Blending Color Correctly
The one important rule of color blending with opaque paints is this:
Only ever paint a darker color in parts of the artwork that are 100% covered by it's lighter friend i.e. only apply a mid-tone in areas that have 100% of the skin tone underneath and only apply the shadow tone in areas that have 100% of the mid-tone underneath.
There are really only three ways to go about airbrushing full color artworks and this tutorial should make it a bit easier for you to decide which way you're going to tackle yours.
You could airbrush an entire artwork using either;
- All opaque colors, typically building the artwork from the lightest color - getting darker and darker.
- All transparent colors (also referred to as translucents), typically building the artwork from the darkest color - getting lighter and lighter.
- Using a combination of both opaques and transparent paints to get the best of both worlds!
The use of the above methods comes down to a matter of choice, however Airbrush Tutor strongly encourages the use of both transparents and opaques.
Using straight opaques simplifies an artwork as it is a more beginner friendly approach to an airbrush artwork as the colors allow some room for error. If you go too dark or too far with your top layers you can simply cover it with the base color. however straight opaques will never give you as bright a result as what transparents will, thanks to our little friends pigments.
Using straight transparents is a very advanced way of approaching an artwork and perhaps the most difficult for achieving a realistic result. The more color you add the darker the bottom layer becomes, each layer darkens the layer before.
To pull off a transparent only artwork is challenging and requires great control, but can give some extremely vibrant results!
A combination of both of these methods is the best compromise.
This gives you a little more control and a bit more room for error, while still being able to achieve very vibrant results.
Using opaques to build up the base of an artwork means that you have full control over the colors you are applying with some room for error. Even if you haven't color matched your colors or if you'd like to add a bit more hue or vibrance, you can do this by adding transparent colors on top of the opaque base, brightening/ darkening or shifting your colors.
Color shifting is when you apply a translucent over the top of another color, altering it.
Okay - so we know how to airbrush a blend, but how does one blend colors correctly?
As mentioned, the best method to build an artwork in general is to begin by using opaque paints. So say for example we are painting a face and we have mixed three different colors of skin tone - a base color, a mid-tone and a shadow-tone. Start by first laying down your base color or skin tone.
This would typically cover 85%-90% of the face leaving partial white only where the soft highlights of the portrait may be. This is your first layer complete. Try to get this stage as accurate as possible but don't be worried if it's not.
Focus that worry on your mid-tone.
With your mid-tone close attention should be paid as to where you need to apply this color and where it is required to be 100%. In my experience, beginners tend to go too dark too soon with a mid-tone, so focus on building up your darkest parts and blend your colors out from there.
- How long is the blend?
- Where does it stop?
- Am I blending over an area which has 100% of the base color (or next lightest color) underneath?
Take your time and constantly ask yourself these three questions.
This picture shows the shift in color when a translucent is applied over the top of an opaque base. Notice the heightened brightness and the shift towards yellow as a straight yellow transparent was used on the bottom half of the picture.
If you paint over an area that doesn't have 100% of it's lighter color underneath then you will get a noticeably 'dirtier' result. The darker your colors become, the dirtier they appear over white. Keep this in mind when blending colors.
Make extra effort to color match your three colors.
This limits the need for translucents at the end of the artwork and hence means a less risky approach to airbrushing an artwork. It also means that your colors will have the potential to blend nicely.
Use the following picture as a reference as to a typical skin-tone, mid-tone and shadow-tone. These colors look as though they are 'spaced' evenly and each color will sit on top of the next nicely - this is mainly because the mid-tone is living up to it's name - it provides a bridge between the shadow-tone and base color (skin-tone) and appears to be an even mix of both.
Mix your colors accurately.
Only paint a darker color over an area which has 100% of it's lighter color underneath.
Blend your colors out smoothly by asking yourself beforehand how far they need to extend and how dark they should be.
Airbrush Video Tutorial:
How to Blend Skin Tones!
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