Paint realistic skin in Photoshop

We are constantly forced to look at perfectly smooth skin. This is the paradigm of the world of digital art.

Why other interesting features of the skin, such as age wrinkles, genetic features or scars, are usually forgotten?

In this tutorial, I will show you how to turn a standard face into three different characters using freckles, wrinkles, and scars.

Face study

You can find great photos for a detailed study of the skin on the Envato Market. As a basis for drawing, I will use this snapshot. Using a photo with smooth and clean skin will help you improve your face painting skills over time.

But for drawing the rest of the characters, I need a few more photos. Learn as many different skin images as possible to improve your drawing skills. Below you can see the photos that I will use.




Draw the base

Now we need to draw a basic face, which we will use as the basis for further work. In one of my publications, you can learn about ways to speed up the process of drawing.

Step 1

Let’s start with a simple sketch. All you need to start is a regular oval. Create a new document with the following parameters:

  • Dimensions (Resolution): 1250 x 1250 pixels
  • DPI: 150 dpi

Take a hard round brush and make a sketch of the head. First, draw an oval and outline the location of the eyes, mouth and nose, then finish the sketch.

Step 2

Set the layer blending mode to draft on Soft Light (Soft light) and below create a new layer. Round hard brush fill the head with basic colors.

Step 3

The further process will be the same as in my previous skin drawing lesson. Above the color base, create a new layer and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). With the help of various blending modes we draw light and shade on the face.

I always start with shadows and paint them on a layer in blend mode. Multiply (Multiplication).

Step 4

Next, fill the background layer with gray and in the center with a soft round brush draw a large blurred white spot.

You can also add additional skin tones, such as orange. To do this, create a new layer and put it into the blend mode. Overlay (Overlap).

Step 5

We continue to detail the picture and smooth the skin. Via Smudge Tool (Finger) smear hard touches to give the skin a velvety effect.

Having finished with the main details, we take a Chalk Brush texture brush from a standard set of Photoshop and draw pores on the skin. The main thing is not to overdo it with this effect, if necessary, use Eraser Tool (E) (Eraser) to remove excess.

Hard brush with Hardness (Stiffness) 100% add the final touches and finish the base. Also along the contour of the head in gray we draw the light reflected from the background. Reduce the size of the brush to paint fine hairs on the forehead and eyebrows and add highlights to the entire portrait.

2. Draw freckles and moles

Step 1

As the owner of a freckled face, I declare with all certainty that these are perhaps the simplest elements you can master in drawing skin. We take our base and combine all the layers that relate specifically to the head, together (Ctrl + E).

Next, create a new layer above the head and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Use the Chalk Brush brush from the previous step to draw a grainy base for freckles.

Now add freckles. Use a round hard brush to draw small dots on the nose, cheeks and eyebrows. Check that option Pen Pressure (Pen pressure) in the brush settings was active, since in this case we need the graphics tablet to respond to the pressure of the brush.

To enhance the effect, duplicate (Ctrl + J) the freckle layer and remove the excess with Eraser Tool (E) (Eraser).

Step 2

If the previous process seemed too easy for you, let’s move on to the moles! We will not need much effort to make the mole look realistic. Draw a dark brown stain and blur one edge with Eraser Tool (T) (Eraser). The smeared place will create a glare effect and it remains for us to add a dark color on the opposite side of the mole to give it a bit of volume.

Moles, unlike freckles, should protrude above the skin.

Duplicate freckle to add new ones in other parts of the face. After completing the work, you should get something like this:

Here is the final result. You can add more freckles and moles or leave as is.

3 Draw wrinkles

Step 1

What would your character look like in 20 years? With age, the structure of our skin changes, and it sags. To repeat this effect, we need a filter. Liquify (Plastic).

Move on Filter – Liquify (Filter – Plastic) and instrument Forward Warp Tool (W) (Deformation) stretch the jaw edges down.

Let’s age the face even more. Due to the loss of elasticity of the skin, the eyes sag and the lips become thinner, and the face appears more rounded. We slightly expand the nose using Bloat Tool (B) (Bloating), then compress the lips with the tool Pucker Tool (S) (wrinkling). Via Forward Warp Tool (W) (Deformation) add more sagging skin around the eyes.

You can also create an “old sweet lady” effect by slightly bringing your eyebrows closer together.

Step 2

Now let’s wrinkle. The process is very simple. With a round rigid brush we draw lines in places where the muscles contract most.

Do not forget about wrinkles on the nose and lips.

If you have not removed the freckle layer, make it visible and reduce Opacity (opacity) up to 60%. Freckles will create the effect of age spots. Apply the shadow around the wrinkles and add texture using Chalk Brush.

Step 3

Small details will enhance the effect of old age, so let’s discolor the hair. To do this, create a new layer in blend mode. Saturation (Saturation) and dye your hair and eyebrows gray.

The best way to make your skin more realistic is to paint highlights. We finish the portrait by applying glares all over the face in order to enhance the realistic wrinkles.

Here is the final result! Doesn’t she look like someone’s pretty granny?

4. Draw a scar on the lip

Step 1

Perhaps grandma in a past life was a ruthless mercenary killer. If she cut the bad guys to the right and left, then she should definitely have a couple of battle scars. Therefore, in the last section of the lesson we will create a terrible scar on your lip.

We start with the basics. Activate the filter Liquify (Plastic) to make the jaw more angular, raise the ends of the eyebrows above and lower the corners of the mouth. All of this will help make your face look more ferocious.

Step 2

This is what I call a fresh scar, as he has not had time to drag on. Create a new layer in blend mode. Multiply (Multiplication) and draw the base of the scar above the lip. To make the look more expressive, put a shadow around the eyes.

With such a scar, the lip must be deformed. Therefore, we finish the part of the lip near the scar in order to lift it higher and show deformation. Then apply a glare around the edges of the scar to create a wound-healing effect.

Add volume with the shadow that we put on a separate layer in the mode Multiply (Multiplication). Dark red color for the shadow is selected on the lips and applied in the incision of the scar.

Step 3

Having achieved enough realism and depth, we can add texture. Use the brush Chalk Brush to apply texture highlights on the scar. This will not only create the effect of pores, but also add contrast between clear skin and wound.

Here is the final result. Wounded, but still ready to fight! Thus, you can modify any character using just a few small details.

Now apply the above techniques in your own work!

Perhaps you have an author character who you came up with in your free time? Try using the techniques from the lesson to see how your character changes!

Only patience and practice will allow you to master the art of drawing realistic skin in Adobe Photoshop.

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