12. Knowledge : People Painting : Female Face Oil Demo – Part 2

(Continuing from Part 1…)

With the shadow pattern in place, we can now begin the second part of painting our female face….

Where Light Hits!

I feel it’s important to point out that the planes and methods of painting the nuances that create a human face all can be found within the first, Basic Red Ball exercise.  I recommend that you refer to this, as well as the 12 Lights lessons, for clarification, as you proceed with the following demo.

Let’s begin by cleaning my palette and brushes of any shadow residue (I know most of you skip this phase and then wonder why your skin tones aren’t as clean as mine…. You know who you are!)  I then create a skin tone mixture, plus variations, as follows:

  • Main skin tone mixture:  Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange and Juan Brilliant.
  • I mix cooler/darker tones for the first layer by adding Viridian to a puddle of skin tone.
  • I create a warmer, cleaner, lighter puddles, creating several puddles of“hotter, lighter, brighter tones” by adding more of the warm color; i.e., orange, yellow and using Juan Brilliant to brighten.
  • I modify this mixture and create a separate puddle by adding Viridian and/or blue to the mix to modify because (and we’ve already heard this and we’ll hear it again…) “Sameness is boring!”

Let’s see how this works and how these mixtures are applied:  First, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of

“3 bands” of underlying colors across the human face.

I will explain the bands as we paint them:

Light 4,  Local color on ‘Blood Blush Band’:  Applied first layer of skin tone, making it very red for the “Blood blush band”. (There are so many blood vessels between the brows and nose area, that the skin appears redder here.)

Light 4, Local Color on Skull Band: The skull is so close to the surface here, that skin tones appear more yellow, so I add yellow to the mix when laying down the local color for brow area.

Light 4, Local Color on Muzzle Band: Due to excessive hair follicles, (even on the female), and the fact that the the lower part of the face receives less sun, the muzzle band is always cooler. I scantly add blue and green to the skin tone puddles for the muzzle band local color.

Light 5, Higher Lights: Coming up the ladder of heat and light, I create warmer, cleaner, brighter, incrementally smaller planes as they approach the light source. (Think of applying light in “sausage shapes”.)

Light 6, The Image Light: Image of the light source caught upon the shiny reflective surfaces of the eye. (Painted with cool, white splotch with a little blue added.)

Light 7, Shadow Illumination: By carefully, scantily applying the same skin tone mixtures into the appropriate bands, right into the shadow plane (WLDH) mixtures, shadow illumination is created.

Adding layers of illumination in the shadow side. (Take care not to make them as light as the WLH light planes).  Then, using a pure, clean and warm red, I placed a “bridge” between the kingdom of shadow, and the kingdome of light. (Check basic red ball exercise for further explanation)

Just for fun, instead of background color, I have added a headscarf on my imaginary girl to demonstrate the next light….

Light 8, Reflected Color: When brightly colored, well-illuminated objects reflect light into the shadow planes, they may not only send light, but also color. I created reflected color by applying cool, blue colors (the same value as the shadow plane upon which they fell).  (Again, check ’12 lights’ lesson for better explanation of this.) They are too weak to show upon strongly lit planes.

Light 9, Captured Light: Painting the iris. My eyes are grey-blue. I mixed the first layer a dull, grey color and place the ellipse of captured light within the iris, on the opposite side of the image light.

Cleaner, lighter, brighter, much smaller layers of heat/light applied to the blue-grey ellipse for captured light of iris. I have only 2 layers here. This is what creates the transparent effect, so beautiful within eyes.

Choose a hairstyle and think of hair as being at least 1″ higher than the skull ball. Warmer, lighter, cleaner colors toward the light source and darker, cooler, away from light.

When all the planes are ‘set’, add layers with palette-knife to add dimension.

‘Etching’ can also provide interesting textural changes. Here, I’m ‘carving out’ for a silver earring….

Adding a spot of white to represent the image light on earrings

The End! I think I’ll call her “Charlotte”, because I’ve painted her in Charlotte. (I confess, I was having a “bad hair day” so poor Charlotte had to have one too.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed our female face demo and that you’re inspire to ‘have a go!’  I’ve left her a slightly “rougher” than perhaps you might like, mostly so that you can see all the separate elements. 

Painting people is seldom difficult for me these days, but it’s only because I have this knowledge.  Here are some other examples of females I have painted, all from life.  Happy painting!

Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

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