adding a bit of VMC Offwhite (70.820) to Sand Yellow.

This will add light on the upper part without being too strong.



We then reduce the light area, working with almost pure offwhite and adding an optional Titanium white to increase the color brightness.


In case you want to work with an OSL or a more pronounced reflection light, you can take advantage of the saturation of the initial colors, not turning off the tone but increasing it with pure color.


If you notice that you are losing tone, you can work balancing the colours, alternating a mixture with red (I like the model air one, but you can also use an ink) plus offwhite for the warm areas (so basically a light pink tone) and using the yellow sand to turn off the tone if it is too strong. Always remember that the yellow sand tends to tone down the saturation of orange and fuchsia.

You can also add fuchsia and orange on the reflected lights to increase the contrast, as you can see on the profile of the leg.



We  can turn off again the saturation of the color, always with yellow sand and if we want we can add a bit of orange, giving a warmer midtone.


The next passages are free and depend a lot on the taste of the painter. The advice I can give is to always have reference images in order to balance the colors.

Whatever step you want to do always try to consider what colors you used before .

The painting is a continuous changing process, and there are no wrong things if you want to play with colours.

I hope this guide has been useful, especially for those who want to experiment with new things. Thank you for the opportunity and I wish good painting to everyone 🙂




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