How to Paint Everything: Human Skin

People come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and the warriors of the Mortal Realms/41st millennium are no different. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of human skin in a variety of different shades, including the principles behind color and different techniques for giving flesh to your tabletop warriors. Note that in this article, we’re only covering regular, bog standard human skin, and any races that have similar skin, such as Aelves, Aeldari, Dwarves, Squats, Scrunts, and whatever else. If you are a transhuman/magic space elf/extragalactic existential horror you can do pretty much whatever you want, but rest assured that we’ll be covering more fantastical races in future installments of How to Paint Everything.

Why bother?

I will be frank, if your aim is to paint a 200-model Imperial Guard army, then whether or not you’ve painstakingly dotted all the pupils or given them simulated stubble will matter not one whit. Spray Wraithbone, slap on Contrast, call it a day. From a distance and en-masse, the subtleties of the techniques elaborated here are lost and a meticulously painted and shaded 28mm face at 4 feet is little different to a 2 second Contrast job. Though even for quicker jobs that need to be replicated at scale, there are some things to keep in mind about painting different skin tones, which can help if you want an easy way to add variety to a large army made of warriors from varied backgrounds.

Where skin painting skills really shine through when your miniature is going to be viewed at close range – in photographs, display cases, competitions or eBay. In these instances, a well executed face acts as a fantastic focal point as the human eye will naturally gravitate towards it. Conversely, doing a subpar job on a miniature’s face has the potential to drag the rest of the paintjob down since it’s the one place everyone will focus on.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

A Quick Science Lesson

Contrary to what many pots of paint would have you believe, there is no single “skin tone”. The reason for this is because human skin is a complex, multilayered structure and derives its colour as a sum of its components, much of which is constantly in flux in life. Skin is translucent and “skin colour” is largely a combination of the colours present within the skin – the pigment melanin, red of blood and yellow of fat. If you have had the misfortune of seeing a corpse, then you can observe the sallow cast that develops – the loss of blood from the skin on death leads to a loss of ‘red’, leaving the melanin and fat behind.

As a result there are significant colour and textural variations present in everyone’s skin – this is more prominent among those with darker skin, but even the palest basement-dwelling goons will still have a degree of variation. The palms and soles tend to be lighter, as do the covered parts of the torso. Pale skinned people develop freckles while darker individuals have a tendency to develop lumpy keloid scars etc.

Melanin is the primary pigment that gives skin its colour, and it comes in two varieties – yellow-orange phaeomelanin and brown-black eumelanin. How “white” or “black” someone appears is dependent on the ratio of these two pigments within the skin. The darker pigment (much like dark paint) is also more opaque and obscures the contributions of the other skin components. Someone with ‘Type I’ skin for example, has ginger/blonde hair, blue or pale green eyes and very pale, almost white skin. This is due to almost complete dominance of phaeomelanin. The tiny underlying blood vessels within the skin give it a pink glow. As one’s skin becomes darker, the colour shifts from a pale orangey-pink to a yellow/olive intermediate before progressing into a dark, warm brown. A point to note is that even the darkest skinned individuals have blood, so their skin will always tend to have a warm, reddish cast. Functionally, this means that highlights should be constructed with increasing levels of both yellow and red. Using a cool highlight tone (green/blue) can give an unnatural appearance and should be avoided unless a specific effect is called for (I.e. Salamander ‘black’ skin, OSL). Conversely, albinos have a total lack of any melanin, and they actually look white or pink depending on blood supply, with white hair and red eyes.

The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale provides a crude but effective way of quantifying the colour of an individual’s skin (strictly speaking the response to UV radiation), with I being the lightest and VI being the darkest. In essence:

  1. Ginger/blonde hair, blue/green eyes, very pale skin – Irish/Nordics.
  2. Mousy/brown hair, fair skin – typical Anglo-Saxon
  3. Dark hair, dark eyes. Darker skin tending to olive – Mediterraneans, pale East Asians, Latinos
  4. Dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin. Big variation here as you get the more yellowish East Asian skin with the more brownish-yellow skin of Mediterraneans and Latinos also fall within this group.
  5. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark (but not black) skin. Most South-East Asians, Polynesians, North Indians, Middle-Easterners will fall here.
  6. Black skin – Black Africans and Southern Indians.

These principles can be extended to our favourite fantasy races:

Orks can have green skin and bleed red because the green pigment in their skin would absorb the red, leaving none to reflect off the underlying vasculature.

Tau (at some point in the fluff anyway) have blue copper-based blood, and are hence various shades of blue.


ZIVth’s Scientific Approach

So how does the above relate to painting our little toy mans? I lack a background in art, so my technique relates very much to my understanding of skin biology. The effect is more generically ‘realistic’ but it doesn’t necessarily give the wilder tonal variations and punch that a more artistic approach can provide. See Felime’s bits for that.

In general, I divide my colours into the reds, yellows and browns. This is my skin palette (from light to dark):

Key: VMC = Vallejo Model Colour. Citadel colours are named as-is.

Reds VMC Salmon Rose, VMC Rose Brown
Yellows Citadel Wraithbone, VMC Deck Tan, VMC Dark Sand, VMC Light Flesh, VMC Basic Skintone, Citadel Kislev Flesh, VMC Medium Fleshtone
Browns VMC Burnt Umber, VMC German Camo Black Brown
Spot Colours VMC Medium olive, VMC Burnt Red, VMC Red
Washes Seraphim Sepia, Reikland Fleshshade, Gulliman Flesh, Carroburg Crimson, Drakenhof Nightshade, Volupus Pink

Paint Recipes

General Principles

Using the Fitzpatrick Skin Type scale above, there are different paint combinations I use for mixing each type:

  • Type I-II: Reds + Yellows
  • Type III-IV: Dark Reds + Yellows
  • Type IV-V: Yellows + Browns
  • Type VI: Browns -> Highlight with lighter brown and addition of yellow or red

Green can be added in tiny amounts to desaturate the colour mix if it becomes too bright, counteracting the reds.

Correct the tones to taste with washes:

  • Seraphim Sepia makes things yellow – beware of overdoing this lest your skin take on a jaundiced look.
  • Reikland/Gulliman/Carroburg adds various degrees of red and generally richens the tone

The various components of these recipes can be mixed and matched to adjust the final tones. As long as you swap tones within the same general categories, you can develop many interesting variations. If broad swathes of skin are being painted on a figure, applying a degree of variation to the tones (by swapping the components around) in the skin will give the skin a more realistic appearance..

Examples of This (1)

Basecoat: Wraithbone

From Left to Right

Type I (Irish)

  1. Basecoat: Salmon rose + Light Flesh + Medium olive (1:1:Trace)
  2. Shade: Reikland Fleshade + Carroburg Crimson + Lahmian Medium (1:1:1)
  3. Highlight #1: Salmon rose + Light Flesh + Medium olive (1:2:Trace)
  4. Highlight #2: Light flesh
  5. Highlight #3: Light flesh + Wraithbone (1:1)

Type II (Caucasian)

  1. Base and Shade: Gulliman flesh
  2. Highlight #1: Kislev Flesh + Salmon Rose (1:1)
  3. Highlight #2: Kislev Flesh + Salmon Rose + Light Flesh (1:1:1)
  4. Highlight #3: Salmon Rose + Medium olive (1:Trace)
  5. Highlight #4: Salmon Rose + Wraithbone (1:1)

Type IV (South-East Asian)

  1. Base: Medium Fleshtone + Rose brown + Medium olive (1:1:Trace)
  2. Shade: Reikland Fleshshade + Seraphim Sepia (1:1)
  3. Highlight #1: Medium Fleshtone + Dark Sand (2:1)
  4. Highlight #2: Medium Fleshtone + Dark Sand + Salmon Rose (1:1:1)
  5. Highlight #3: Dark Sand
  6. Red tone adjustment (Glaze): Reikland Fleshshade + Lahmian Medium (1:1)

Type V (North Indian)

  1. Base/Shade: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone (1:1)
  2. Highlight #1: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone + Kislev Flesh (1:1:1)
  3. Highlight #2: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone + Kislev Flesh (1:2:1)
  4. Highlight #3: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone + Light Flesh (1:1:1)
  5. Highlight #4: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone + Dark Sand (Trace:1:1)
  6. Red tone adjustment (Glaze): Reikland Fleshshade

Type VI (African)

  1. Base: German Camo Black-Brown
  2. Highlight #1: GCBB + Medium Fleshtone (1:1)
  3. Highlight #2: GCBB + Medium Fleshtone + Rose Brown (1:1:1)
  4. Highlight #3: GCBB + Medium Fleshtone + Light Flesh + Medim olive (1:1:1:Trace)
  5. Highlight #4: GCBB + Medim Fleshtone + Dark Sand (Trace:1:1)
  6. Red tone adjustment (Glaze): Reikland Fleshshade


More Examples (2)

Basecoat: Wraithbone

From Left to Right

Type III (East Asian)

  1. Base: Basic skintone + Light Flesh (1:1)
  2. Shade: Reikland Fleshade + Seraphim Sepia + Lahmian Medium (1:1:1)
  3. Highlight #1: Basic skintone + Light Flesh + Dark Sand (1:1:1)
  4. Highlight #2: Light Flesh + Wraithbone (1:1)

Lighter IV-2 (Mediterranean/Latino)

  1. Base: Medium Fleshtone + Salmon Rose (1:1)
  2. Shade: Reikland Fleshade + Seraphim Sepia + Lahmian Medium (1:1:1)
  3. Highlight #1: Kislev Flesh + Dark Sand (1:1)
  4. Highlight #2: Basic Skintone + Wraithbone (1:1)

Lighter Type V (Middle Eastern)

  1. Base: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone (1:1)
  2. Shade: Gulliman Flesh
  3. Highlight #1: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone (1:2)
  4. Highlight #2: Burnt Umber + Kislev Flesh (1:1)
  5. Highlight #3: Kislev Flesh

Lighter Type VI – Slightly lighter (South Asian)

  1. Base: Burnt Umber + GCBB (1:1)
  2. Shade: Gulliman Flesh
  3. Highlight #1: Burnt Umber + Medium Fleshtone + Rose Brown (1:1:1)
  4. Highlight #2: Burnt Umber + Kislev Flesh + Rose Brown (1:1:1)
  5. Highlight #3: Burnt Umber + Kislev Flesh + Rose Brown (1:2:2)


Finishing Steps and Details


Used as a desaturated shadow shade for Type I-IV skin in shadowed areas – under the chin, sides of the cheeks, under the nose, under the hair bangs

Add more basic skintone to approximate stubble, omit skintone for eyeshadow.

  1. Drakenhof Nightshade + Lahmian Medium + Basic skintone (1:2:Trace)

Lips (More relevant for female faces, can be omitted)

Upper lips are darker than lower lips. Highlight upper lips once

Highlight lower lips twice and add spot of Deck Tan/White/Basic Fleshtone on lower lips as a spot highlight

  1. Lipstick: Burnt Red -> Red -> Carmine Red -> Deck Tan
  2. Natural: Burnt Red + Basic Fleshtone -> Add more Basic Fleshtone to mix to generate highlight tones.


Paint burnt umber into entire visible eyeball. Apply streak of deck tan, leaving a thin edge of burnt umber as a blackline. Apply a central dot of Black-Brown as the iris and pupil. Be sure this touches the top and bottom edges of burnt umber otherwise your miniature will have a stare.

  1. Burnt umber -> Deck Tan -> GCBB


Glaze cheeks of type I and II skin to provide the blush – this always develops due to sun damage to the exposed cheeks. A faint tint is sufficient, don’t deepen with more layers it unless you want your model to be wearing makeup.

  1. Volupus Pink + Lahmian Medium + Contrast Medium (1:1:1)


Evan’s Method

ZIVth has probably told you a whole lot of stuff about the specifics of melanin and the biology of skin. I don’t know all that much about those things. I did, however, take some serious art classes and really enjoyed portraiture, so I had some experience with portraying skin, and mixing colors, as well as some of the theory about how light interacts with your skin.

Painting skin is great. As long as you stick to some basic principles in painting your skin, even if you don’t get the exact effect you were looking for, you’ll end up with something that looks like a believable skin tone, and inconsistent skin tones across the models in your army actually enhances the army, rather than detracting from its appearance. Skin is a great way to play around and add variety in your army without breaking it up as a cohesive force. I also think I’m not being particularly radical in saying that representing some diversity on the tabletop is an objective good for the hobby.

With those things in mind, rather than presenting a specific recipe for a specific skin tone, I want to give you a tool-kit that will give you the footing to experiment and play around on your own to achieve a variety of effects and interesting skin colors.

What’s in Cadian Fleshtone anyways?

It’s hard to really dig into painting and mixing colors for skin without first taking a look at what is in your ubiquitous “Flesh Tone” paint of choice. If you look at a traditional artist-oriented paint line, you won’t always find a ‘Flesh Tone’ Paint. That’s because there isn’t really a flesh-colored rock or substance they can grind up and put into a paint medium, and traditional artists typically use a lot fewer pre-mixed colors than someone trying to quickly paint a consistent army.

To get a flesh color in traditional art, you mix colors. The four components of that are generally White, Yellow Ochre, Red, and Brown of some description. If you take a look at Game Workshop’s flesh category you will see that pretty much every paint that isn’t intended for Orks or weird sea elves is a mix of those four colors. Ungor and Kislev Flesh skew more towards yellow ochre, while Bugman’s Glow skews more red and brown. This even extends to darker skin tones. A very dark skin tone will hew very close to raw umber or burnt umber, with very little of the others mixed in.

Left: P3 Khardic Flesh Mixed with Brick Red for Basecoat, White mixed in to highlight. P3 Flesh Wash in select recesses.
Right: P3 Khardic Flesh, mixed with white for highlights. Flesh Wash in select recesses.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

I say lighter skin tones because with darker skin, it tends to work better to start with the brown color. If you start with brown and highlight up by mixing in Cadian Fleshtone, you’ll get a nice light-ish warm brown tone. You can also use white to mix in as a highlight. I would not recommend using red or yellow alone as highlights. Red is a strong color and will make things red if used alone, and not much yellow works its way into highlights because most ambient light has a cold, whitish hue, which we’ll go into more detail on later.

Left: VMC Leather Brown, mixed with VMC Flat Earth, highlighting up to pure Flat Earth.
Right: VMC Flat Earth, mixed with White to highlight.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

There’s still a ton of variables. You can highlight with different colors and shades within this general framework, play with the ranges you go to, but as long as you stick to those four colors and don’t skew too far in any direction apart from brown, you’ll end up with something that looks fairly convincing.

Breaking the rules

So, in the last section I went over the basics of mixing a skin tone. Four colors. Simple, right? Now I’m going to tell you how to break them. Just using four colors, and their derivative, ‘Flesh Tone’, will not get you the full range of human skin colors. Different skin has different hues and saturations. People are varied.

For a basic example, consider a less extreme example of the weird sea elf colors in Games Workshop’s color range. By taking a touch of grey and mixing it into your flesh tone, then highlighting up from there using flesh tone (or even white, depending on the look you want to achieve), you will get a skin tone that is much more desaturated than one that has more red/orange tones in it.

P3 Kislev Flesh mixed with small amounts of VMA Sea Grey basecoat, mixed with white to highlight.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

You can then push that further and get a more pallid look, verging on your sea elf colors. Playing at the very edge of what looks reasonable can be a great way to sell something as inhuman. With my Custodes skin, I tend to push towards grey from a flesh tone base, to really push that these are massively genetically altered giant men in golden armor, and you can use a similar effect to emphasize the otherness of eldar or elves.

Identical to the Bullgryn above, but with more grey(this one may have been VMA Panzer Dark Grey instead, but the exact colors matter fairly little.) Diluted Nuln Oil wash in recesses.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

With something like zombies, you can push the envelope very far. You can use pretty much any color. Green, Purple, Blue. Any color mixed with flesh tone, and then highlighting up with increasing quantities of a light flesh tone added will look great on a zombie. Just don’t push them too far or they will just read as whatever color you tinted with instead of as oddly colored flesh.

If you’re keeping things grounded, a general rule of thumb is to think that, if you removed all of the colors but your accent color and the brown in the mix, would the color still read as brown? This means you can mix in a tiny bit with your lighter skin tones, while as you get darker (and thus have more brown), you can get away with adding a lot more color into the mix. For example, I love the tone I get mixing purple into brown to almost reach a plum color, while if you put any noticeable hint of purple into a very pale skin tone, it would look quite odd.

Really Pushing the envelope. All three of these skin tones use VMC Flat Earth as a base.
Left: VMC Flat Earth mixed with VMA Medium Olive, highlighting to pure Flat Earth. Watered down Nuln Oil to emphasize scars and brand.
Middle: VMC Flat Earth mixed with VGC Hexed Lichen, Highlighted up to almost pure Flat Earth. Touch of Nuln Oil in extreme recesses (spine of lower back, under pectorals) to increase contrast.
Right: VMC Flat Earth mixed with VMC Black, highlighted to almost pure flat earth, with pure Flat Earth used to pick out details like scars.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Some Light Reading

Earlier, I promised to talk about how light is typically a white color and what this means for skin. Now is the time, and I will try to make it as understandable as possible (and I am sure my understanding is grossly simplified to start with.) The light making up what you see when you look at skin is actually made up of light that come from three different things occurring on and inside the skin. You don’t need to worry about this too much unless you’re doing Golden Daemon level work, but a basic understanding can help inform your color choices when working with skin.

The first is light that is bounced off of the skin retaining the color of the source light. In typical conditions (outside, under a blue sky) this is a slightly cool (tinged with blue) white color. Typically, when you’re taking flesh tone and mixing in white to highlight, this is what you’re approximating. On the surfaces where light is shining directly, you get more white showing through.

The second is light that hits the skin and bounces off, taking on the color of the actual surface of the skin. This is somewhat self explanatory, and the most similar to painting non skin-based objects.

The third is light that goes through the skin, bouncing around inside the body, and emerges back out, taking on a color that is a mix of the skin color, along with the blood and flesh beneath. When you see flushed cheeks or red on the tip of someone’s nose, their skin color isn’t actually changing, just the color of what’s beneath as more blood is present in the area. This is what a red tinged flesh wash like Reikland Fleshshade is trying to approximate.

There are two main takeaways here. The first is that (as a very basic approximation, depending on individual) the darker the skin, the less light is transmitted through to bounce around inside and come out, making the reflected light more dominant. That means that you can mix more environmental colors in the highlights on a dark skinned model. If you’re portraying a typical outdoors scene under a blue sky, this will be blue-white. The second takeaway is that if you’re doing OSL, skin will actually take on less of the light shone on it than its surroundings, with light and ruddy skin reflecting the least directly, and very dark black-brown skin tones reflecting the most. This is less useful for your average painter such as myself, but something to think about when you are trying to really push things to the next level.

In Practice

So, I’ve talked about a lot of theory and paint mixing. I don’t typically mix up my own flesh tones in painting. Hell, I’m not as good a painter, nor do I spend as much time on individual models as my co-authors. If you’re looking for display models or to win painting awards, go listen to them. If you’re looking for a flexible technique that will do some pretty nice skin for high tabletop level models, then I may have something useful to impart.

When I paint skin, typically I will pick out two colors. They should be far enough apart that you can get a decent amount of contrast using just them. For example, for a Caucasian skin tone, P3 Khardic flesh and VMA Sand (Ivory). One of my favorite recipes for dark skin is VGC Hexed Lichen and VMC Flat Earth. (VMC Flat Earth is one of my staples and one of 4 paints I keep a spare bottle of on hand)

Left: P3 Khardic Flesh Mixed with small amounts of VMA Sand(Ivory) for highlights.
Right: VMC Pale Flesh washed with GW Guilliman Flesh Contrast, diluted with Lahmian Medium.
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

I put down a solid basecoat of the color I want the shadows to be. On anything bigger than a face, you will definitely need two thin coats. On a face you may be able to get away with one, but probably not. This shadow color doesn’t need to be either one of your paint colors. For a darker caucasian color, I might go with a basecoat of pure Khardic Flesh. For a lighter color, the base coat might have a pretty significant portion of Sand in it. The same two paints can do a variety of shades.

I then highlight up, mixing in more and more of the lighter color as I go. I typically do two stages of highlighting. A base coat, a highlight that picks out everything but the recesses, and a final highlight focusing more on the edges and upper portions of all the shapes.

For a last step, I take a step back, and adjust, generally with washes. A lot of time you won’t have quite as much definition in some spots as you’d like. This might mean dropping a recess shade into the model’s eyes or under certain muscles, or a slight glaze, or further highlights in places. A little work with glazes, diluted contrast paints, or recess shades can do a lot to really make a face or skin pop. Subtler faces tend to respond especially well to washes and glazes, and without them it can be very hard to make them look right without putting down excessive numbers of layers. I tend to this on a very ad-hoc basis, and the other two methods detailed here have a lot of great information on how to do that.

Now, I hope I’ve armed you with a flexible technique and the knowledge that you can do a great deal when it comes to skin with a small selection of paints, many of which you probably already own, in not too much time. Now, I leave you in the very capable hands of Lupe for something completely different.


Tried and tested (Lupercalcalcal’s Method)

Those two talk a lot about all kinds of theory and blending and so on.  But I’ll level with you: I didn’t learn to paint skin in art classes, I learned to paint skin on minis, so my approach is a little different.

First up, I use a lot of paint mixes, but they’re to get specific shades in particular ratios, and I don’t do much blending. Second, I use a lot of Citadel shade paints and also glazes on my skin work. Thirdly, I have recipes for you to follow, because I’m a lazy arse who mostly paints skin the same way each time.

Here are some of my general tips on skin before I launch into that:

  • Start lighter than you think. Adding depth is easier when you shade and highlight, than if you’re stuck just highlighting
  • Thin your paints. No, more than that. Consider investing in some thinner medium and glaze medium (I use Vallejo) to stop your paint splitting when you thin it down enough for skin work
  • Get a wet palette for the love of God. Other things you could get away with it maybe, but for skin you need to keep your thin paint smooth and fresh, and you need an easy way to mix together your colours for transitions
  • Spend 90% of your time on the face. It’s where everyone will instinctively look anyway

We’ll start with Light skin because it’s easiest, and because we’re basically using the same method for all the recipes. Once you’ve got this one down, you can do the others.

  1. Basecoat Cadian Fleshtone. Really nice and smooth and strong. Might take a couple of layers – if you’re struggling over a black prime, slap down a midtone first and then basecoat over that.
  2. Pick out the recessed details with 2:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Water. If you are lazy then just slap it all over 1:1
  3. Pick out the deeper recesses and with 4:1 Doombull Brown:Black thinned heavily
  4. Tidy up your basecoat, bringing everything not a recess back to Cadian
  5. Mix your Cadian with a dab of Ushbati Bone (about 3:1) and highlight the raised areas (those that would catch the light). Then add a little more Ushbati and do it again, but on slightly smaller areas that are more prominent. Keep doing this until you’re at 1:1 Cadian: Ushbati.
  6. Now add a little dot of White (Scar, or your choice of flat white) and keep going in the same way, until you’re at 1:1 with your starting Cadian:Ushbati mix and your white (that’s 1:1:2 overall). You’re getting just teeny tiny details at this point. 
  7. Make up a 4:1 Carroburg Crimson:Khorne Red mix and then thin the hell out of it. You want it almost transparent. Then get some on your brush, wipe most of it off, and carefully glaze anywhere that’ll be flushed (eyes, nose and mouth are the key ones). You can just use Khorne thinned way way way down, but I think carroburg gives a nice tone to it. Then re-highlight with your last flesh mix just on the most raised parts.

Wow Lupe, I hear you say, with my superpower to hear people when they read things I wrote on the internet: that’s a lot of steps. And some of them are actually like eight steps cunningly disguised as one! Well, if you’re doing this on a whole buncha minis:

  1. Basecoat Cadian Fleshtone
  2. Wash all over with Reikland Fleshshade
  3. Touch up your basecoat
  4. Highlight raised areas with Kislev Flesh
  5. Highlight the absolute top points with Flayed One Flesh

Ta da! It won’t look as smooth or deep or alive, but it’s way quicker.

Now we’ve got the basic techniques down, let’s look at the other recipes I trot out on the regular. All of these work in exactly the same way. They just use different colours. Each one has a display and a table variant. Going from lightest to darkest:

Credit: Lupercalcal

Pale skin

Display Quality:

  1. Basecoat 1 Flayed One Flesh
  2. Shade recesses 2:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Water
  3. Shade deep recesses 4:1 Doombull Brown:Black heavily thinned
  4. Reapply your basecoat
  5. Highlight 3:1 Flayed One Flesh:Pallid Wych Flesh then progressively to 1:1
  6. Add a dot of white and keep going until you get to 1:1:1 Flayed One: Pallid Wych:White
  7. Glaze 4:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Mephiston Red heavily thinned on flushed areas, then retouch final highlight

Tabletop quality:

  1. Basecoat Flayed One
  2. Shade Reikland
  3. Touch up basecoat
  4. Highlight 1:1 Flayed One:Pallid Wych
  5. Highlight Pallid Wych


Credit: Lupercalcal

Light skin

Display quality:

  1. Basecoat Cadian Fleshtone
  2. Shade recesses 2:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Water
  3. Shade deep recesses 4:1 Doombull Brown:Black heavily thinned
  4. Reapply your basecoat
  5. Highlight 3:1 Cadian Fleshtone: Ushbati Bone, then progressively to 1:1
  6. Add a dot of white and keep going until you get to 1:1:2 Cadian: Ushbati:White
  7. Glaze 4:1 Carroburg Crimson:Khorne Red heavily thinned on flushed areas, then retouch final highlight

Tabletop quality:

  1. Basecoat Cadian Fleshtone
  2. Shade Reikland Fleshshade
  3. Touch up basecoat
  4. Highlight Kislev Flesh
  5. Highlight Flayed One Flesh


Credit: Lupercalcal

Bronze skin

Display quality:

  1. Basecoat 1:1 Cadian Fleshtone:Ratskin Flesh
  2. Shade recesses 1:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Agrax Earthshade
  3. Shade deep recesses 2:1 Doombull:Black heavily thinned
  4. Reapply your basecoat
  5. Highlight 3:3:2 Cadian: Ratskin:Flayed One, then progressively to 1:1:2
  6. Add a dot of Screaming Skull and keep going until you get to 1:1 previous mix: Screaming Skull
  7. Glaze 2:2:1 Reikland Fleshshade: Seraphim Sepia:Khorne Red heavily thinned on flushed areas, then retouch final highlight

Tabletop quality:

  1. Basecoat Ratskin Flesh
  2. Shade Reikland
  3. Retouch Ratskin
  4. Highlight 1:1 Ratskin:Cadian
  5. Highlight 1:1:1 Ratskin:Cadian:Flayed One

Credit: Lupercalcal

Mid skin

Display quality:

  1. Basecoat Knight-Questor Flesh
  2. Shade recesses 2:1:2 Reikland Fleshshade:Agrax Earthshade:Water
  3. Shade deep recesses 2:1 Catachan Fleshtone:Black heavily thinned
  4. Reapply your basecoat
  5. Highlight 3:1 Knight-Questor Flesh: Cadian Fleshtone, then progressively to 1:1
  6. Add a dot of Ushbati Bone and keep going until you get to 1:1:2 Knight-Questor:Cadian: Ushabti
  7. Glaze 4:1 Druchii Violet: Khorne Red heavily thinned on flushed areas, then retouch final highlight

Tabletop quality:

  1. Basecoat Knight-Questor Flesh
  2. Shade Reikland Fleshshade
  3. Reapply basecoat
  4. Highlight Cadian Fleshtone
  5. Highlight Kislev Flesh


Credit: Lupercalcal

Dark skin

Display quality:

  1. Basecoat Catachan Fleshtone
  2. Shade recesses 2:1 Druchii Violet: Water
  3. Shade deep recesses 1:1 Rhinox Hide:Black heavily thinned
  4. Reapply your basecoat
  5. Highlight 3:1 Catschan Fleshtone: Knight-Questor Flesh, then progressively to 1:1
  6. Add a dot of Kislev Flesh and keep going until you get to 1:1:2 Catachan: Knight-Questor:Kislev
  7. Glaze 4:1 Reikland Fleshshade:Khorne Red heavily thinned on flushed areas, then retouch final highlight

Tabletop Quality

  1. Basecoat Catachan Fleshtone
  2. Shade Druchii Violet
  3. Retouch Basecoat
  4. Highlight Bloodreaver Flesh
  5. Highlight Knight-Questor Flesh



That’s your baseline, but it’s just a place to start. You can easily tweak skin in various ways by adding little touches of glazes or filters. Try these:

  • A glaze of Druchii Purple round the eyes makes a mini look tired and haggard
  • A shade of thinned Athonian Camoshade will make them look sickly
  • A shade of thinned Carroburg Crimson makes lighter skin look inflamed and flushed, and darker skin ruddy and warmer
  • A glaze of thinned Nurgles Rot applied evenly over the whole area makes skin look sweaty and gives it an unhealthy sheen
  • Conversely, a very thin glaze of Gloss Reikland Fleshshade will make it look glistening and oiled


Diversify Your Army

That wraps up our tutorials on painting skin. Between these methods, we hope you’ll be able to find one that works for you (or even a mix of the techniques). We may have covered the basics of skin here, but note that there’s more to come — in future How to Paint Everything articles, we’ll cover the skin of fantasy races like Orks/Orruks, Zombies, and Tau, and we’ll also cover more specific details like painting faces, cuts, bruises, and scars, so keep an eye out. And as always, if you have any questions or feedback, or you just want to share your pretty models with us, feel free to drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at