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Beauty is only skin deep

Discover how to give your fantasy characters realistic skin using Photoshop. John Kearney fleshes some ideas out.

Of all the surfaces an artist can paint, skin is traditionally one of the hardest to get right – and it becomes even trickier when your character is inhuman! Through experience, I have realised that there are no gimmicks, tricks or Photoshop hacks that can be used to make life easier when it comes to painting convincing flesh. I believe the key to improving is investing some time and effort into the subject matter, so that you can gradually train your eye to solve problems without reference. It may be worth doing this in the hope that when the stabilisers come off your bike, you’re able to ride it without falling off.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to help improve your ability to render skin, but it’s less about your painting style and the tools you use, and more about what’s in your mental library. With that in mind, I’d like to share some observations that will help set the tone.
Like most materials, skin colour is relative to the light conditions that are taking place around it. All light illuminating your character’s skin will directly affect its colour and its properties. You can have any colour as skin, still recognisable as such because of its fleshy attributes. Therefore, the
base colour of the skin is only as important as its inherent properties and the surrounding light. What are its properties, I hear you say? It helps to think of the surface in a more complex way, so that you’re thinking a little deeper than just surface colours.

 

From issue 11.

 

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Click here to download the support files (11.91Mb)
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