… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #305: What’s the “Skin Tone Line?”

Color is more than skin-deep.

The Vectorscope in Apple Final Cut Pro X.
The skin tone line indicates the color of red blood under skin.

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An interesting quirk about color is that the dominant factor giving our skin its color is not the skin, but the red blood under it. From a colorist’s point of view, blood provides color, while skin provides gray-scale.

NOTE: Yes, individuals are different. And, yes, you can apply whatever color you want to achieve a specific look. However, these general guidelines can help you get your actors to look believable and natural when you need to fix a color cast or bad lighting.

This line – see the screen shot – in the Vectorscope is called the “skin tone” line because it represents the color of red blood under skin. Whether an actor is caucasian, asian, hispanic or black, we all have the same color blood.

While there are individual variations, if you want an actor to look “normal,” make sure the color of their skin is plus or minus 2° of this line. Asians are slightly below the line, everyone else is on or slightly above the line.

Here’s a table that illustrates different ethnic groups, along with the saturation and gray-scale levels for normally-lit skin. (Think lighting for a studio talk show.)

Ethnic Group Saturation Gray-Scale
Caucasian 40% 50-70%
Asian 35% 40-60%
Hispanic 30% 35-50%
Black 20% 15-35%

Men are, generally, 5% darker and 5% less saturated than women.


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