How to Paint a Skull in Acrylics

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Things You'll Need

  • Paintbrushes (various sizes)

  • Paint (various colors)

  • Palette

  • Canvas

  • Jar of water

Look at a photograph of a skull as you paint.

Almost everyone has seen skulls on television and in religious iconography, popular culture and books. People are so familiar with skulls that painting one should seem like a relatively simple task. Still, there's more to it than simply painting a white bone background and adding some black sockets. The task can become tricky when painting with acrylic paint, which dries very quickly and can make blending colors difficult.


Step 1

Choose an image of a skull that features the position you want to paint, whether from the side or the front. The image should be clear, in focus and detailed.

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Step 2

Paint the background of the canvas a single color using a wide flat brush. The background must be painted first because the skull itself, which is primarily white, will not show up on the canvas without being painted against a darker background. Wait for the background paint to dry before continuing. Acrylic paint requires a drying time of only a few minutes. Touch the canvas to be sure that the background is dry before continuing.


Step 3

Paint the base color of the skull using a medium-sized round paintbrush and white paint that has been thinned slightly with water. The actual color of the skull will likely be slightly yellow or slightly gray, but start with a white base and build up from there. Wait for the white paint to dry before proceeding.


Step 4

Paint the sockets of the skull (eye sockets and nose), using a medium-to-small round brush, with a very dark brown paint that has been mixed with dark blue paint. Combined, these two colors create a shade that is light black but more complex. Look back and forth between the photograph of the skull and the canvas to determine the exact placement of the sockets.


Step 5

Mix, on the palette, the color for the bone of the skull. Check the photograph for the exact tint of the bone. In most cases, this will be white with a little gray or white with a little yellow and brown. Mix a slightly darker version of this color elsewhere on the palette to use for shadows on the skull.


Step 6

Paint the skull in the bone color that you mixed on the palette in Step 5. Work quickly, before the paint dries. If necessary, mix the color of the skull with water to keep it wet while you're painting.

Step 7

Paint the shadows on the skull. Shadows might appear beneath the cheekbones, on the rounded top of the skull or to one side of the skull if the skull is lit from one side. Use a dry brush to blend the paint once it's on the canvas. Do it quickly because the paint will dry fast.

Step 8

Draw in the teeth on the skull using a small detail brush and the paint you used for the shadows.



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