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Mixing Skin Colors in Polymer Clay

Originally appeared in "Polymer Cafe" Winter 2007/2008

polymer clay skin tones

Figure 1

The task of representing the human skin tone has challenged artists for as long as time. An Artist's creativity does not always mesh with someone else's idea of how flesh appears. So what you find in the store as “Flesh” or 'Skin Tone” may not agree with your artistic sensibilities. Using mass produced skin tones can be limiting at best. But, with a little doctoring of the straight-from-the-package colors you can make your own. I'll show you how to use basic color theory to create a never ending possibilities of skin colors from standard polymer clay brand colors.

The Basic Colors

Start by mixing the Base Colors of skin as shown in the lines of faces at the top of the page. This will give you a foundation to expand.

Note: Due to the nature of monitor and printing processes, your colors may appear different from those intended.

Base Color Recipes of the 'Skin Tone Rainbow' (left to right)

Refer to the Figure 2 photo caption for color bar for clay color and brand names.

Face #1 Super Sculpey

Face #2 1 part Blue 5562 +2 parts Red 5382 +16 parts Yellow 5572

Face #3 1 part Blue 5562 + 4 parts Red 5382 +16 parts Yellow 5072

Face #4 1 part Blue 5063 + 4 parts Red 5382 + 8 parts Yellow 5572

Face #5 1 part Blue 5063 + 2 parts Red 5382 +16 parts Yellow 5072

Face #6 Sculpey III Hazelnut 1657

polymer clay color

Figure 2 The colors of clay (as they come from the package) used in the color bar above from left to right. Sculpey III White 003, Sculpey III Translucent 010, Super Sculpey, Promo Zinc Yellow 5072, Promo Cadmium Yellow Hue 5572, Promo Cadmium Red 5382, Promo Cobalt Blue 5063 Promo Ultramarine Blue 5562, and Sculpey III Hazelnut 1657

A good place to start mixing your skin color is to begin by using just Super Sculpey, mixed with a bit of white clay for variation as shown in Figure 3.

polymer clay skin tone 3 Figure 3 (Left) 1 part white + 4 parts Super Sculpey (Right) 1 part White + 8 parts Super Sculpey

By using the Base Colors you can alter them again to make a variety of shades.

polymer clay skin tone 4

Figure 4 The samples shown above are made up of 1 part of each 'Base Color' from Figure 1, Faces #2-6) mixed with 2 parts Sculpey III White

polymerclayskintones4

Figure 5 The samples above are made up of 1 part of each 'Base Color' #2 through #6 with 4 parts Super Sculpey

polymerclayskintones6

Figure 6 The samples above are made up of 1 part of each 'Base Color' #2 through #6 +4 part White +1 parts Super Sculpey +4 parts Translucent Sculpey III

Skin Color Mixing Tips

  • Mix well to avoid streaking. If in doubt of the colors you would like to use for a flesh tone, be sure to mix a small amount rather than a large quantity.

  • Working from dark to light is easier. You can always lighten up a batch by adding either Super Sculpey, translucent or white to lighten and/or make the mixture more transparent.

  • Make mistakes work for you. Some colors are not traditionally thought of as flesh tones, but could work wonderful for a fantasy project. Experiment and have fun!

  • If you test new color blends, mix a small amount, then cure according to the manufacturer's directions. This gives you the most accurate example of the end results.

*All images and words copyright of Diane Dobson-Barton dba as Barton Studio 2002-2011©