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How to paint realistic skin in watercolour

I’ve often been asked if my realistic watercolour technique can be applied to painting people too.

The answer is a definite YES, and in this video I show how I built up the realistic looking skin tones to this hand.

It’s pretty surprising just how wide the tonal, or value, range is within skin so it really pays to use a gradual, layering method:

Why not give it a go yourself and if you do, please let me know how you get on in the comments below!

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32 Comments

  1. Penelope Carter on June 22, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Anna,
    Wonderful video and very helpful. I have a question. I’d love to know how to get, or where to get an easel like the great one you use in your videos.
    Thank you and I think your illustrations are the best!

    Penelope Carter
    Bishop, CA USA

  2. Darcy on June 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    This is wonderful, please consider doing more skin tones and faces. A book of face tutorials covering different skin tones ( Caucasian through to African and ages from children through to the elderly would be amazing. Your methods and tutorials are so clear and well thought out that a book of faces would be an instant hit.

  3. Amita on June 22, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Wow! So impressive! I am so afraid to try for fear of failure..

    • Anna Mason on June 22, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Oh no, don’t be scared Amita, try it out in a sketchbook first just for fun!

  4. Lynn Murray on June 22, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Just found you a couple of weeks ago. I ordered your book and am reading it through before I try anything. Love your style of teaching and explaining things. I’m hooked!

    I started out with oils, and acrylics. Tried color pencils, pastels, and I am in love with watercolors!

    Blessings to you.

    • Anna Mason on June 23, 2017 at 11:13 am

      Thanks Lynn, I hope you really enjoy painting in this style!

  5. Silvia Sunesen on June 22, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Hi Anna
    I too would like to see you expand into portraits. Amazing how your technique lends itself to the hand study. Thank you for this video

  6. Sandra E on June 22, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, like the artist commenting above, I would love to see you paint portraits too. Inspired 🙂

  7. Елена Романова on June 22, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Анна! Большое спасибо за интересные уроки!

  8. Patricia Annoot on June 22, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Hi Anna, I would like to paint an elder person that just passed away, and I would like to do it in in watercolor. I have been asked by a group of people to have it displayed at a senior center. I have used graphite, charcoal but I beleive it would make the lady look to old. What is your thought?

    Patricia

    • Anna Mason on June 23, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Hmm, I don’t see why it should – and you could always use a little artistic licence with the wrinkles – or ask for a photo of the person when they were younger and work from that. I think it’s always quite nice when someone has passed to remember them in their prime too.

  9. Jenny on June 23, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Thank you Anna that was agreat video, very inspirational. Jenny

  10. Carol McLean-Carr on June 23, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Hi Anna, I always enjoy watching your painting demos ( we never stop learning) and though I have been painting for 40 odd years, ( water-colour, oils and acrylics) I would have liked to have seen you mix some blues, maroons and purples in with your shadow colours as a foil for your orange and yellow high-light mixes. I find the blues in the three colour I have mentioned make the browns ochres and oranges more “alive” and realistic since skin shadow areas are often effected by blues from the veins. Mary Whyte’s portraits of people display this skill fantastically. (See “Lovers” as an example at http://www.artistdaily.com/blogs/the-artists-life/a-moment-with-mary-whyte . This is by no means a criticism of your lovely work and skill. Just a sharing.

    • Joy on June 23, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      But his hand was excellently done! People have different tonal qualities. I find when I start mixing blues in that it takes more of a Monet look than realistic.

  11. Loretta Copeman on June 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Anna. You are an excellent teacher with clear and precise direction for method and techniques. It is you that I give my thanks to, in becoming a better artist. Looking forward to all your future demonstrations. Absolutely love your attention to detail within your art. BRAVO!

    Congratulations on the birth of your child as well.

    • Anna Mason on June 28, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Thank you Loretta! Best of luck with your paintings.

  12. Ruhi Kulez on June 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Anna,
    I am a Turkish amateur painter. I like your videos very much but you are talking very fast so I have trouble to tracking and understanding. This is because it is not my native language. Can you talk a little slower or write on the video what you say? With my very best wishes.

  13. Elizabeth on June 23, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Anna, Amanzing like allways. …
    I love the technique of light skin, I love to see you do faces since it’s so challenging.
    You make all drawings since so easy…
    We Belive you are One of a kind Artist …
    You don’t stop Surprinsing us with your Talent ….
    Thank You Anna.
    Greetings from Florida USA.

    • Anna Mason on June 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      What a lovely comment, thank you Elizabeth!

  14. Val on June 23, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Hi there Anna. I just love the wee easel you are using in this video! Do you sell them? If not where could I purchase one. It seems just the right size…..not too big! Some easels take up way too much room for my small space.
    Any help finding one would be most appreciated!
    Thanks so much in advance of a reply!!!

    Val Davison

  15. Maysoon Aldoori on June 26, 2017 at 5:11 am

    Hi Anna
    Another great video with excellent tips and demonstration of skills. I shall certainly have a go and will let you know how I get on.

  16. maxine r perry on June 26, 2017 at 6:36 am

    Anna: attempted to do my own hand in your challenge. As I am of brown hue this was my 1st attempt and my hand painting an item. will try it more times to get better.

  17. kate carter on July 15, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    really enjoyed your videos, thank you so much for putting yor information on line. from kate carter .

  18. Lila on July 26, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Hi! I have trouble with the paper breaking down easily from working layers and water. I am not using the paper you recommend though, it is a cold press, 140lb/300gm, as it was on hand, purchased earlier. Oops, I fear I’m just giving myself frustration with it. Am I correct, it is lousy paper for this technique? At first I thought I had a heavy hand in my own style before finding your site/trying your videos. Thanks.

    • Anna Mason on July 27, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I definitely recommend hot pressed (smooth) paper that’s 100% cotton and 140/300 thick. Give that a go and see if it helps you Lila

  19. Mona on August 12, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Hello
    I am from Iran and I decided to take apart in your online class , but your brushes aren’t in my country, please tell me alternative ones.
    Thanks.

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