Chris Legaspi helps you build on your core anatomy skills by presenting his tips for sketching the human form in colour
Colour separates painting from drawing, bring life and vibrancy to paintings and sketches. Yet because colour is so complex, I prefer to simplify colour and limit the colours I use as much as possible. And to do this I must first properly shift a colour’s temperature.
Temperature is a property of colour that’s often misunderstood. It refers to how warm or cool a colour is. I define warm colours as red, yellow and orange. Cool colours are blue, green and violet. Temperature is relative, so any colour has a warm and cool version.
One way to apply this to figure painting is by starting with only two colours, using burnt umber as my warm and ultramarine blue as the cool. They enable me to create a range of warm and cool greys of varying value and intensity. Once I complete the first pass of colour, I’ll then add variations and temperature shifts.
Variation and temperature shifts are the secret to making colour feel believable. For example, I’ll add a wash of yellow to the light side of the skin to enhance the colour. Next, I’ll add reds and pinks to the blood-rich and suntanned areas such as the hands, face, knees and feet. Finally, I’ll add subtle cool colours like blue and green to the halftones: this helps to make the skin more alive and realistic-looking.