How To: Mixing Pigments to Match Skin Tone
A colleague recently asked me if it was difficult to mix pigments to match a skin tone.
Nope. It may take a little patience, but it's fun and even quite relaxing.
Today, I'm going to show you how to match your own skin tone.
With a mere 4 components, it is possible to match any human skin color – from the fairest of fair to the darkest of dark – a mere 3 pigments and white are all you need.
Those components are pictured above.
Sound too easy to be true? How about giving it a try and seeing what you think.
Shall we get started?
- Brown oxide
- Sienna oxide
- Yellow ochre oxide
- Titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
- Container for your mixture
- Dedicated whizzing implement (Visit this post for a tip on what to use)
- Measuring spoon
- Cotton swabs
A quick note on measuring spoons.
Whether you want to make a small or large portion, use the same measuring spoon size for each color. I wanted only a small-ish portion (enough for a years use), so I used the 'TAD' size of the teensy measuring spoons you see above (equivilant 1.2 ml).
Tip: Start with very small amounts - much less than you think you might need. The unavoidable process of fine-tuning the color means you will be adding more as you go and your final batch is going to be bigger than expected.
Basic AmountsHere's how to mix a basic caucasian skin color
- 1 level spoon sienna oxide
- 1 heaped spoon brown oxide
- 3 heaped spoons yellow ochre oxide
- 5 heaped spoons titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
These portions are pictured at the top – photographed before fine tuning the mixture to my own skin tone.
Because my own skin tone lies somewhere between 'ridiculously fair' and 'ghostly', I had to triple the amount of white before I had a match.
More Skin Tones
For very fair skin: add more white
For darker skin: add more brown
For very dark skin: add more brown and sienna
For a more yellowish skin tone: add more yellow ochre
For a more reddish skin tone: add more sienna
MethodAdd your pigments to your whizzing machine.
Whizz until the color is even.
Check the color
How To check the Color
- Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and transfer to a bit of non-stick paper
- (Do not dip your fingers into the mixture!)
- Test the color on your face in natural daylight. (you don't have to go outside, but stand near a window with your mirror)
Here's a peek at my color adjusting process. On the far right (we're reading from right to left in this photo) is a bit of my 2014 color mix (I used up my 2015 mixture making this).
The first test (2016/1) was way too dark. But the third try was spot on. As a matter of fact, it was more spot on than my mixture from 2014 (which was a titch on the yellow side).
Finishing UpWhen you are happy with the color, transfer it to an air-tight container and LABEL IT with a date.
Be sure to clean your whizzing implement. I do this by running it with cornstarch a few times until there is no trace of color left. Carefully remove any remaining powder with a soft brush.
Did you end up with a huge portion of foundation color? No worries! Next time, we're going to take our basic foundation color mixture and use it to make perfectly matched highlighter, blush and shadow-sculpting skin tones.
Stay tuned for more make-up making fun!
PS: This entire process took me an hour from start to finish. I admit I am practiced, but not that practiced. I only mix foundation colors once a year.
I have read quite frequently that for cooler skin tones it's good to add a tiny amount of blue (and even green), to cool the colour. But it's so much fun...
You're right about adding a titch of blue for 'shadowing' effects - but we'll get into that bit in upcoming posts :)
Using a blending aid really cuts down on the blending time needed to make a uniform mixture - otherwise, untreated titanium dioxide is so "sticky" that blends take twice as long.
Your described color combo sounds just like what one uses to blend skin color with oil paints - that's the pro way of doing it to be sure! :)
I just have a question though. Instead of using just titanium dioxide as a whitening (lightening) product, is it possible to use something like an Extender W (mica/titanium dioxide mix)? I am asking because I have a bag of this product and not quite sure if it is more of bulking agent, binding agent, or lightening agent.
Thank you for answering my question. I get it now why it is called an Extender. Little by little I learn especially from you!
I need something and a quick look on your blog and your whizzing up your own palette of colours! Now I do not know what to do with most but I would love to tweek my own foundation.... but where do you buy your oxides from? I've tried a quick smart phone search and I'm not getting what you've shown.
Also, just a musing. I have dark skin and SS with titanium dioxide tends to lend a blue-ish white cast to my face, whereas zinc oxide is just a white cast. Good enough reason to use zinc oxide?
Thank you in advance.
I used the soapnut decoction for washing my hair! I have been having a sensitivity to shampoos this past year, which has been confusing, no matter the surfactant. So I thought I'd give soapnuts a try. I used it today, and wasn't especially impressed, although it left my hair, I have locs, softer. If my skin doesn't react to it will make a stronger solution next time and leave it to soak in for a little while. 😕
I from India 🇮🇳
I can put for liquid foundation
Red iron oxide & yellow iron oxide
Black iron oxide for shades making pls tell? &
how much gram put all thinks you tell?