Painting Dark African Skin

I have always wondered how to paint very dark African skin tones, which are typical of those people living in the tropic regions of the continent. When Perry miniatures released their plastic Sudanese figures I was very keen to experiment with some painting techniques to represent them.

The problem with painting very dark skin is that in reality almost all of the highlights you would see are reflections of the sky. This can be recreated on canvas (see Perry publication "Go strong into the desert" cover art by Karl Kopinski) but is very hard to replicate in three dimensions. I wanted to try not to just  use a dark brown base, highlighted with lighter brown, which to my eyes doesn't look quite right. 

After doing a bit of reading about how they are created for special effects prosthetics and chatting with Karl I felt I could recreate it in miniature, here is how I did it!

You will need the following paints (these are the ones I used, but any equivalents will be fine). 

Games Workshop: Scorched Brown and Fortress Grey. Devlan Brown and Gryphonne Sepia Wash

Vallejo paint: Black Grey

Step 1:

Over a black undercoat, paint all the skin with black grey.

Step 2:

Mix some of the Black Grey with a little Scorched Brown (you can vary the amount to give a natural variation of skin tones throughout the unit) and paint it only on the raised areas of skin. The chest, shoulders, thighs, knees and shoulders for example. I find just painting the front of the shin and calf muscles works well. Take extra care on the face, trying to leave the recesses dark.

Step 3:

Mix into the previous mix (or mix more of that if it has dried!) a touch of Fortress Grey. Paint only the most raised areas. It works best if you imagine the sun coming down on top of the model and think about where it would naturally shine.. So, only the shoulders , chest, top of the head and face. Paint a small patch on the top of the knee cap. Again, take care with the face, only applying onto the nose, cheeks, brow, lips and chin.

Step 4:

Mix a slightly lighter colour by adding Fortress Grey again and only paint the very highest points of the face, as this is the focal point of the model.  I found the nose and around the eyes the most effective to highlight.

Step 5:

The figure will look a bit grey at the moment, so give all the skin a wash with Gryphonne Sepia. Wait for this to dry completely.

Step 6:

For the last step, Simply paint the skin with Devlan Mud wash, wait for it to dry.. and you're done!

Thats enough to keep you busy with for now... in the mean time I will write an article about how I painted their clothes!

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