I have an olive skin tone. Forgetting the fact that I am adopted, I never knew where “I belonged” growing up in regards to race (African vs Caucasian vs everything else) because we never talk about any other race. Olive falls into that “racially ambiguous” area and frankly, that is really upsetting.
Olive tones really need more representation in every form of media. I strongly believe this is why whenever I’m drawing humans, most of my characters tend to have some kind of olive complexion. The primary reason I’m writing this article is to show some love to my fellow olive-skin people (as well as give some straight up facts about the skin tone). Also, to discuss the overall mixed-negative representation olive tones have in video games.
All. The. Time. We olive-tones are accused of being “attempting to be black” or “cultural appropriation” when in reality it is just our natural skin tone. Like all skin tones for the human race, the olive spectrum has its own unique set of colors (undertones which are the colors that come through the skin that’s considered “right under” the skin and the overall skin complexion) for the light vs middle vs dark olive skin color. Olive tone people tend to have yellow-golden undertones, which is why I joke even at our lightest, we tend to look like that “perfect shade of golden toast”. We are not “white person with a tan” like the world seems to perceive us. Even at our darkest, we have a very beautiful golden-brown look to us. Some olive tone people tend to have an “ashen” look to their skin as well.
Does skin naturally vary throughout our age or how much sunlight it gets exposed to? Absolutely, but that doesn’t change the fact that us olives are a unique spectrum of skin tone. We are NOT white. We are NOT “white person with a tan”.
Our color palette for makeup is uniquely ours as well. We tend to look our best with the “earthy” makeup palettes (goldens, purples, browns, just to give a few examples). People who try to “look tan” through mid-tone olive range skin foundation, we can easily see it is not your “natural color” (especially if you are dealing with any kind of makeup artist or special effects makeup artist). This is just as bad as trying to use a foundation color that is three or more shades “off” (darker or lighter). It becomes painfully obvious that this isn’t your natural skin tone (also, most people aren’t dedicated enough to put foundation on the entirety of their body so we can clearly see the difference in color from your face vs your hands, arms, etc.). The undertones are not the same as your skin’s natural undertones which is why something doesn’t look “quite right” when you wear foundation made for olive skin tones.
Olive tone people tend to have ancestors for the Mediterranian area in the world (south Italy, Greece, etc.). It is because of how our skin adapted to how often our skin was regularly being exposed to the sun. We tend to not sunburn easily. Olive skin tones tend to tan very easily (again — I personally joke that you have us in the sun even for only ten minutes and we are suddenly a few shades darker). A “con” so to say is that we tend to get more acne than the average person.
When it comes to visual representation for olive skin tones (video games vs graphic novels vs art in general), it is so difficult to find an “accurate portrayal”). 90–95% of the time, the “olive tone” now looks like “white person with a tan” or “African but light skin” which is not accurate.
When video games, in particular, try to portray olive, it often looks way too red or red-orange. I have also seen poor attempts at olive tone that makes it looks like a gross color of stool. The Sims franchise is one of the few video games that I have witnessed that actually gives an accurate range of olive tones for the characters that you can create. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey also does a great job overall with both Alexios and Kassandra’s skin tone.
Who comes close? Pokemon Sword and Shield is a very close, but not quite right with an olive tone for its girl vs boy character you can choose at the beginning. To me, the second darkest skin tone you can choose (for the girl or boy) looks closer to “white person with a tan and dark hair” as opposed to an olive tone.
Most other franchises (especially when we have the option to do custom realistic skin tones) doesn’t capture the “olive skin” that many of us have in the real world. A lot of the times their attempt at an “olive skin” looks like an awkward random color/hue that’s between what we consider “typical white skin vs midtone African skin”.
On the happy side, at least Google emoticons are pretty close to olive skin (I just wish that it gave light hair vs dark hair for said skin tone option).