Beautiful Skin Tones: Glazing for Variations in Color Temperature

Paul McCormack’s stunning watercolor portraits have been exhibited in NYC galleries and featured on the covers of books and magazines. According to McCormack, one of the keys to creating the beautiful, luminous skin tones in his portraits is to glaze for variations in color temperature. He offers this advice for creating these variations: 

Beyond the local color of the flesh, there are subtle variations of reds, greens, violets and blues. The red areas are the easiest to see, and they are usually found where the flesh is closer to the bone or cartilage as found in the chin, cheekbones and ears. The cooler colors are found in the hollows of the face, most noticeably in the lower half of the face and the hollow of the eye. For these subtle variations in color temperature, make three mixtures: mix Cadmium Red with Rose Madder Genuine for a red, mix a green with Yellow Ochre and Cerulean Blue, and mix a violet with Rose Madder Genuine and Cerulean Blue. Heavily dilute the mixtures and test them on the initial color swatch, then apply them to the face as very light glazes, softening the edges where needed.

Watercolor on 140-lb. (300gsm) cold-pressed paper
20″ x 16″ (51cm x 41cm)

For more tricks and techniques from McCormack and fourteen other award-winning watercolor artists, check out Watercolor Secrets: An Inside Look at the Techniques of Award-Winning Splash Artists.

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