Realistic Skin Painting
For this paint job I used an Iwata HP-C for the whole thing. Well, I actually used three (so I didn't have to clean my airbrush between colours as much), but it's still technically the same airbrush. I used an Iwata HP-BCS to spray the V-Matte and V-Gloss at the end.
The techniques I used to paint this foam skin are the same I would use on slip latex, silicone, fiberglass or any other material. The only difference is that I would change how thin the paints would be due to the absorption of the material I'm painting on. For example, this foam latex absorbs the paints more than if I were painting on silicone or slip latex. So to adjust for that I make the paints a bit thicker when doing the spattering and flecking. These techniques are pretty much the same for any paints, too, whether they be rubber cements, acrylics or silicones.
I'm not going to go into details such as what exact ratios I used (rubber cement to tint to thinner). If you've read any of my previous posts/articles about painting you know that it's hard to say what exactly I do. You just have to play around with it and see what works for you. I will say that I make my paints very opaque and leave them too thick to airbrush. I put these into squeeze bottles and pour out of these into small dental cups. I then thin that little bit down to what I need. If you have opaque paints you can thin them down to make them translucent. Also, if you start with opaques, when you thin them down you'll still have colour going onto the piece but you'll get some of the neat effects that thin airbrush washes and spatters will give you.
The skin I was matching with this paint job is a Chinese man. I made the skin redder than he actually is to compensate for the film stock. As a general rule, most film stocks will "suck" the reds out of things so you need to "pump up" the reds to make it look natural on film (otherwise it can look too gray). Also, the man I was matching has a very smooth textured and coloured skin. Boring actually. I always add "flaws" to any skin I paint (like freckles, red splotches, pimples, etc). Even if they don't have them, it adds realism to the paint job. The eye may not pick these things up on the screen but without them the paint job can look "flat".
These techniques will work with any type of skin you paint. You just have to adjust it to what you're matching. I've painted white, yellow, red, brown and black skin using these techniques. I've just adjusted the colours I've used. For darker skin tones I start with (usually) a more yellow base colour. The dark tones are added when I do the misting of the browns further into the paint job.
This is the chest with a base coat of rubber cement paint.
I put the base coat on with a paint brush, in this case a 2" chip brush. I also made the base coat as thin as I could get it and still get good coverage. A heavy layer of rubber cement will cause wrinkling which is not a good look for skin. We also ran the foam to as close a colour as possible to the colour I was going to use as the base colour so I didn't have to add too much of a base coat. (That was one long run-on sentence!)
I had started to do the purple mottling (the next step) before I remembered to take this pic. So just ignore that.
A soft, purple mottle done over the whole area.
If I got a bit heavy in some area with the mottling I did a spatter of the base colour to soften the purple up.
Next I did a light red mottle over the whole thing.
For both the purple and light red mottle I thinned the rubber cement down a fair bit.
Next I did a spatter of the same purple that I used in the mottle.
I use a thin paint so that it doesn't get too dark.
To spatter I removed both the needle cap and nozzle cap off the end of the airbrush. This leaves the needle and nozzle exposed so be very careful. I then pull the trigger all the way back and depress just a bit to get a tiny bit of air flowing. This will spatter the paint out. The more air you give it the finer the spatter will be.
This technique can take a while to master so practice first on something other than the piece you're painting.
Here's a close up of the purple spatter. The colour of this pic is a bit off from the other pics, but you can see the effect. It's actually a bit harsher than I wanted. I've thinned it out more for subsequent pieces.
Next I did a yellow spatter.
This is where I start to get the general overall tone of the Chinese skin I'm matching.
Now a burnt umber mist to brown it up.
This continues to get the skin tone I want.
Again, realise that the pics don't accurately show the true colours.
Next I did a burnt umber spatter.
Up until this step the paint job looks kind of "flat". The spattering and flecking from here on starts to add depth to the paint job.
This step is also where I build up any freckles the skin may have. I added them to this paint job even though the guy I was matching didn't have any freckles. I also made them a bit heavier on top of the shoulders. The reasoning was that a bodybuilder would be tanner and if you're out in the sun a lot you tend to get more freckles on the top areas of your body (forehead, shoulders, etc).
A close up of the burnt umber spatter.
Next I did a spatter of the base coat. This helped knock back any areas of colour that were too strong. You can bring back some of the lighter undertones of skin that show through, too. It also helps blend everything together and get rid of that "airbrushy" look.
Burnt umber fleck.
Flecking is done with a small cup of thinned down paint that you dip the end of your brush into to pick up just a bit of paint. You then fleck the paint by flicking the bristles against the edge of the cup, pointing towards the piece you're painting.
The paint for this step is usually a bit thicker than what I used for the spattering steps.
I did have a few flecks that came out too heavy (like the one in the centre of the pec on your right). I decided to leave it as I may have made a bigger problem by trying to remove it.
Close up of the burnt umber flecking.
I made the paint for this step thinner than I had it for the burnt umber flecking. I didn't want to add too much of a pimply look to the skin or redden it up too much.
Now add the nipple colour. For this I used two colours.
Once done with all the rubber cement painting I sealed the piece with V-Matte.
Next I added the veins. I used a blue-green acrylic (Badger aribrush paints) thinned way down with a bit of water and a lot of alcohol.
Here's some on the shoulder.
I've read how a lot of you do your veins near the beginning of a paint job. I find that by using a very thin mix I can get the veins to look like they're under the skin and still do them at the end of the paint job.
Here's the veins on the inside of the elbow.
After the veins were done I did a light mist of V-Gloss over the whole piece to bring back some of the shine of real skin. It's a fine line to get it right. Too matte and it looks like a dried piece of meat (or foam). Too shiny and it'll look like plastic. Again, go easy with the gloss. Build it up slowly.
You may notice that the shoulders look redder than the chest. This is because of the shadows caused by the shoulders. It does look like I painted it to look like he always wears tank tops, but it's just shadows.
Also, the actuall piece is browner than it looks in these photos. But I think you get the idea.
If I were painting hands or a face I would use a lot more colour and steps. The colours would mostly be variations of what I've used here with the addition of greens and blues. Hands and faces have a lot more "going on" and people are much more familiar with hands and faces than with other parts of the body as they see them everyday so you have to put in more detail than you might with a chest, legs, etc.