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  • Ethnic Skintones

    Ethnic Skintones

    Okay, before I even begin with any info on this delicate article, let
    me say a few things:
    I have no intention to seem racially insensitive, so I’ve lightened up
    on any kind of humorous remark.
    If I unintentionally offend someone, please excuse my ignorance and let
    me change the offending remark.
    We are all one people of this earth, let’s try to get along!!


    Okay, so here’s how this is going to work, I can’t make a mini for
    every ethnicity I cover here (mostly because there are none.. let’s get
    some more ethnic minis manufacturers!!). So, what I’ve done is scour
    the web for pictures of a typical person of that particular ethnicity.
    I’ve given a picture of a man and a woman, because in pretty much every
    culture, women are lighter skinned than men are. Below the pictures,
    I’ve made some color swatches. I’ll try and convert them to Vallejo
    mixes (sorry, GW people can’t come up with these with only around 6
    flesh colors!!), but you can also just compare and contrast. Also, I’ve
    tried to give enough swatches so that you can select three consecutive
    swatches to choose your own range, because variations in skin color can
    be seen even in families.

    Now, you may wonder why different people’s skin is different colors.
    Well, there are only certain factors that control skin color.
    Everyone’s skin is basically the same, but what colors it is a black
    pigment called melanin. Again, everyone has melanin in his or her skin
    (except those who suffer from Albinism) but genetically people are born
    with more or less. Melanin is released by exposure to the sun and
    hormones, and it is concentrated in freckles and moles. Obviously, if
    you were to look at a map of the world with color swatches in certain
    areas you’d see people in cloudy climates have lighter skin, and people
    in sunny areas have darker skin. This is because more melanin helps
    absorb the sun, so it should come as no surprise that people with dark
    skin have less of a chance of getting skin cancer (or Melanoma, see how
    it all fits?). Blood also has a factor in skin color, it is the black
    melanin and red blood that gives us the slightly brown skin color we’re
    all used to.

    As I said before, genetics is also a big factor and it gets really
    complicated but here’s a little anthropology for you: Back when there
    wasn’t a lot of people on the earth, people didn’t travel much once
    they figured out how to farm. Even those who did move a round a lot
    tended to stick to one area. Tribes usually consisted of several
    families who lived together, so you get all these areas of people being
    isolated for the longest time. It stands to reason these groups would
    all have similar features, so I’ll pop in now and then to give you the
    historical anthropological reasons on some of these. I’ve tried to go
    from the darkest to lightest colors, along with area. Right, Let’s get


    Here we have two members of one of the most famous African Tribe, the
    Masaai. As you can see, the picture of the man caught a little glare
    but the color progression came out looking really cool. You might use
    this for a more natural Drow, but I am planning a fantasy skin tones
    article. Africans tend to have dark brown eyes and black hair.

    Man: Black Brown #822, Chocolate Brown #872,50/50 Chocolate Brown #872
    and US Tan Earth # 874, US Tan Earth # 874, 25/75 Brown Rose #803 and
    Cork Brown #843, Basic Skintone #815
    Woman: Flat Brown #984, Mahogany Brown #846, Orange Brown #981,Cork
    Brown #843, Brown Sand #876

    Australian Aborigines

    Native Australians are a mystery. While their skin resembles Africans
    somewhat, their hair grows more like Indian Farkirs. The sun in
    Australian has a lot to do with this, but as you can see their skin
    tends to be more ochre looking. Speaking of Ochre, as part of their
    religion Aborigines go to places in the desert and grind ochre one
    rocks, making a type of body paint. Since they don’t wash it off for
    weeks or even months, you may want to add this to your minis by using
    earthtones in simple patterns. You can find many examples of their art
    online, but some symbols are a bit too complicated to go over them all
    here (a line may mean a stick, snake, or man lying down).

    Swatches: Black Red #859, Burnt Cad. Red #814, Cavalry Brown #982, Red
    Leather #818, Orange Brown #981, Brown Rose #803, Basic Skin Tone #815,
    Light Skin #928

    African American

    I put African Americans in a separate category, mostly because their
    skintone is lighter than African-Africans... This is due to the fact
    many African Americans and Carribeans share both African and Caucasian
    ancestry. While I won’t get into a whole social discussion, The
    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and the Narratives by
    Harriet Jacobs are good material on this subject. Hair and eyes can
    also be lighter, depending on the person. (PS, I just chose these
    celebrities because they’re easier to get pics of )

    Man: Flat Brown #984, USA Tan-Earth #874, Orange Brown #981, Cork Brown
    #843, Basic Skintone #815
    Woman: Mahogany Brown #846, 75% Red Leather #818/ 25% Mahogany
    Brown #846, Ochre Brown #856, Dark Sand #847, 80% Iraqi Sand #819/ 20%
    Ivory #918

    Middle Eastern

    Arabians and other tribes around the Egypt/Saudi area are right between
    Africa and Asia, and once again they exhibit characteristics of both.
    This skintone would also be good for Ancient Egyptians as well as
    modern ones.

    Man: Flat Brown #984, USA Tan-Earth #874, Light Brown #929, 90% Flat
    Flesh #955/ 10% Orange Brown #981, Sunny Skintone #845
    Woman: Hull Red # 985, Mahogany Brown #846, 70% Mahogany Brown #846/
    30% Cork Brown #843, 50/50 Mahogany Brown #846 and Basic Skintone #815


    Yeah, as you can see I mean Indians from India, and not Native
    Americans, they’ll be coming up later. India is one of the southern
    most regions on the Asian continent, so in stands that they have darker
    skin than those in northern regions. Also, scientists theorize all
    culture came from India and then spread to Mesopotamia.

    Man: Chocolate Brown #872, Flat Brown #984, Orange Brown # 981, Beige
    Red #804, Cork Brown #843
    Woman: Mahogany Brown #846, English Uniform #921, USA Tan-Earth #874,
    Beige Red #804, 50/50 Beige Red #804 and Basic Skintone #815

    Southeast Asians

    The Southeast Asian islands such as Singapore, Skri Lanka, and the
    Malaysia Thailand peninsulas have long been trading routes to and from
    India and China and so once again it stands to reason both cultures
    intermingle. And so, obviously these swatches are somewhat between the
    Indian and Chinese.

    Man: Calvary Brown #982, 75% Red Leather #818/ 25% Mahogany Brown
    #846, Ochre Brown #856, Tan Yellow #912, Beige #917, 50/50 Dark Sand
    #847 and Ivory #918
    Woman: Flat Brown #984, Cork Brown #843, 50/50 Cork Brown #843 and
    Basic Skintone #815, Light Flesh #928


    Though it’s hard to get one skintone from such a large country with
    various regions, Chinese skintone is not that much different from some
    Caucasian skintones in some respects. All Asians are generally known to
    have straight black hair and dark eyes, supposedly with green eyes
    occurring rarely. (Once again, it was just easier to get a pic of Chow
    Yun Fat from Crouching Tiger)

    Man: USA Tan-Earth #874, Cork Brown #843, Sunny Skintone #845, 50/50
    Beige Red #804 and Basic Skintone#815, 50/50 Beige #917 and Ivory #918
    Woman: Flat Brown #984, Us Field Drab #873, English Uniform #921,
    German Cam. Pale Brown #825, Dark Sand #847


    Mongolians live in and around the Gobi Desert Region, and are subject
    to the extremes of hot and cold. This gives a slightly flushed
    appearance to the skin, which is almost similar to American Indians.
    (Note: White Scars should be Mongolian and not Indian... GW knows
    nothing about about history..)

    Man: Red Leather #818, Old Rose #944, Basic Skintone #815, 80% Light
    Flesh #928/ 20% Brown Rose #803, Light Flesh #928, Ivory #918
    Woman: 70% US Tan-Earth #874/ 30% Chocolate Brown #872, US Tan-Earth
    #874, Beige Red #804, 50/50 Basic Skintone #815 and Beige Red #804,
    Basic Skintone #815


    Since Japan has a more temperate climate from being an island, their
    skin tends to be lighter than other Asian countries of the same area.
    Also, women with lighter skin are considered the standard of beauty,
    hence the advent of the white Geisha makeup in Japanese Culture. (No
    excuses for the model I chose :P )

    Man: Chocolate Brown #872, USA Tan-Earth #874, Cork Brown # 843, 60%
    Beige Red #804/ 40% Basic Skintone #815, Basic Skintone#815
    Woman: Medium Flesh #860, Iraqi Sand #819, 90% Light Flesh #928/ 10%
    Brown Rose #803, Light Flesh #928, Ivory #918

    Pacific Islanders

    The islands are very sunny, and the people usually come from people
    immigrating from other islands from Southeast Asia. Though I’d like to
    do one for every island since they’re all different, I do not have the
    time or patience to do so. And so, the man is Maori from New Zealand
    and the woman is Polynesian from Hawaii. Maori typically have those
    face tattoos, as it’s part of their way to remember their ancestry and

    Man: Mahogany Brown #846, Red Leather #818, 50/50 Red Leather #818 and
    Old Rose #944, Old Rose #944, Flat Flesh #955, Beige #917
    Woman: Flat Brown #984, 50/50 Red Leather #818 and Beige Red #804,
    Beige Red #804,Brown Rose #803, Basic Skintone #815

    Native Americans

    Since to get here, the tribes had to cross over the Alaskan land bridge
    from Asian, many Natives still bear Asiatic traits close to Mongolians.
    Skintone will vary from lighter to darker going North to South. It
    should also be noted they do not usually have facial hair.

    Man: Calvary Brown #982, Orange Brown #981, Goldbrown #877, Tan Yellow
    #912, Basic Skintone #815
    Woman: Cam. Orange Ochre #824, USA Tan-Earth #874, Iraqi Sand #819,
    Basic Skintone #815, Light Flesh #928

    Latin Americans

    Many Latin American countries consist of a mix of the early Spanish
    Settlers and the Native Americans. Once more, the southern climate tans
    the skin a bit.. and once again, I have no comment on my choice of
    model.. :P

    Man: Chocolate Brown #872, Mahogany Brown #846, Orange Brown #981,
    Brown Rose #803, Beige Red #804
    Woman: English Uniform #921, Cam. Orange Ochre #824, Cork Brown #843,
    Beige Red #804, Basic Skintone #815

    Caucasian Ethnicities:
    Now, I’ve chosen to divide up certain ethnicities of Europeans into
    different ethnicities, mainly because Europe’s geography has made all
    these different pockets of people. For any nondescript Caucasian
    skintone, I like using Cork Brown and adding Ivory.


    The Celtic people of the Emerald Isle are usually inclined to have red
    hair and green eyes, although this is not true for 100% of the
    populace, red hair is found more in this group. Red hair is also found
    in Scotland, not surprisingly close to Ireland. There has been much
    discussion on CMON how to do red hair and since the gene for it is also
    linked to having fairer and a bit pinkish skin, I’ve given separate
    swatches for hair and skin.. As you see, I’ve tried to get a darker
    redhead and a strawberry blonde so you’ll know the two extremes.. and
    when searching for redheads, I mostly had women to choose from.... But
    I’m not complaining. :P
    Since their skin is so fair, redheads seem to have freckles more than
    other people do. This is because the exposure to sun will screw with
    the melanin in people if their skin is lighter. If you want to try and
    mimic this, I suggest watering down a darker shade below and dabbing it
    on or making a 50/50 mix with the basecoat and applying tiny spots

    Darker Redhead: Burnt Cad. Red # 814, Red Leather #818, Orange Brown
    #981, Beige Red #804
    Skin: Calvary Brown #982, Red Leather #818, Brown Rose #803, Basic
    Skintone #815, Light Flesh #928
    Strawberry Blonde: Flat Brown #984, 60% Orange Brown #981/ 40% Flat
    Brown #984, 50/50 Orange Brown #981 and Flat Flesh #955, 70% Beige Red
    #804/ 30% Iraqi Sand #819
    Skin: Mahogany Brown #846, 70% Beige Red #804/ 30% Iraqi Sand #819,
    Basic Skintone #815, 80% Light Flesh #928/ 10% Beige Red #804


    Once upon a time there were two brothers, Romulus and Remas... Romulus
    went on to build an empire that spanned across France, England, Italy,
    Egypt and Spain.. Remas became cement for masonry..
    Anyways, like the story says, the Romans made a big Empire, and in
    doing so made a lot of regions where Europeans have tanned to mild
    complexions with dark hair and eyes. I was again stumped in finding
    some typical so here’s Reno and Bellucci.. and in case you can’t tell,
    I gave up apologizing long ago.. :P

    Man: Chocolate Brown #872, 50/50 US Tan-Earth #874 and Cork Brown #843,
    Cork Brown #843, Flat Flesh #955, 80% Light Flesh #928/ 20% Beige Red
    Woman: Chocolate Brown #872, Chocolate Brown #872, Medium Flesh #860,
    Iraqi Sand #819, Dark Sand #847, Beige #917


    Now, there were these crazy, longhaired blonde guys to the north and
    since “barbaros” meant both hairy and foreign, the Romans called them
    Barbarians. : ) People from Normandy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and
    Finland are all descended these barbarian tribes. Since it’s very cold
    and the sun is non existent (what with Fenris eating it all the time)
    not much sun needs to be absorbed, so most northern Europeans will have
    very light complexions and blonde hair.

    Man: Flat Brown #984, 60% Mahogany Brown #846/ 40% Cork Brown #846,
    50/50 US Tan-Earth #874 and English Uniform #921, Cork Brown
    #846, Dark Sand #847
    Woman: Mahogany Brown #846, US Tan-Earth #874, Beige Red #804, Iraqi
    Sand #819, 50/50 Basic Skintone #815 and Light Flesh #928


    Actually, I have no idea exactly what ethnicity this model is.. I’ve
    seen it a couple of times, but I’m thinking it may be a problem with
    lighting or something.. You see, her skin appears slightly greenish. I
    put her down as Romanian because the other times I’ve seen it was
    supposedly girls from around that region.. Baffles me a little...

    Woman: English Uniform #872, Green Ochre #914, German WWII Beige #821,
    90% Tan Yellow #912/ 10% German WWII Beige #821, Flat Flesh #955, Beige


    Now, it should be stated Albinos are not a separate race, every race
    can have albinos. I’m not really certain what causes it, but I know
    it’s genetic and rare. Basically, your skin and hair cannot make
    Melanin to protect from the sun. People with Albinism, therefore have a
    tough time with sensitivity to a lot of sunlight. Their hair is usually
    white or platinum blonde and their skin is only pigmented by their
    blood, but it should be said that unlike animals human Albinos do not
    have red eyes. But, they sometimes do have reddish or violet eyes, but
    normally they have light brown eyes... For more pictures and info
    Please visit NOAH (Nat’l Orgainzation for Albinism and
    Hypopigmentation) and Positvie Exposure, a website devoted to Albino
    Photography Models.

    Hair Swatches: 80% Ivory #918/ 20% Tan Yellow #912, German WWII Beige
    #821, 90% Ivory #918/ Brown Red #803, 50/50 Beige #917 and Ivory #918,
    Ivory #918
    Skin Swatches: 50/50 Cork Brown #846 and Beige Red #804, Beige
    Red #804, , 70% Beige Red #804/ 30% Iraqi Sand #819 , Brown Rose #803,
    Basic Skintone #815, 90% Ivory #918/ 10% Deck Tan #986, Ivory #918

    Once again, if I made any comments no one likes for whatever reason,
    message me right away and I’ll change it. Also, if I missed your
    particular ethnicity, keep in mind I had to choose from approximately 6
    Billion people in the world. I hope to see more varied skintones in the
    future from the lot of ya! :P


    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Craken's Avatar
      Craken -
      Amazing article, one question though. Would you suggest staring from a white basecoat or black, for the skin tones?
    1. Chrispy's Avatar
      Chrispy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Craken View Post
      Amazing article, one question though. Would you suggest staring from a white basecoat or black, for the skin tones?
      I always start with a white base coat, but skin is mostly lighter in color, so you would anyways.
    1. Craken's Avatar
      Craken -
      I'm going for a native skin tone. I usually start with a black undercoat for my models, but they usually have armor. Thanks for the info.
    1. Pygmalion's Avatar
      Pygmalion -
      That was an interesting article, and pretty well done given the potentially explosive subject matter.

      And I agree with the statement at the beginning: There should be more ethnically diverse miniatures.
    1. Nattfly's Avatar
      Nattfly -
      Nice, helpful and funny article! I will be back and use this when i paint
    1. Dream17's Avatar
      Dream17 -
      what technique do you use highlighting? layering? blending?
      I tried highlighting but it didn't look right at the end
    1. Zab's Avatar
      Zab -
      I tend to start with a white or light grey undercoat for darker tones anyway. I start with the mid tones, highlight up and then glaze and shade down. i used this article to help me with a few of the pirate avatars i did for my coworkers this summer. They were quick jobs and fun to try out ethnic skin tones which always made me nervous since i could barely do Caucasian tones justice. Here are a few examples:
      Attachment 22672
      Attachment 22673
      Attachment 22674
    1. Chrispy's Avatar
      Chrispy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dream17 View Post
      what technique do you use highlighting? layering? blending?
      I tried highlighting but it didn't look right at the end
      When I do skins, I blend the lighter tones after I've done all the shading and whatnot.
    1. Zab's Avatar
      Zab -
      Welcome to C'MON where you will get two completely different techniques (probably more) that are both effective for their own reasons basically keep on trying stuff out until you find what works for you. There is no wrong way to paint.

      Except this maybe:
      Attachment 22687
      AKA: Why men die first.
    1. meaty_nosebleeds's Avatar
      meaty_nosebleeds -
      beautiful article
    1. Endeavour's Avatar
      Endeavour -
      Dude, you are a blessing. And I made an account to say that.
      I've just recently begun writing a book (which may become a book series), and I've been having trouble matching skin colours with ethnicities.
      I'm so glad that I have found this. You've made it a hell of a lot easier.
      Also, now that I can match skin colours and ethnicities, I can have an easier time with using BehindTheName Random Name Generator to create appropriate names for new characters.
      I, also, had no idea what Albinism was, either, until you explained it in the article.
      Thank you so much, Chrispy.
      Also, do you know where I can find an article regarding to hair and eye colours for different ethnicities?
    1. hithwen's Avatar
      hithwen -
      This is a very interesting article, thanks! How did you did the choosing of vallejo colors? Did you try to match colors digitally or just expert eye? One ethnicity I'm missing is amazonians. I think they have a more saturated color than native north americans. Maybe they're close to the pacific islander palette?
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