Skin Tone Essentials

Skin Tone Essentials

December 3, 2015

In this Insight, Dan guides you through key aspects of getting proper skin tone in your grade.  


Day 3: 25 Insights in 25 Days Holiday Marathon

Skin Tone Essentials – EWTC

Working with difficult skin tone is one of the most challenging but also essential parts of colour grading and also one of the most requested Insight areas here on MixingLight!

In this article, I want to share with you my checklist for working with skin tone. This is more of a thought process and mental checklist than a look on a particular shot.

If you’d like to see any of my previous skin techniques please check out my previous series here!

What To Look For In Skin Tone

I am lucky enough to get to work in a commercial environment where I get 6 or more hours to work on 30 seconds of footage.

My checklist is based on making the skin look as good as possible with no compromises.

I often find the hardest part of dealing with skin is remembering to cover all the key areas so I came up with the mnemonic :

Everyone Wants To Color Happily

All these terms below relate directly to the skin and nothing to do with the general look of the shot.

White Balance For The Skin
Head Shoulders Knees And Toes


The number one cause of skin tone not feeling right is rooted in exposure. Most people set their white point and black point and then start thinking about the skin which is great BUT…

If you are having issues with skin tone reset all your grades and start again then set the exposure just right for the skin.

Here is an example of an underexposed shot that technically has the correct white and black point but the skin is way under.



I then reset the shot and only using lift, gamma, gain and the saturation control, I aim to get the best starting point for the skin. I can figure out all the other aspects later with windows and secondaries.


When working with talking heads / pieces to camera, the people are always key. Who cares if you’ve come up with a great look but the person is not looking their best!

Set your exposure level for the best skin tone and you can then easily dial in the rest of the look

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