Can you help me paint a burn in­jury on a hu­man character please? Karen Spick, Eng­land

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Paco replies

The best way to learn how to paint some­thing re­al­is­ti­cally is to study and ob­serve real-life ref­er­ences. So if you want to learn how to paint a burns vic­tim, the first step is to search for photographs of burn in­juries. Nat­u­rally, see­ing such images can be dis­tress­ing, but if you’re de­ter­mined to paint the topic then ref­er­ences are key.

There are some char­ac­ter­is­tics of heat in­juries that you should con­sider. The tex­ture of burned skin fea­tures dis­tinc­tive wrin­kles and fold­ings. The worse the burns are, the more in­tense that tex­ture will be. The make-up artist who de­signed Freddy Krueger’s look used the melted cheese on a pep­per­oni pizza as a ref­er­ence for the character’s burned face. So if you have prob­lems un­der­stand­ing the burned flesh tex­ture, do the same thing: ob­serve and try to paint melted cheese, then ap­ply the re­sults to your character.

If you’re paint­ing a face, bear in mind that the fa­cial fea­tures can even melt away: lips be­come thicker and wider, noses can shrink in size, and if the wounds are bad enough then some fea­tures can dis­ap­pear or melt to­gether. There are some pig­men­ta­tion changes on the skin that you should con­sider (red, yel­low or dark tones, while black skin can be­come white in burnt ar­eas). Fi­nally, don’t for­get that a burned scalp will have a sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced amount of hair.

Ex­am­in­ing pho­tos of peo­ple who have burn wounds is the best way to un­der­stand the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of this kind of in­jury, and there­fore go about de­pict­ing them re­al­is­ti­cally. You can use a tex­tured brush to paint the tex­ture of burnt skin. Some tex­tured brush­strokes here and there can achieve a lot.

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