• Shane A.S. Ritchie, CFSP

Techniques for a Perfect Restoration Cosmetic Foundation Using NecroPAX™ Sealing Base

Updated: Aug 19

“Color theory is a crucial part of cosmetic work, especially if you are trying make a portion of the face (or the entire face) that you have repaired look like it belongs there, and is the same as the real skin which surrounds it or was there when the person was alive.”

Base Skin Tone

It is important to get the base tone of your repair right. You do not want to make things harder on yourself later by creating an area which “fights” you because of improper base color. It can be quite frustrating when you have to use more and more cosmetic to try and "correct" a badly or inappropriately colored repair (giving you that “caked-on” look), when you can get the base tone to do most of the work for you.

What exactly do I mean by a "base" tone? The base tone is also known as the foundation tone. NecroPAX™ Sealing Base will generally be the base cosmetic for any repair and is often used on the entire face if many areas of damage have been repaired. It is the "support layer" to which other colors are added to make a believable skin color.

NecroPAX™ should be applied to completely clean skin. No massage cream, lanolin, silicone, etc. residue. Clean skin with acetone to remove these products.

Apply in very thin layers using a cosmetic wedge sponge or using an airbrush (I use and recommend the Paasche H for this), when thinned in a 1 to 1 mixture with NecroPAX™ Airbrush Thinner. In either case, thoroughly dry each coat using a hairdryer set on the COOL setting before adding another coat. Three or four very thin coats work much better than heavy coats. But let’s get back to the all-important matter of color!

Starting LIGHTER is important! It is better to match the base to the palest areas of the skin you are trying to match. You can generally more easily darken larger areas of a paler base, when needed, more successfully and easily, than trying to highlight larger areas of a base which is too dark.

Ambient Lighting is Very Important

The same color in different lighting situations will appear somewhat different. You must be familiar with the lighting in the chapel or viewing area. You can do work that appears wonderful in the bright lights of the prep room, but it looks “off” in the more subdued lighting of the chapel.

The angle of the light is also an important consideration. Remember, we are used to seeing people standing or sitting. Most people, unless they are a significant other, may have never seen the deceased person lying on their back in life. The shadows and highlights will often be in completely different places. This is a big reason you will sometimes hear people say “He/she just doesn’t quit look like himself/herself.” Keep this firmly in mind as you adjust your shadows and highlights.


It is very important to have good, clear, color pictures of the deceased skin as it was in life. You will need to analyze the colors and determine what shades you need to match when mixing your NecroPAX™ base.

NecroPAX™ is now available in 11 skin tones and three adjuster shades. All can be intermixed to get the perfect base color. Our lightest shade, Alabaster, leans toward a pale yellowish tone while Ebony is our darkest, and is a very deep brown/black tone.

When you mix a base color, you are going to be using color theory to “correct” the shades to create the closest match possible to the lightest area of the natural skin tone. Whichever NecroPAX™ shade you start with is unlikely to be an exact match to the skin you are trying to recreate, so you must adjust in small increments until you hit on the right shade.

Looking at your base and comparing it side-by-side to the photos, try to determine what is missing. Is it too pale or too dark? If it is too dark, go to a lighter shade of NecroPAX™ and start again. Then, again, determine is it red enough? Yellow enough? Olive enough? Cool enough? You will be using color theory to adjust the base tone until it is as close as possible.

I like to use a stainless-steel ramekin to mix my base in. You can use most any small container of your choice. If you need to add small amounts of adjusters, it is often helpful to put a small amount of that color into a tiny container or onto an index card and use a thin tool, such as toothpick, to drop a small amount into the base, rather than drop it straight from the NecroPAX™ Adjuster bottle. The dispenser nozzle may deliver too much and ruin the mix. Proceed slowly until you get the base mix right.

Sample Mixing Techniques

If you are not sure which way to go with a base color adjustment, try putting a some of the main base color NecroPAX™ onto the center of a clean white paper plate or sheet of thick, white card-stock, and then put a small amount of each adjuster (and other shades of NecroPAX™, if you think it might be needed) around the outer edge.

Drag some of the base out and mix it with each adjuster to see what effect they have on the base. This will help show you what effect Olive, Cool Tone, Rose, or whatever other shade you add, will have on your mixture. It should help you decide which way to go, and you may be surprised by which colors move you in the right direction.

Remember to proceed slowly and constantly refer to the photographs of the skin color you want to achieve. Take it a step at a time and you will end up with a base color that will make the rest of your work much easier.

Next time we will discuss using airbrushes with a few different techniques and the Skin Illustrator Palettes for “fine tuning” your skin tones to create a natural, realistic final appearance.

Until then, keep practicing, get some good reference materials, and study living faces. You will be amazed at what you will be able to accomplish!

Check out our YouTube channel for new "how to" videos being added often:



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