ZenART's Membership Plans Terms & Conditions

(Updates effective 17/08/2020)

These terms and conditions (“Terms and Conditions”) govern the ZenART Supplies Rewards & Referral Plan as well as Subscribe & Save Plan (“Membership Plans”), and members of the programs will earn zen coins in connection with the purchase of qualifying online products and online activities that are redeemable towards the purchase of certain products online. For the re-occurring members (Subscribe & Save Plan) this includes exclusive gifts & content.


  • Free. No purchase is necessary to obtain membership in the Rewards & Referral Program, but you must establish an account at https://shop.zenartsupplies.co/account/register . Please see our privacy policy, located here, to understand how information you provide us will be used. This program is void where prohibited.
  • Eligibility. In order to be eligible for the Rewards & Referral Program, you must create an account as outlined in these Terms and Conditions. You may create an account if you are at least seventeen (17) years of age, have Internet access, and have a valid mailing address. If you are between the ages of 17 and 18, you must have your parent’s permission to register for an account. If you choose to create an account, you are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your account, username and password and for restricting access to your account. You are responsible for keeping such information current, complete, accurate and truthful. You agree to accept responsibility for all activities that occur under your account, username and/or password. You agree to provide only current, complete, accurate and truthful information. If you are accessing and using the Site on someone else’s behalf, you represent that you have the authority to bind that person as the principal to all Terms and Conditions provided herein, and to the extent you do not have such authority you agree to be bound to these Terms and Conditions and to accept liability for harm caused by any wrongful use of the Site or Content resulting from such access or use. You may only have one member account per natural person. Persons who are discovered to have more than one account forfeit their zen coins and will be unsubscribed from the Loyalty Program.
  • How To Enroll in the Rewards & Referral Program. (a) Create an account: Visit www.zenartsupplies.com (the "Site" or "Online") and become a registered user of the Site. Click here to be taken directly to the registration page. You will be asked for your first and last name, your email address, and a password. You will also be given the option to sign up for our newsletter. Once you have submitted the requisite information, you will be sent an email to the address you listed confirming your membership. Once you have confirmed your email address, you are automatically enrolled in the Reward & Referral Program and are a member (“Member”).
  • How to Access/Change Your Member Information. You must keep your personal information on your Account up-to-date. To do so, click on the "My Account" section and access your account by entering your registered email address and current password. From your dashboard you can access your account information; review your current and past orders; change your profile; manage your subscriptions and applications, and access your previous purchases.
  • How to Cancel Your Membership. You may cancel an account at any time. To cancel your account, please send an email to support@zenartsupplies.co and write “cancel membership” in the subject line. The email must come from the account currently listed on our servers as being associated with your Rewards & Referral Program. If you no longer have access to that email address, please email our customer service department and we will verify your status and cancel your account. Upon cancellation, you are no longer a member, and any unused zen coins accrued in your account will be forfeited and cannot be redeemed. Zen coins maintain their value only on valid accounts in good standing, and except as otherwise provided here for redemption, have no cash value outside of their redemption value on the Site.


  • General Members can earn zen coins on the purchase of qualifying online products at zenartsupplies.co. To receive zen coins for your Online purchases, you must be signed into your account. You may check at any time to see if you are signed in to the Site by looking in the upper right-hand corner of the site. Gift cards do not qualify for zen coins. Other products that do not qualify for zen coins are noted on the Site.
  • Earning Rate. Members earn 5 sen coins for every $1.00 spent on qualifying purchases (in other words, one (5) zen coins for every one dollar ($1) spent). Zen coins are based on your order subtotal, after any discounts, only. Zen coins are rounded down to the nearest whole number. For example, if you spend $9.99, you will receive 9 zen coins. The calculation is as follows: $9.99 x 1 zen coins per dollar = 9.99 zen coins, which is rounded down to 9 zen coins. This program started on August 17, 2020, and initial levels were set on the 2020 amount spent on ordering products. Note: Shipping and Taxes are not taken into consideration. If an item is return and/or price adjusted that will also be removed from your rewards calculations.
  • Gift Cards. Gift card purchases are not eligible to receive zen coins. However, once a gift card is redeemed, zen coins will be awarded to the recipient for the subtotal after any gift card values, provided s/he is logged into the account, as outlined in these Terms and Conditions.
  • Addition of Zen Coins to Accounts. Zen Coins will be added to your Account under the following conditions, and will generally show up immediately. You will receive zen coins:
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    • For other activities outlined on the Site that may show up from time to time. Note that for these other activities, including “bonus zen coins” accumulations and other zen coin promotions, zen coins may show as “pending,” depending upon the activity.
    • Joining the Birthday Club. Birthdate must be entered 30 days before your Birthday to qualify.
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    • Referring a friend to ZenART Supplies. Your account will be automatically awarded the discount only if the referral friend used the link sent to them from your referral account and makes a qualifying purchase. Discount will automatically be applied to account if stipulations are met.
  • Exclusions. Members earn zen coins only on the purchase price of: (i) qualifying online products. Calculation of zen coins excludes payment by the Member for shipping charges and all taxes, including without limitation, federal, state, and local taxes or use taxes. Zen Coins will not be earned on any discounts or other credits offered in connection with a product or service. For example, if a product that is normally $50 is on sale for $25, a Member will only earn zen coins on the purchase price of $25. Purchases of gift cards, redemption of vouchers, and any type of price adjustments, including merchandise returns, are not eligible for zen coins. All purchases made: (i) by a Member prior to such member joining the Program, (ii) Online without a Member being logged onto the Website with the Member's Account number linked to the Member's Online account, are not eligible for Reward & Referral Program credit. The purchase of ZenART Supplies products outside the Zenartsupplies.co website are not eligible for the Reward & Referral Program.
  • Returns/Order Cancellations. Zen Coins earned for a purchase that is then the subject of a return, cancellation, refund, declined credit card or gift card, or other credit will be deducted from your account in an amount equal to the zen coins earned for the original transaction, including any bonus zen coins that may be applicable. Any rewards discounts that are applied to the order, will be distributed equally to the applicable items in the order when completing a return. Zen Coins redeemed on an order will not be reapplied back to your rewards account for any reason on a returned order. If a return/cancellation will cause your account to have a negative zen coin balance, you will not begin earning zen coins again until your zen coins balance is returned to zero (0), by making purchases, or engaging in other promotional activities offered from time to time. If an item is exchanged (different product) any redeemed rewards on the initial purchase may be transferred to the exchange one (1) time only. Rewards used on an order that is canceled cannot be reapplied as they are good for just one use.
  • Bonus Zen Coins Promotions. From time to time, ZenART Supplies may run certain bonus zen coin promotions. Under bonus zen coin promotions, Members can earn additional or "bonus zen coins" in connection with the purchase of certain online products. When you purchase these specially marked products or make the purchase during a bonus zen coins time period, you will earn bonus zen coins on each product, as specified in the offer. Bonus zen coin promotions are subject to the terms and conditions of the offer and may be offered at any time in ZenART Supplies sole discretion. Bonus zen coin offers cannot be combined with any other offer.
  • Limitations on Bonus Zen Coins and Zen Coins, Generally. These terms apply to zen coins and bonus zen coins accruals. If you purchase a product during a promotion and the product comes with an additional, free product, zen coins will not be issued on the retail value of the free product. If you redeem zen coins towards the purchase of a product and pay a portion of the retail price after the zen coin's redemption, you will receive zen coins only on the leftover retail amount you pay, and not on any value attributed to the zen coin you used. If you redeem zen coins towards the purchase of a product in an amount equal to the full price of the product, you will not earn any zen coins.
  • Non-purchase Options for Earning Zen Coins. You may also earn additional zen coins on non-purchase activities. From time to time, ZenART Supplies may offer you the chance to win various prizes, and earn zen coins, for entering into promotions. For sweepstakes promotions, there is NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO PLAY OR TO WIN. Rules and restrictions will apply to such promotions and may be found on the entry page of any promotion.
  • Referring a friend to ZenART Supplies. Email a friend an $8 off coupon on $50 order by clicking “ Earn Zen Coins” then “ Refer a Friend”. Enter the email address of a friend who has not purchased with ZenART Supplies before (if your referral has shopped with us before the referral link will be automatically voided by the system). A referral link will be sent to your friend with an $8 off coupon on a $50 order. $8 off coupon on $50 order will automatically be rewarded to your account only if the referral friend used the link sent to them from your referral account and makes a qualifying first-time purchase with ZenART Supplies. Your Referral friend will receive an $8 off coupon on $50 order, 200 zen coins for signing up, and zen coins from their first purchase made while signed into their new ZenART Supplies account.


  • How To Use Your Zen Coins. Zen Coins must be used in increments outlined in these Terms and Conditions. The maximum number of zen coins that may be used in a single transaction is 10,000 zen coins. Zen Coins may only be used Online at the ZenART Supplies website. Zen Coins towards Products: Members can use their zen coins to reduce the purchase price of a product or to receive a product for free based on the following scale:
    • 500 zen coins = $5.00 off
    • 1,000 zen coins = $10.00 off your at least $50 order
    • 1,500 zen coins = $15.00 off your at least $50 order
    • 2,500 zen coins = $25.00 off your at least $50 order

    Zen Coins can only be redeemed in any combination of the zen coin and increment amounts set forth above. Redemption of zen coins towards purchases of products is subject to product availability. Any rewards discounts that are applied to the order, will be distributed equally to the applicable items in the order when completing a return.

  • Gift cards. Once available, zen coins cannot be used towards the purchase of gift cards. Gift card redemption, however, is eligible for zen coins. Zen Coins accrued pursuant to the use of a gift card will benefit the gift card user, provided the user has an account in accordance with these Terms and Conditions.
  • To Redeem your Zen Coins. Before you begin shopping with us, sign in to your Shop account on our site. Select “Redeem Zen Coins” from the red tab housed in the lower left-hand corner of the screen and select the amount of zen coins you would like to redeem. You will be issued a custom code that you can copy and paste into the discount bar during check out (Please note - only one code can be used). Your total payment amount will be discounted by the amount of zen coins you allocate to the purchase. Note that zen coins may only be redeemed for the purchase price of the product. Sales tax, shipping, and other handling charges assessed in addition to the price of the product are your responsibility and zen coins may not be used to discount these additional charges.
  • Exclusions. Only one account per natural person. Only one discount code can be redeemed per transaction. Rewards redemption codes may not be combined with any other discount codes. Zen Coins may not be transferred or gifted at this time. Zen Coins cannot be used on past purchases. Zen Coins accumulated on different accounts by different members may not be combined or aggregated to make purchases of products or for any other reason. Zen Coins earned in a transaction cannot be redeemed in the same transaction. Redeemed zen coins cannot be retroactively applied to any past order or receive a price adjustment on any order where redeemed zen coins were not applied. Zen Coins have no cash value outside of the ZenART Supplies website and are available only to members in good standing.
  • Zen Coins Expiration and Time Lapses. All zen coins acquired, whether standard zen coins or bonus zen coins, shall expire 180 days from the date the zen coins are added to your account. Zen Coins expire 180 days from the date in which they were assigned to your account. Specific onsite activities in which zen coins will be awarded are set to accrue zen coins based on a time-lapse at the discretion of ZenART Supplies.
    • Sign up: zen coins are added to your account instantly
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  • Once zen coins are redeemed, a discount code will be assigned and we are unable to cancel the discount code and reapply the zen coins to your Reward & Referral account. Discount codes generated by redeeming zen coins do not expire until used. They are a one-time use code, so once it is used it is gone. If an order is returned zen coins will not be reinstated.

4. Subscribe & Save Plan

  • Re-occurring purchase. Purchase is necessary in order to participate in this plan. The plan is worth $6.95 and will be charged to your account on the same date of the month that you purchased the plan, i.e. if you purchased the plan on 19th of January, you will be charged for the plan on the 19th of each month you are a Subscribe & Save Plan member.
  • 15% re-occurring discount. As a member of the subscribe & Save Plan, you are eligible for a 15% discount every time you put an order in place. You are qualified for the discount as soon as you purchase the plan.
  • Cancellation. After a purchase made with a Subscribe & Save Plan, you are not able to get a refund for the plan for the month the purchase was valid for but you can cancel for the following months.
  • Free samples & accessories. These are included for members of Subscribe & Save Plan only. These are not included in each order but the member will be informed when they will receive "extras" in their order.
  • Access to exclusive content. Exclusive access to tutorials, guides, tips & tricks in video, pdf, or audio format will be part of the membership program. Not all exclusive content is available but what is and will be available is up to ZenART Supplies sole discretion.


  • By registering with Zenartsupplies.co and joining the Reward & Referral Program, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions set forth in these Terms and Conditions, as well as any other terms that may be associated with the Reward & Referral Program. ZenART Supplies reserves the right to cancel, modify, suspend or restrict the Reward & Referral Program, your account, the redemption of zen coins, or any aspect of the Program, including, without limitation, the zen coin conversion ratio and the zen coin expiration policy at any time. Any changes can be made without advance notice. ZenART Supplies may make these changes even though such changes may affect your ability to use zen coins already accumulated. You are responsible for remaining knowledgeable about the Program Terms and Conditions. A Member's zen coins balance, as reflected in ZenART Supplies records, shall be deemed correct. ZenART Supplies reserves the right to determine the amount of zen coins in any Member's account based on ZenART Supplies' internal records related to such Member's account. In the event of an inconsistency between the amount accrued in a Member's account as stated on any Member's receipt and ZenART Supplies internal records, ZenART Supplies internal records will control. ZenART Supplies assumes no responsibility for errors caused by incorrect Member information. Your right to transfer zen coins earned or granted under the Program is strictly limited. The sale of zen coins is prohibited and may result in the confiscation or cancellation of your zen coins as well as suspension or termination of your membership, which in each case shall be final and conclusive. All transactions involving zen coins and all Member accounts are subject to review and verification by ZenART Supplies. The zen coins balance in a Member's account may be unavailable for use when an account or transaction is under review. ZenART Supplies may revoke any Member's membership in the Reward & Referral Program at any time if such Member engages in abuse of the Reward & Referral Program or fails to follow the terms and conditions of the Program. Fraud or abuse relating to the accrual of zen coins or redemption of rewards may result in revocation of membership in the Program and may affect a Member's eligibility for participation in any other ZenART Supplies program, present or future. Zen Coins are non-transferable and cannot be redeemed for cash. The interpretation and application of the Program's Terms and Conditions are at the sole discretion and determination of ZenART Supplies. For more information or other questions, click on Contact Us.
  • The Terms and Conditions of the loyalty program are subject to change at ZenART Supplies’ sole discretion at any time and without notice to customers. Upon customer’s at-will termination of their Zenartsupplies.com registered account, or if a customer is termination for violation of these Terms and Conditions or other activities in violation of the intent and good faith intended use of this Site, all zen coins will immediately be forfeited and will no longer be redeemable. ZenART Supplies will make reasonable efforts to award zen coins as outlined above to all 1. registered and 2. qualifying Zenartsupplies.co customers but is not responsible for any technical or unforeseen errors that may occur.
  • Zen Coins are nontransferable, nonredeemable for cash, are nonrefundable and are not valid outside of Zenartsupplies.co. Purchases made outside Zenartsupplies.co are not valid for zen coin accrual (this includes, but is not limited to Facebook resell groups, Ebay, and Amazon).
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Oil Painting Skin Tones

Oil Painting Skin Tones

Before delving into the world of figurative painting and skin tones, consider reading up on the very useful Oil Paint Mixing Guide - Understanding The Process article that came out ahead of this. It's chock full of all the basic dos and don'ts that will greatly aid you as you explore deeper into oil color mixing.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: Looking for something in particular? Jump ahead using the links below:

Figurative & Portrait Painting
Colors Used For Skin Tone Mixing
How to Color-Mix Realistic Skin Tones
Some Theory into Practice: Lighting and Fleshtone Spheres
Understanding the Importance of Lighting for Figurative and Portrait Painting: Simulating the Sun
How to Create 3-D Effect in Your Figurative & Portrait Painting: Theory & Visual Practice of Fleshtone Spheres
Relativity in Realistic Painting: Warm and Cool Fleshtones
The Magic of Contrast: Focus on the Halftone in Fleshtones
Using Dead Colors in Figurative and Portrait Painting? Verdaccio and Grisaille Underpainting
Practice: Skin Tone Painting Example

Figurative & Portrait Painting

What is Figurative Art? What is the difference between Figurative and Portrait painting?

Figurative art describes artworks that obviously used objects from the real world as their source of reference, especially but not limited to the human body. Other fairly used subjects are animals, still-lifes, landscapes, seascapes, and architecture. This art term was more commonly used in the advent of Abstract Art, as a form of contrast. Under the umbrella of Figurative Art is Figure Painting, art that specifically depicts the human figure whether nude or clothed. Portrait painting is part of Figurative painting, which focuses on depicting the physical features and character of a person, with the main focus on the face.  Below are just some of the examples of how figure painting has evolved through millennia.

On top: Rock paintings from the Cave of Beasts (Gilf Kebir, Libyan Desert) Estimated to be painted around 7000 years ago. Bottom: Musicians and Dancers on Fresco at Tomb of Nebamun, Thebes c. 1400 BCE.

By Clemens Schmillen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31399425
By "Agyptischer Maler um 1400 v. Chr. - https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/image/226711001, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1462
On the left: "Adam and Eve" by German Renaissance artist Albrecht D"urer (1507). On the right: "Mother and Child" by Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt (1898).
On the left: "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1", or better known as "Whistler's Mother," by James McNeill Whistler (1871).On the right: "Reclining Nude on Blue Cushion" by Amedeo Modigliani (1916).

It's quite fascinating seeing how artists through the ages depicted the human form and what skin tone mixes they created and chose to use. Now, let's see below which colours are usually used to realistically create the much varied skin tones of people from all walks of life across the world. 

How to Make Skin Color With Oil Paint

For Figure and Portrait Painting you can use the following combinations which you can all find in the Portrait Palette of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes, adding blues from other palettes, when necessary. We have also included some mixing recipes for oil painting skin tones after the list of colors:

Portrait Palette paints of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes prepped and mixed on a wooden palette.
  • Zinc-Titanium White - A perfect blend of the "brilliant white" titanium oxide and the less opaque zinc oxide, creating a softer and more transparent white that is great for skin tone mixtures, to avoid the chalky effect.
  • Yellow Ochre - An earthy yellow that has been in use since prehistoric times, it is used in most of the skin color mixes (please see below under Mixing Realistic Skin Tones for some of them).
  • Vermillion - A vivid orangey-red that gives skin tones a more vibrant effect, seemingly making them "more alive." It can also be used to give the skin a rosier complexion, and for the lips as well. 
  • Naphthol Red - A warm, bright red that's beautiful for many skin and lip mixes, giving them more life. Considered to be an optimum choice for a neutral shade of red, a "red red" akin to permanent red. It's also more transparent in comparison to Vermilion, making it highly suitable for glazing and oil color mixing where transparency trumps opacity. It's better suited for painting cooler light or cool face complexions, especially for children and other youthful complexions that usually have fresher, brighter, and cooler (less yellow) tones than older people.
  • Chromium Oxide - A complimentary color to red, it's a toned-down and earthy green that can also be used for landscape painting. It's great for tinting the canvas with a mixture of Chromium Oxide and Titanium White diluted with solvent, or doing a tonal underpainting in greyish-green called Verdaccio, where you mix Chromium Oxide, Raw Umber, and Zinc-Titanium White.
  • Burnt Sienna - A warm, earthy, semi-transparent, reddish brown that mixes quite well with many colors. For a quick basic pale-skin mix, simply add white.
  • Burnt Umber - A strong and dark brown that makes for a useful base color for any subject - it's faster drying time is also a plus, Umbers in general have this useful characteristic. When mixed with white, you can create a mid-toned skin base.
  • Raw Umber - A cool, natural earthy brown that's not only very useful for basic dark-skin and shading tone mixes, but it is also effective when used for portrait or figurative underpainting.

Other colors that aren't in the Portrait Palette set but are useful to have around just in case:

  • Blues: like Cobalt blue and Cerulean blue - For any blues that are present in the painting  such as the eyes, clothing, background, and other details. 
  • And Alizarin Crimson - A deep, cool red with a bluish undertone that's very useful for creating cooler skin tones, and is just superb for oil color mixing.

Oil Painting Skin Tones Tutorial

A juxtaposition of different skin tone mixtures with four base colors used and labeled at the fringes of the circle. Oil paints used are from the Portrait Palette of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes.

Learning how to make skin tone oil paint can be tricky. But don't worry! In this example, having less options is better. Here you will see that even using just four colors (Zinc-Titanium White, Vermilion, Yellow Ochre and Chromium Oxide from our Portrait Palette) I could create a variety of basic mid-tones, dark tones, warm tones, and pinkish tones for pale skin, mid-toned skin, and dark skin. You can use this as a guide to start off your figure painting, along the way you will find your own ways and preferences to personalize your own favorite oil paint skin tone process.

Skin Tones Art: How to Create Pale Skin Tones

Oil paints used are Burnt Sienna + White, Raw Umber, Vermilion and Naphthol Red from the Portrait Palette plus Cadmium Red Hue and Alizarin Crimson (both from the Essential Palette) of ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes.

For a basic pale skin mix, add some Burnt Sienna to White. 

  • For darker tones, you can add varying amounts of Raw Umber to create the changing values. 
  • Add the tiniest amounts of Naphthol Red, Vermillion or Alizarin Crimson to the basic pale skin mix to bring about rosier complexions and lip tones. Remember, it's much easier to slowly build up towards the colour you're trying to achieve than mixing in too much at once and end up not using it.

Basic recipes for the Mid-toned skin color-mixing

Oil paints used are Burnt Umber + Zinc-Titanium White, Yellow Ochre and Vermilion from the Portrait Palette of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes.

Burnt Umber mixed with White creates a basic mid-tone skin color. 

  • For a warm mid-toned skin, add some Yellow Ochre to the Burnt Umber and White mixture.
  • For an even warmer and rosier variation of the mid-tone skin mix, add a hint of pink by mixing in a dab of Vermillion or Naphthol red. 

Creating color-mixes for the Dark skin

Oil paints used are Raw Umber + Zinc-Titanium White, Vermilion and Naphthol Red from the Portrait Palette of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes.
  • Mix Raw Umber with White for a good dark-tone skin base.
  • Varying amounts of White mixed in can create value variations with lighter tones that are perfect for highlights. 
  • Adding a touch of Naphthol Red or Vermillion to the base tone will provide you with a range of warmer tones. 
  • Dark skin often has more pronounced highlights than pale skin. You can use a mid-tone from your pale skin mix for highlighting dark-skinned subjects.

Oil Painting Skin Tone Shadows : Lighting and Fleshtone Spheres


One simple theory to help you portray exquisitely realistic and compelling fleshtones is by alternately painting between warm and cool colour temperatures. It is a technique that has long been used by painters for centuries and will work across different mediums, the artist's own working process, and with various models. But to even better apply this very useful method, it is best to first understand the essence of traditional lighting to see its effects on oil painting skin tones and how you will go about your oil colour mixing.

Understanding the Importance of Lighting for Figurative and Portrait Painting: Simulating the Sun

Sunlight is the eternally inexhaustible source of light and have been used for thousands of years by artists as their single-sourced lighting to bathe their subjects in light. In contrast to being in a room with several sources of lighting like candlelight, flame-lit devices, lamps, bulbs, and other light fixtures from different points. Using daylight as the main light source also gives a balanced warm color temperature being that it gives you both warm and cool temperatures at the same time. 

Generally, when people see blue, it comes across as cool while red and orange appear warm. Practically every color on your palette can be split into these two color temperatures, from the most subdued of the blues to the fiery warmness of the oranges. For a more in depth discussion on the characteristics of color and color harmony, consider checking out this previously written piece - Oil Painting Mixing Colors - A Guide To Color Harmony

Light also has its own corresponding color temperature called "correlated color temperature" (CCT) that is measured in the Kelvin unit. It is a sort of calculation of how warm or cool a lighting source is, such as a lightbulb which usually measures between 2200 Kelvin degrees and 6500 Kelvin degrees. Light from a fireplace, candlelight, and incandescent bulbs fall under the "warm light sources" table, usually measuring approximately from 1800 to 3000K. On the other hand, cool light sources such as the moonlight, high noon, the northern lights, HID lights, and fluorescent lights measure between 4000 to 10000K. LED lights have both warm and cool color choices to choose from, while sunlight varies depending on the time of the day, the clearness of the sky and air, and other contributing factors. 

The lower the number on the CCT scale is, the warmer the color will be. And the higher it goes on the scale, the cooler it becomes. Now you see how much your choice of lighting will influence how your oil painting skin tones process will go. In the past, painters preferred to use or visualize a light source that is somewhere between the warm and cool scale, ending with a very balanced oil color mixing palette.

Above is an approximation of the CCT with the corresponding Kelvin Scale on the right measured per one thousand and where various lighting sources approximately fall under as indicated on the left side.
Here are three photos of the same subject with lighting variation examples in cool, simulated daylight, and warm light. As you can see, the photo in the middle has the most balanced lighting, giving the subject's skin both warm and cool color temperatures.

How to Create 3-D Effect in Your Figurative & Portrait Painting: Theory & Visual Practice of Fleshtone Spheres

When light touches a three-dimensional object, it creates a shifting value from the highlight into the shadow, revealing discernable areas that mark out the contours of an object such as a sphere. How many zones there are exactly is a matter of debate and your own preference, but for our skin tone painting, let's use the five labeled areas (not counting cast shadow) as shown below for they are the most distinct and significant. Just starting out with these five will already allow you to paint a compelling three-dimensional effect, along the way you can always add other zones as you see fit through your oil color mixing explorations.

Studying a fleshtone sphere under a single-sourced lighting is a great way to understand the light and shadow changes. You can try it yourself using an egg! Experiment with differently colored surfaces to see how it may also affect the deepness of the shadows and the kind of reflected light it gives.

The transition of the light to dark values is the foremost thing you see. Followed by how the local color is affected by the light or shadow, from almost washed out of its color in the highlighted section, to varying degrees of color saturation in the light, halftone, and shadow sections. When painted, the highlight and light areas appear solid in appearance due to the high paint opacity, whereas the halftones and shadows are painted in different levels of transparency to create a convincing deepening shadow effect.  

Another point to keep in mind is the shifting of the color temperature. Using traditional lighting as the source of light, the local color of an object changes and alternates between its warm and cool temperature variations. With the highlight being cool, shifting to warm in the light, back to cool in the halftone, and finally to warm again for the deep shadow. Pay close attention to these ever changing color temperatures as they bear great importance to achieving realistic fleshtones and guide you on your oil color mixing.  

Highlight - the Highlight is the area which the light precisely hits an object on point. At first glance, it will appear as a spot of white.

Light - the Light zone is where the light starts its shift into the shadows, but very gradual at this point as this area is still quite near to the light source and highlight. 

Halftone - the Halftone is the most challenging zone and causes the most confusion. They are neither well-lit like the light areas nor as deeply shadowed as the darkest parts, they are instead the mid-way between those two, the overlapping area that contains the most transitioning play of values between the light and the shadow. Halftones can be narrow such as in a hard edge, where the light quickly changes into shadow. And it can be wide, where the light meets the shadow gradually, usually seen on gently curved forms. 

Shadow - the Shadow is the area next to the halftone with the darker values. Under this is the Deep Shadow - it contains the darkest values but is rarely completely black. Another kind of shadow separate from the form or object's is the Cast Shadow. The form itself - in this case a sphere - blocks the light from hitting another form or a surface, creating a "cast shadow." The darkest shadow is usually found where the edge of the form meets the beginning of the cast shadow, then it gradually grays out as the shadow moves farther away from the object that cast it. 

Besides the four major areas mentioned above, there's another often overlooked zone:

Reflected Light - the light that bounces off on other objects or surfaces in the surrounding area, it can be absorbed in the shadows affecting its tonal value.

Observe how the lightness of the white horizontal surface cast a brighter reflected light on the sphere and how the white wall also reflected light on the cast shadow, making it not as dark as it would have been.
Now with a darker horizontal surface and a darker wall, notice how there is barely any reflected light on the sphere and how much darker the cast shadow is.

Relativity in Realistic Painting: Warm and Cool Fleshtones

It's not uncommon for people to think of fleshtones only in terms of its local color - various shades of pink, peachy pink, brown or black that are all generally considered to be warm. But having the sun as an ever dependable single-source lighting helped us to see beyond that, there are cool color temperatures present too. If you aim to paint realistically, painting only with warm hues may result in a too warm and toasty skin tone that seems to be on fire. Having both warm and cool will help you create more natural and real colors, while playing with the contrast between the two will help your warm complexions come alive just perfectly. Blushing pink cheeks and pinkish skin for example will pop out next to a greenish halftone that's cool. While the warmth of the mid-tone and dark skin will look richer against a bluish or purplish skin tone variant of those colors. Having the cool color versions of the various skin tones both accentuate and help temper the warmth of the local colors. 

"Las Meninas" or "Ladies-In-Waiting" by the Spanish painter and portraitist to the Spanish royal family, Diego Velazquez. This masterpiece is a study in painting the flesh in varying degrees of light, with the Infanta Margaret Theresa as the central figure of the composition bathed in light. While the other figures have decreasing amounts of light touching them.  
Here are cropped sections of the painting for a closer look on the Infanta and her ladies in waiting. Notice how the light illuminates their skin, giving it a luminous effect. Their flushed cheeks are well accented by the cool halftones that Velazquez used, making their skin appear to be real.

The Magic of Contrast: Focus on the Halftone in Fleshtones

Using alternating color temperatures may seem too daunting and mind boggling. Never fear, for starters let's pare it down to its most basic by just concentrating on the cool halftone and how to best achieve the right shades in our oil color mixing..

We focus on the halftone as it is the area that causes the most confusion to budding painters. Highlights are very light and have a lot of white paint mixed in, adding white usually cools down a color, therefore making highlights easy to pinpoint as fairly cool. While the light and deep shadow areas are typically instinctively painted in warm tones since the local color of fleshtones are warm. It is in the cool halftone section that we will zone in for a deeper study. 

The simplest way to render a cool temperature to fleshtones is by adding a bit of blue to the local skin colour of your subject or model. There are other ways but let's stick to this for now. In a fair-skin toned subject, adding a bit of blue makes a greenish halftone. For subjects with a more florid or ruddy skin tone, the halftone comes out purplish. And in darker skin tones, the addition of blue results in a halftone that's a deeper shade of blue. And there are also a skin's undertone, the three traditional ones are: warm, cool, and neutral. "Just add blue," the illustration you see below will help you visualize the amazing potential of each skin tones' halftone and how you can use them for painting in alternating colour temperatures.

"Just add blue" chart with the halftone counterparts.

The more that you practice bringing coolness to your skin tones' halftones, the better you will become at differentiating it against the warmth of the light and deep shadow areas, and the better you will be at oil color mixing for skin tone painting. This will help you explore different techniques such as glazing in thin layers the shadow and deep shadow areas with warm transparent colors (like burnt sienna, burnt umber) to add extra warmth to them and to create an even deeper contrast against the cool areas. Your subjects will have skin tones that are as lifelike as you can make them. 

"The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites." The magic of contrast is perfectly put by the great Carl Jung. To paint realistically or traditionally, we have to pay homage to the essence of it which is the contrast and complements of the various elements and colours. Once you've mastered the warm and cool colour temperatures, not only will you have a convincing painting but a visually stimulating one as well.

Below is a painting by Johannes Vermeer, some parts are labeled for your reference. You can see the play and contrast between the warm and cool color temperatures of the highlight, light, halftone, and shadow. The coolness of the highlight is enhanced by the pinkish warmth of the light, which is then accentuated by the cool halftones, and finally the warmth of the shadowed areas finish this alternating process. The cool halftones around the eyes, mouth, and cheeks give the girl's skin a sense of fragility and luminosity that would otherwise be hard to come by if you just used warm tones overall. This painting is a great example to help guide you in experimenting with skin tone oil paint mixing.

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer.

Using Dead Colors in Figurative and Portrait Painting? Verdaccio and Grisaille Underpainting

Originating from the early Renaissance era, underpainting using the Verdaccio or Grisaille technique is often referred to as painting the "Dead Layer" or "Dead Colours." Dead in the sense that the subject's skin color appears lifeless at this stage. Depending on the proportions of your oil color mixing, Verdaccio may have a grayish, yellowish, or soft greenish-brown color. 

The 'gris' in Grisaille is a French word meaning grey, paintings using this method are usually done in shades of gray or other similarly neutral grayish colors. This can be used as an underpainting or as an artwork in itself, and is great for depicting sculptural and architectural details. 

In the unfinished painting below attributed to Michelangelo, you can clearly see that the verdaccio underpainting method was used and is left yet to be painted over in the two figures - angels - on the left, while Mary has a soft greenish cast over her skin, and the other "finished" figures surrounding her have cool greenish halftones. Many parts of the painting are in the early or mid-stages, it gives us great insight into the painting process of one of the great masters.

"The Madonna and Child with St. John and Angels" or also known as "The Manchester Madonna," an unfinished painting that is attributed to Michelangelo.

A great example of paintings done in grisaille are Jan van Eyck's "The Annunciation Diptych." Below you will see the Archangel Gabriel and Mary both painted in white and shades of gray, against a black background. The masterful painting style used creates the illusion of seeing three-dimensional figures as was intended to mimic stone sculptures, complete with the hexagonal pedestals they stand on and the inscribed stone mouldings that frame them using  trompe l'oeil effects. At the time it was still much cheaper to commission paintings to be painted to look like sculptures than to pay for actual stone sculptures to be made.

"The Annunciation Diptych" by Jan van Eyck showing the Archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will conceive and become Jesus' mother.

Practice: Skin Tone Painting Example

by Kathleen Torre, our Artist Resident and Content Team Member

Below you will see a quick step-by-step progress of one of the ways of painting the skin tone and the oil color mixing example. Each artist has his/her own process which has been developed over time, so don't be afraid to create your own!

Skin tone painting by Kathleen Torre, you can find her on IG @kathleentorre_art. On the left: The colors and basic skin tone mixes prepared. More will be mixed as the painting progresses, and depending on the mixtures needed. On the right: The canvas was underpainted with a warm deep brown and allowed to completely dry before paint sketching the chosen subject. Oil paint was mixed with solvent to create a diluted mixture that is good for sketching and defining the areas with the shadows and deep colors.
On the left: Base skin tone mixture was then painted across the rest of the skin area. On the right: Some parts of the face have already been painted, you can already see the oil color mixing used for the highlight, light, halftone, and shadow.  
Skin tone painting is about 90% done at this point, finer detailing will be done along with the finishing of the hair and background. You can clearly see the warm and cool color temperature differences across the shifting values on the subject's skin. 
Here is a look at how a painter's palette evolves as the skin tone painting and oil color mixing progresses. Starting it out with just the basic premixes (as seen in the first photo of the series above), a lot more mixing will be done while painting. Each artist's eye sees differently, and that will greatly influence how each palette is mixed and what the final palette will look like. The oil paints used in the painting above are all from the Portrait Palette of our ZenART Infinity Series Oil Palettes.
Now it's time for you to practice! It's the key to progress in your creative journey.

I hope all of the things discussed above help you to see those varying fleshtones and color temperatures yourself when studying your model or reference, and be able to successfully translate them in your paintings using whichever techniques that suit your own style. So many budding artists have been too intimidated or discouraged by both the perceived and real complexity of painting wtih flesh tones oil paint to go further, but don't fret, there are always ways of simplifying and breaking them down in more manageable stages to help you understand them better. Just like learning how to ride a bicycle - you start with the training wheels on and as you keep on practicing on it, one day you'll have mustered enough confidence to ride one without them on!

But don't be constrained by these though, they aren't rules that are set in stone, but are instead just there to guide you along the way. At the end of the day, nothing beats experimenting on different mixtures yourself and finding out what works best for you and to find out where your instincts bring you. Even if you don't like what you end up with, that experience will help you keep on trying out new mixtures and techniques, so it's never all for naught!

Here are some of our other articles on oil that might interest you:

Basic Oil Paint Colors - Working With A Limited Palette
Oil Paint Mixing Guide
Rainbow Colors Of The Impressionists
Oil Paint Mixing Colors

We'd love to hear back from you!

What colors do you use for your own skin tone mixing? Do you use the verdaccio or grisaille underpainting technique? If not, are you interested to try it out? What kind of lighting are you drawn to when choosing for your figure painting? Let us know what you think, we'd love to hear back from you. Feel free to leave a comment, and we'll be happy to answer any queries you have. Join our friendly art community Painting Inspiration Daily on Facebook. You can share your art and ideas, watch LIVE tutorials, and be inspired to paint! 

For our next piece, a handy step by step guide on - How To Draw A Basic Portrait. Have a great time on your oil color mixing and painting!


Ardak Kassenova is a London based contemporary artist, co-founder and creative director of ZenART Supplies. Her visual style-contemporary impressionism-share similar aesthetic qualities with those by the French Impressionists. After 20 years of a successful corporate career, becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, and with the continuous development of her practice by taking private lessons from the best artists she could find; Ardak decided it's time to align her life with her true passion, Art. Driven by this passion and her corporate leadership background, she co-founded ZenART.

"My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I've been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums." 

Read more about Ardak Kassenova in this feature. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!

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