Skintones explained – part 1


Since I started to make garage kits about 2 years ago, my biggest challenge was to achieve a realistic skintone for my dolls. Althougn I can consider myself an experienced modeler, I never had made human figures before, and it was indeed the toughest point for me. Initially I believed that a quick research on Google would reveal a practical and easy method to get this tone, but after a few clicks I noticed that the demonstrated methods wasn’t too helpful.

I have found a few references to the David Fisher method (based on special paints such as Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna, etc), aswel several other formulations that made me feel still more confused. What really bothered me is that at certain point of the articles, the writer always insisted that the ‘final tone adjustment’ should be done by eyeball. Well, the main difficulty on find the convincing skintone is exactly in the inability of the newby on identify this ‘adjustment point’, so, this kind of article doesn’t help too much. Also, I have found several articles whose formulas were done with special colours from Gaia, Creos, etc, what equally doesn’t helps, unless you are user of these brands. What’s the point to have a perfect skintone formula obtained by mixturing two or three special colours from Mr. Color lacquer, if I prefer to use enamels or acrylics?

This way, the very first point was to find a skintone formula based on basic colours, and not special colours. My opinion is that ANY (and I say ANY) special colour is made by the mix of primary colours – black, white, red, yellow and blue – and therefore, I DO NOT need special colours to achieve a skintone or any other specific tone. Beside, starting on primary colours, my formulas will be portable to ANY kind of paint, regardless if you use enamels, oils, lacquer or acrylics!

The second important point was to determine WHAT is the ‘perfect skintone’. Although there are hundreds or thousands of possible variations on skin tones, there is a general consense about what is a convincing skintone for a miniature model. I am referring here, obviously, to a caucasian skintone, not too excessively whity neither tanned. After a few observation, I have noticed that the mostly of colours used for skin painting on models (and I include the ready-to-use colours), normally looks like too orange or too pink for me. The skintone REALLY convincing, will be found in a subtle frontier between the beige and the pink.

The third and last point, comes from the fact that matt paints have its tones dramatically changed after drying. The colour viewed in the jar while you are mixing paints will surelly darken and become less vivid when dry.


After a few tests, I finally found that skintone that I consider the perfect one, in 13 variations that will fit in practically all cases. The best part is that all of the thirteen formulas are based in 4 primary colours:

– White
– Yellow
– Red
– Black

The main advantage on useing only basic colours, is that regardless the fact you prefer to use lacquer, acrylics, oil or enamel, the result will be absolutelly the same. My main advice is that you use colours that look like to be the closer as possible to the primary ones. If you are in doubt regarding to that colours, use the following criteria: yellow should be very alike the one used in the MacDonalds logo and the red should be very alike the one used in a Ferrari sportcar.


In the first 5 formulas, notice that all of them uses the same amount of white, black and yellow. Then you start with 8 drops of red and go adding one drop at a time until reach the total of 12 red drops.

120W – 1B – 4Y – 8R
120W – 1B – 4Y – 9R
120W – 1B – 4Y – 10R
120W – 1B – 4Y – 11R
120W – 1B – 4Y – 12R

In the next 5 formulas, notice that I kept the same formulation of the last entry of previous list, and just added white to make it more clear. The variation is very subtle, and even adding a lot of white will make the mixture to clear slowly (what is good, because it will give you more control over the result). To achieve a still more clear skintone just add MORE white.

150W – 1B – 4Y – 12R
170W – 1B – 4Y – 12R
200W – 1B – 4Y – 12R
240W – 1B – 4Y – 12R
300W – 1B – 4Y – 12R

The next skintone is what I call “tan”, that is for a brunette style skin. Because I am from a country with wonderful beaches and beautiful tanned girls, I am very used to this tone and particularly like it very much, although it is not to be used all the time in all models!

100W – 1B – 8Y – 4R

Finally, the last 2 formulas are for a more peachy skintone. Particularly I do not like too much of this tone because it looks like too pinkish for me, but it definitively works for a few situations, specially in too delicated models such as cute SD ones. Please notice that in these mixtures I DID NOT use black!

120W – 2Y – 1R
150W – 3Y – 2R


I have spent several hours on my tests and decided to share it, so I sincerelly hope that you have enjoyed the article and that these informations be useful for you. In the next article, I will show how to create your own skintone chart, using the formulas here. Good luck!

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