Why paint in gray scale before color?

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  1. #1
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    Why paint in gray scale before color?

    Hey Guys, so i have a question about painting color in Photoshop.

    I often see people paint somthing in gray scale, then paint on top of that in color.

    I guess Its useful to got the right values before going into color. But isn't it time consuming? Why not go straight into color?

    Can anyone elucidate the benefits of painting in gray scale before color? besides the one i just mentioned.

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  3. #2
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    Some people do and some don't. I don't see the point either unless you have problems painting in colour.

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    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=64674

    While this covers traditional painting ...might give you a history. Not everyone uses grey either when doing monochrome painting.

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    There are two typical reasons. One, certain techniques rely on having a monochrome underpainting under a colored glaze. Two, making a monochrome sketch often helps with visualizing the values without chroma getting in the way. In the first case, you paint over the grizaille, in the second, you just use it as a reference study.

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    I also agree with Black Spot that it totally depends, as some use it and some don't. However, adding color to a grayscale image is a neat little effect you see all over the place.

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    Great question.

    Working in achromatic neutrals is for preparatory purposes.

    From your perspective, the redundancy that you think of as wasting time actually saves time for those invested in using the process.

    Separating the channels of color (Lightness from Hue and Chroma for surfaces) allows for a sort of binary decision process.
    Lightness+
    Lightness-
    A polychromatic process (full color) would require much more complex senary decision making process.
    Lightness +
    Lightness -
    Chroma +
    Chroma -
    Hueº +
    Hueº -
    The problem with a polychromatic process is that the variable dimensions have tripled and this leads to a higher chance of getting things wrong. It does not mean someone with a strong framework of color cannot walk the line, it just means it is more difficult.

    When designing a process reducing complexity often makes the entire system less dependent on constraints. This means that things can get done quicker and separately. Increasing redundancy in a system may actually be a benefit because it decreases the chance of error or failure. Its about design process. You should know why you do things and for what purpose.

    Last edited by kinjark; June 22nd, 2012 at 08:17 AM.
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    If you are working in gray scale first it usually means you are working from construction not from life. Your image is made from photos and other reference and pieced together. In this way it saves you time because you can work right on the preparatory work. When working from observation and life this isn't practical; especially outdoors and if you did it would just create more work for yourself not less.

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    I'm working on a grayscale because it saves a lot of time later when building shadows, etc. When working on grayscale you don't pay attention later to the light/shadow proportion in your work. And I never work from photos or references because it makes your work lifeless

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viovista View Post
    And I never work from photos or references because it makes your work lifeless
    That absolutely depends on the artist.

    You won't be able to always tell if the person used reference because they're that good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viovista View Post
    I'm working on a grayscale because it saves a lot of time later when building shadows, etc. When working on grayscale you don't pay attention later to the light/shadow proportion in your work. And I never work from photos or references because it makes your work lifeless
    No its not faster working from life. You paint the painting twice how could that ever be faster? I paint from life all the time, more than a hundred paintings a year, there is nothing faster than painting directly in color. There is nothing to build, you see a color you take into account all its aspects and you put it down and leave it. Done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viovista View Post
    And I never work from photos or references because it makes your work lifeless


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    Quote Originally Posted by Viovista View Post
    I'm working on a grayscale because it saves a lot of time later when building shadows, etc. When working on grayscale you don't pay attention later to the light/shadow proportion in your work. And I never work from photos or references because it makes your work lifeless
    Really should know your audience. Both working with grayscale and working directly work if the person doing either or both know what they are doing. Painting plein air with grayscale would just be silly but there are plenty of paintings I have done where I saved a lot of time and pain by doing grayscale first.

    The same would hold true for digital painting. There was an interesting post by Serge Bierault on Muddy Colors today. He usually works directly with color but did a grayscale to try it and actually saved time but didn't like the piece as much. I liked the moodiness he created. Both work or don't depending upon the artist.

    As far as reference goes, better do a little homework.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    No its not faster working from life. You paint the painting twice how could that ever be faster?
    Everyone has their own method. Something that slows you down or is unnecessary for you, might be a necessary thing for him that lets him work faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Everyone has their own method. Something that slows you down or is unnecessary for you, might be a necessary thing for him that lets him work faster.
    When you are learning how to paint you need to know what things are possible to achieve, especially for production art or concept art where speed is important.

    Painting something twice is not faster than painting something once. If you fail to learn to paint in color then by all means paint in gray scale and then add color on top but don't say its faster because it is only faster for people incapable of learning to paint in color from the start.

    Its just like tracing photos or any other work around for people with limited skill sets, its only faster for someone lacking full abilities not for someone who can actually draw and paint without workarounds. If you don't at least try and fail to achieve the highest ability possible to you, how could you ever know what you are capable of? Fear of failing produces mediocrity every time and causes people to take the easy way out before ever trying to succeed.

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    Last edited by dpaint; June 23rd, 2012 at 10:19 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Its just like tracing photos or any other work around for people with limited skill sets, its only faster for someone lacking full abilities not for someone who can actually draw and paint without workarounds.
    Are you saying that it is only faster for people who use it (ingenuity) then if they did not use it?

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    I don't do this, mainly because I learned through traditional media, not digital. I use digital means to color now, but I stick to what I learned in school: lineart, visualize your values, then throw the paint down piece by piece. Digital just makes the "visualize" part easier, but there's really no reason to do it. I guess it's "spheres and boxes" for coloring for some people.

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    Completely agree with dpaint. Someone who can paint in color, with accurate values can always step it back to work in monochrome or grisaille if they want...many people do....but it isn't faster to work monochromatically and then glaze or colorize. And one isn't better than the other...but one is faster and depending on the situation and goals you would select one method over another.

    For example, an academic drawing and painting approach is counter-productive when working alla prima en plein air...just as an au premier coup approach would be if you wanted to do layers and layers of glazing.

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    Cow

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    No its not faster working from life. ....
    Wow! Never thought I provoke such a discussion
    And sure, everyone has their own method, I absolutely agree. And I agree, painting from life is not faster - it's actually slower. But for me it's easier. Even when I do a grayscale first. Painting for me is like a meditation where I can express my inner thoughts very thoroughly. I'm not going to make it fast. But I'm going to make it lovely for myself And grayscale is a part of this

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    I agree that it's VERY time consuming, which is why I stopped that technique ages ago. What I do now is add a greyscale layer when painting, that way I can be sure my values are working.

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  27. #20
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    Why grey? Surely any colour would be better than grey. In oils you can do a quick under painting in very thin burnt umber or ultramarine mainly to sketch it out properly before layering on the paint. Grey just deadens everything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    Why grey? Surely any colour would be better than grey. In oils you can do a quick under painting in very thin burnt umber or ultramarine mainly to sketch it out properly before layering on the paint. Grey just deadens everything.

    Another great question.

    I can see a thin top layer painted into a wet, grey under layer as producing less chromatic colors.
    Although, I see painting any relatively light color over any darker color having an even larger decrease in chroma.
    This is regardless if it is wet or dry and is due to turbidity.
    This effect can be mitigated with opacity of the top layer or only painting dark over light.

    What does grey have that other colors don't?
    Achromatic neutrals have the largest value range because they lack hue and chroma. If they are present then the range of value is smaller. This large range can be useful for certain effects in oil painting.

    Ok, what effects makes grey a good choice?
    Really it's up to the final effect you are after. But let's have an example.
    Let's say we want to do a painting with multiple layers.
    If the top layer is lighter than the bottom layer it will likely shift the final layer closer to neutral regardless of hue or chroma.
    If a bottom layer is lighter (especially lighter) the chroma will rise. Painting a darker color on a white ground yields a higher chroma.
    Keep in mind that there will always be some kind of hue shit.
    If accurate hue is critical, one needs to calculate the shift and alter the painting in two ways:
    1. alter white layer somehow before the top layer to shift to hue to what is desired
    2. paint a slightly shifted top color to get the right final color.

    So white is a good choice because it is especially light, and won't shift the hue too much or is predictable.

    Painting an under painting in just anything but near neutrals may shift the final layer in an undesired direction and may also be too dark to be useful. That is high value+ high chroma is the desired effect we are after here.

    Why not just paint it alla prima and be done with it?

    This is a simplification.
    Opaque colors depend on pigment color for chroma while properly glazed colors have this too but with the added benefit of structural color. This places multiple organized interfaces on top of one another. Each layer blocks some portion of the same passage of wavelengths that would ultimately lower the chroma . It basically ups the gamut a bit where opaque colors are slightly left behind in. Structural colors are why flowers, birds and butterfly have incredibly high chroma that opaque pigment colors cannot match. This is also why dry pigments are less chromatic than pigments in medium. Pigment in medium have a lower ability to scatter light because the interfaces between particles are less isotropic (less matte). So pigment plus structure gives maximum chroma.

    Who the hell cares if you get and umph in chroma by glazing?
    Well, to each, her own.

    Example Please?

    Why paint in gray scale before color?

    Above is an old process of under painting that is designed to maximize chroma at particular hues without compromising to much value.
    The artist is Adrian Gottlieb.

    1. dry brush: Drawing on ground of similar colors. The pigment was chosen because it drys fast. The color was chosen for the ground because it is close to the shadow color in the final layer.

    2. lead white: Scumble to model form in higher key then final layer. pigment was chosen because it is semi transparent, drys fast and especially light.

    3. hue/chroma mapping: painting opaque to distinguish local color shifts of flesh tone while keeping everything very light. background is painted in for desired effects to start to take place. Pigments are chosen for personal preference. Really, you could do this with many different paints and get the same effect. The pigments are sinopia and chromium oxide green from blue ridge.

    4. Final glazing. all very chromatic colors are crucial and pigment should be chosen carefully to accommodate the appropriate effect. This is because the hue/chroma shifts depend on pigments not necessarily on hue. Think structural color and not pigment color.

    Last edited by kinjark; June 26th, 2012 at 11:01 PM.
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  30. #22
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    Since I'm pretty sure the OP was talking about digital painting, I figure I should point out that glazing with traditional media is an entirely different beast from adding color layers over greyscale in digital media.

    In traditional media, of course you get different effects from glazing than from more direct painting due to the way the different approaches affect light hitting the paint layers. So which approach you use depends on what results you want (and whether you have the time and patience for glazing.)

    With digital media, there's really no significant difference in the final result whether you start with grayscale or color. The end result is pixels on a screen/ink printed on paper regardless. So the only reason to use one approach over another is personal preference in workflow and technique. Whatever works for you, whatever gets the job done, it doesn't matter.

    On another note, you can glaze over multi-colored underpaintings if you want, and if you know what you're doing... Maxfield Parrish being a prime example of that. (I think some old masters started with a burnt umber underpainting rather than grey... Or various brown tones on a reddish ground... If I remember correctly, I could be wrong...)

    Quote Originally Posted by kinjark View Post
    Keep in mind that there will always be some kind of hue shit.
    Also, this typo amuses the hell out of me. (I am easily amused.)

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  32. #23
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    I personally find working monochromatically first faster because it tends to save me time that I would have otherwise spent fixing values later on, and I find it easier to control color shifts when applying it all at once and not worrying about the values underneath. But I imagine that is simply due to my own limitations, that I'm not able to produce the image I want by working in color directly. Since I don't mind the process, I continue to use it happily.

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  33. #24
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    QueenGwenevere
    Good points.
    I did not say you could not glaze over other colors, I gave an example as to why it would be preferred for a neutral. Though Glazing over anything too dark will be useless if you desire the final layer to be light and chromatic irrespective of hue shifts.
    I was responding only in this instance to oils at Black Spot's question. As you said, the OP was clear about grey-scale and it's application to Photoshop.

    BTW - that typo made me tear up it was so funny.

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    wow, kinjark! Thanks a lot for your post and an example! You gave me a great bunch of ideas for the future This can extend my grayscale technique
    I'm thinking about adding chroma to the first underlying grayscale level. This can give even a better color contrast.....

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  35. #26
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    kinjark - I sort of do they same thing digitally; working from brown and adding transparent colours on top and sort of mixing them that way. Okay I'm not a pro, but it just feels better for me staying away from grey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kinjark View Post
    Keep in mind that there will always be some kind of hue shit.
    You're right- my hues are always shit

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