View Full Version : Skin Tones Palette - Schmincke, Sennelier, Rembrandt?

11-04-2014, 10:20 AM
I know there are probably already posts out there on this topic, but for some reason (possibly an iPad-specific issue) the Search tool is faulting to an error page...

I'm really keen to know if there are any "Skin Tone" palette suggestions for Schmincke, Sennelier and Rembrandt soft pastels (the ones I currently have in my studio - I realise there might be some fantastic resources in other brands but I'm hoping to save costs and use what I already own). I'm open to other artist's suggestions based on their own experience, or even a link to where I can download or purchase a chart/skin tone mixing reference/tool?!

I just need to "cull" my collection and limit to what I actually need for some portrait work I'm getting hung up on, I just seem to be constantly distracted and having difficulty with colour selection at the moment (and with a 3.5yo, and a 2yo, taking up so much of my time I need to spend less time hesitating over which sticks to use, and more time actually working!!).

I have realised perhaps it would be best to do my homework first ☺️

Barbara WC
11-04-2014, 12:01 PM
Gosh, it depends how you work. I use a lot of blues and purples in my pastel portraits.

Do you already have colors in those three brands? I know Rembrandt sells a portrait set- you could check the contents of their sets (They have a 30 piece up to 90 piece portrait set) and see if that helps.

I had a similar problem to you when I first started- felt a little overwhelmed, what do I use for skin tones? Then I just started painting- and noticed over time I was using certain colors over and over. There were other colors I never touched... As I've gained more experience, those colors I never used to touch sometimes make it now into my portraits...

Here is a link to the Dick Blick site with Rembrandt set contents: http://www.dickblick.com/products/rembrandt-soft-pastel-sets/#itemspecs

Good luck!

11-04-2014, 02:08 PM
Skin tones are almost all variations of orange - dulled down or neutralized of course. So, pretty much any and all earth tone colors from the various sets should give you plenty to work with.


11-05-2014, 05:12 AM
One color that's very useful in portraits with a couple of tints is caput mortuum, it's a grayed violet earth color. I had it in my original Grumbachers set and it worked very well. Some cool colors - greens, violets and blues - are very important to modify the earth colors. Rembrandt has good portrait sets, with a nice selection of earth oranges and tints. The tints are very important for pale skin and highlights. Important tints are a medium, a light and an extra light.

If you're looking to cut back on palette to create a more compact set, focus on the earth oranges and make sure to have tints and pure tone in the rest of the spectrum. I'd want six extra lights, you get those moments of pale light that has a green or blue cast or reflections of clothing. A medium tint and a full color on brights allows clothing and background areas. Olive is useful bot for backgrounds and to mute brighter earth reds. I got by with 30 skin tones - all earth colors - and 30 assorted including light blue, a mid purple, a turquoise. Deep darks are good too. Deep dark violet is surprisingly useful.

Sennelier aren't as costly as Schminke. If you're expanding from what you have, I'd look more at Sennelier and Rembrandt to save costs. There are plenty of luscious earth tones in the Sennelier range.

11-05-2014, 08:32 PM
you can pick up a cheap set of skin tone colors in conte pastel from Michael's right now. I'm thinking about grabbing them. they might sound hard because people associate conte with hardness but i swear they aren't that hard where you can't even use them as an under painting. they'd b very good 4 an under painting

comes with every Caucasian skin tone you could want... then all your need is the lavender and pink tones, maybe the Grey's and the grey lavender grey greens from your more general colors set, right? then your golden.

11-06-2014, 09:58 PM
Just out of curiosity, I checked the Sennelier half sticks. Sure enough there is a 40 half stick portrait set with a very good range for skin tones, not just Caucasian but anyone's. The dusty purples for shadows, blue for eyes and highlights on black hair or dark skin are included (or blue clothing), lots of variation in tints, middle value and dark earth colors. It looks as good as my 30 assorted Skin Tones set of Grumbachers did. They are all included in the Paris Collection of course.

If you wanted to use Senneliers they're not that expensive, especially half sticks.

Conte Pastels are not the same as Conte crayons, they are presumably softer and in the range of soft pastels. I'd expect a texture something around Rembrandt or Art Spectrum or something, would be surprised if they are softer, they sound good.

Rembrandt portrait sets look decent and do include the spectrum colors for variations and getting in people's clothing, eye color, whimsical hair dyes etc. - when some friends have cerise or aqua hair color, it's important to have those hues too. What they excel in is having enough tints to adjust to a light skin tone especially using a tint to go over a middle value brown and smooth the gradient or add a light accent. It's a matter of convenience how large a set you're willing to pay for and also which texture appeals to you.

Sennelier are super soft and if you have a light hand that 40 portrait half sticks would be plenty for doing anyone - you just need to either use sanded paper or have quite a light hand.

I would be comfortable doing street portraits again using a Mi Tientes pad and the 60 Rembrandt half sticks I already have. The dusty violet is there and the middle value purples are good too. Tints around the spectrum can be combined to get nuances and there are a couple of earth color tints as well for highlights and to get mid tints over their near neighbors. Ochres and red earths are handy for different complexions and combine easily, there's also grayer browns for things like five o'clock shadow and pale blue or lavender for veins under pale skin or shadows on a certain complexion.

The necessities are a cold and warm dark brown (one leaning toward yellow or greenish almost like raw umber, one redder like burnt umber) and tints, a red earth like sanguine, English Red, red ochre, and tints, yelow ochre and tints. Those four are the essential earths and should have at least one or two tints. The light tint on the red earth will be a pink that leans orangish but duller than an orange tint.

All other earth colors and numbers of tints just make it easier. But that muted brown-purple grayish Caput Mortuum is tremendously useful and ought to be in there at least in mid value if not also with a tint.

Spectrum tints in addition are very useful along with spectrum brights, because these can go on first in the underpainting and be muted by their complements or by earth tone complements. A blue with an orange earth over it mutes beautifully.

I think the 60 Rembrandt that I have now is a slightly better range than what I had before with 30 assorted and 30 skin tones. Some of the darker tints of earth colors were convenience but redundant. A lot of times I needed a touch or a light stroke of a bright color I didn't have for things like green foliage reflecting into shadow - olive green is very good - or any color garment reflecting up under the chin. Annoying when the lady with the magenta blouse looked better in that than if I turned it scarlet. I used the white a lot more not having the spectrum tints, where I could modify something with pale yellow or pale green or pink or blue to get the tone right.

It's not just having the exact right stick for that area of that face. It's that if the whole face is too pinkish, a green pale tint could be just right to take away the "sunburn" look from the highlights.

11-07-2014, 11:33 AM
I would try taking a look at a few portrait sets that you particularly like. Different brands would be fine. Then take your pastels and compare what you have to what you like. If you've got a decent amount of pastels already you should be able to make up a set that comes close to what you want. I'd also add some tones of violet, blue and green. Keep your full palette handy in case you need to add to the mix, as you probably will. Hope this helps.

11-10-2014, 08:12 PM
Judy Carducci - famous master portrait artist of the PSA, does most of her portraits with a landscape set of Great Amercians... go figure

11-10-2014, 10:47 PM
I would try taking a look at a few portrait sets that you particularly like. Different brands would be fine. Then take your pastels and compare what you have to what you like. If you've got a decent amount of pastels already you should be able to make up a set that comes close to what you want.
What a great idea! That's a very helpful suggestion for anyone who is a bit overwhelmed and wants to narrow down to a more limited palette, whether for portraits as in this case, or for a landscape plein air session. Photos of different sets are so easy to find, and it would probably be a fun project to create mini-sets for travel or for certain projects. :thumbsup:

Chikaminx, I'll add that a portrait set should include colors that make it possible to paint a variety of skintones, not just white skin. Keep that in mind and add to your personalized set as needed! You also might watch a few videos of pastel artists doing portraits so you can see what colors they use and where/when. :)

11-11-2014, 03:44 AM
Sets. what a thorny subject.
To my mind, you would do better spending your time LEARNING about what makes certain skin tones...how the prevailing light affects the colours,(SO important, vital) how the underlying natural skin tone/ethnicity can be handled best, what sorts of temperatures and tones you might need for shadow areas, warm areas like cavities, etc - so much to discover - and then, put together a palette for your subject based on what you have learned, and [I]based on your particular subject.

Having a one-size-fits-all "skin tone" palette is not going to cut the mustard. It is just a way for the manufacturers to get access to your wallet.I bet you have everything you need.

Look HARD at some pastel portraits,print them off, work out the temperature of the light, is it warm light or cool? And based on that, how are the lights and shadows handled? and see if you can find sticks in your own sets to create the colours you see. Make marks alongside the image you have printed off. That will be very revealing.

Here are a few to work on:





and who says one HAS TO USE skin tones?

and what about black skin....would you use pink? orange?

11-24-2017, 12:45 PM
I know this is an old post but i had similar issues ie: narrowing down color choice for skin colors.... I have a full set of rembrandts and would spend ages trying to select the 'right' colors. UNTIL i found this online ebook :clap: I hope this helps others too.... You're welcome :thumbsup: