Greyscale to Color tips
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  1. #1
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    Greyscale to Color tips

    As I work more and more with greyscale and painting in general, I understand how much simpler the limiter values of greyscale help to define form easier, but when I do try to transfer the greyscale to color via a color layer or overlay layering, it isn't exactly on par. I guess it's from the lack of inherent value being the same as what it would be if it was done straight in color. As humans we don't see in black and white and so I assume lighter colors are very very white, but in fact, according to the overlay layer, it's too light. I wish I could explain it better.

    When I use overlay or color layers to color over my grayscale, it is either too light or too dark because the values aren't set accordingly, though they look find by themselves in greyscale. Has anyone else had this problem? I'm sure it's been an issue for at least one other person. Let's hope I can get some responses and work on it. It'd greatly increase my speed, though I do like just slabbing color on the canvas also.

    Any tips guys?

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    Don't try to colorize the grayscale with layers. Just use the grayscale version as a value guideline as you repaint the picture in color. It will turn out much livelier that way.

    As an added bonus, this way you can save time by making the grayscale value sketch small and rough.

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    I have seen artists do successful colorations of grey-scale paintings (namely Steven Stahlberg), but usually there's a lot of additional overpainting involved. Photoshop just cannot emulate the "underpainting" effect you can achieve with traditional media.
    I'd go with what arenhaus said; work small and rough in greyscale then paint over in colour. At some point in the future you'll likely ditch the grey-scale painting in the digital process altogether (if colour is your aim) since it means that you paint everything twice. But as a learning tool I think it's a very valuable technique.

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    Yeah personally I've abandoned working with greyscale to start, and instead just paint straight colour. Nothing wrong with starting greyscale though--it makes it easier for the beginner I think, as they can focus on getting solid values first before even worrying about colour.

    Here are a few tips that I figured out when working by colouring things with layers ontop:
    -There are multiple different layer types, and each will add colour in a different manner; use more than just one type of layer, and learn what the differences between them are. I personally like Soft Light a lot, but also use Color, Overlay, and Hard Light, and you should experiment with others too.
    -No matter what layer type you are using to add colour EVERY ONE will actually change your values. Some will keep it consistent like Colour Dodge makes everything lighter, btu others like Soft Light will push your values to the extremes (making your darks darker and lights lighter). You can counteract some of this by painting your greyscale image with a little more mid-value than you would normally.
    -Most layers will make your image more saturated, so to avoid getting an over saturated look, I suggest picking colours that are not super saturated to begin with.
    -Vary your colours as much as possible. It is very easy to get a monochromatic image from using layers to add colour. Don't forget to pick new colours all the time for changing local colour, changing from light to midtone, midtone to shadow etc., and remember to vary the colour temperature too.
    -Don't have the coloured layers do all the work. Maybe get 50-80% of the colour put down with the layers, but then that last 20-50% needs to be painted on a normal layer on top of everything else. This is the only way I've seen that makes the colour look good and add a bit of solidity to the piece by painting opaque colours on top. Make sure in this stage to add new colour variation too to avoid the monochromatic issue again. Also this can be used to fix up some areas where the values have been changed by the layers (maybe your lights got blown out in an area, or the foreground is now too dark).

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    wow. I hadn't checked back on CA for a while and didn't see the reply posts. I thank you guys greatly for the advice.

    Not to downplay the wisdom, it just so happens that I spent a day practicing and researching it also and found nearly exactly what was said.

    Ironically, the nail in the coffin that showed me this was from the Art of Assassin's Creed III where one of their commercial art paintings used greyscale to color in a small way. Using greyscale, then glazing over with just a bit of the color and overlay layers, they did only a small bit to get an idea of where to go and painted over everything again, then over the line art.

    All-in-all, everything said here has been sound and good advice (excluding my drivel).

    What I also learned from a bit of research (and this is subjective to whom you look at) artists like Feng Zhu implement greyscale and color but I've yet to see any of his lectures on Design Cinema implement both at the same time. As Andrew Sonea said, it's most likely cause he grew out of the need for it as color came more affluently to him after hard practice. My teacher at the Art Institute had turned me onto the idea of greyscale to color in the image manipulation class but as he is not a painter and deals more in vector art and cel shading, I doubt he really understood his recommendation to rely upon it as a full process.

    Again, thanks for the help. I appreciate the stepping stones guys.

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