Color Theory Tutorial for portrait artists - lessons on using color for portrait art.

Color Tutorial

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Now, here I've introduced a few more colors into these color studies. I use a "main" color (usually a peachy, brown or reddish color, for use in the flesh tones). I can also have a second "main" color, like the subdued blues in the backgrounds. Then there will be an "accent" color. An "accent" color could be the color used in the lips (brighter red) or the blues I used to add some richness to the shadow areas.

An accent color can be a dramatically different color from the main colors (usually a complimentary color) or they can just be a brighter, more intense version of the "main" colors. These accent colors are not used in abundance - that's why they are called "accent" colors! Just a dash here and there.


The color sketch on the left has dark tones - a mid-toned umber brown for the basic skin tone, a paler umber brown for the highlights, a brownish-purple and a cooler purple for the shadow, and background. A reddish-purple is used a little bit in the face's shadow as an "accent."

The portrait in the center has peach for the light areas, reddish-peach for the mid-tones, a reddish brown for the shadows. I used a dusty blue and deeper blue as the background color, and also as the "accent" color. I used it to accent dark spots under the nose, the edge of the lips, and in the darkest shadows of the eyes. I also used a more saturated (brighter) blue as an "accent" in the background.

The portrait on the right is similar to the central portrait, except that it has "warmer" colors. "Warmer" means that there is more of a yellowish-reddish tint in the skin tones and shadows. I used a rich red color for an "accent" in the lips. And I used some squiggles of turquoise as a "accent" in the background. There are also some dashes of blue as accents on the face, in the shadow area, and in the mouth and eyes.

Ooh! I guess it's time for me to pontificate on the concept of warm and cool colors, isn't it? Well, off to the next page...

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