What is your approach on painting from grayscale to color?

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  1. #1
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    What is your approach on painting from grayscale to color?

    The method I've been using at the moment has been to do everything in grayscale and then paint color in on an overlay layer. This inevitably screwed up my colors until I saw a tutorial by Sycra in which he recommends that you reference this color value chart when laying down colors:

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    Since I'm not totally savvy with photoshop yet (I use CS6), I'm asking if there is another way of going about this. Do you paint from grayscale to color? Why or why not? Is there another method than the one I've mentioned or I just need to practice until I get a subconscious sense of color-value relationships?

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  3. #2
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    Why paint twice? Just paint more.

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    That chart you posted is just a mess of bad choices. Color is hue saturation and chroma. When you paint objects all of those attributes shift from light into shadow. Work traditionally and from life if you want to learn about color.

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    I am learning to use the color layer myself because it makes doing concept work so much easier if I only have to focus on values until I have finalized the concept/composition. It's also much faster. However, I must say that with the exception of a few brilliant artists, I find paintings done with solid colors feel more... I dunno... real.

    Assuming you have decent knowledge of color theory and are concerned specifically with the technique of using a color layer over grayscale, you're just gonna have to work through it until it becomes intuitive. It's not nearly as easy as it looks, you can't just fill in blocks of color like it was a comic book (well you can, but it looks cheap). The hardest part is getting the values right in the first place, regardless of color.
    Do studies from life or photographs until you get the hang of how the color layer behaves. Don't try doing stuff from your imagination yet, you'll just get frustrated and develop bad habits. If you want to ease into it, find a master painting or really awesome photograph and convert it to grayscale. Copy it in grayscale. Then turn the color back on and try to match it using the color layer. Fiddle with the color layer and your grayscale layer (which you'll probably find was much less accurate than you originally thought, because the color layer will brutally expose every flaw) until your copy is an exact match. Do that a couple times and you'll have a far better idea of how color and value relate than by looking at a dinky chart.

    I personally think practice with the color layer is healthy, because it is so finicky about your values. You can kind of get away with fudging the values when using multiply and overlay layers, which is great when you're a pro and know what you're doing, but dangerous to someone still learning value.

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    Have to agree with everyone else: painting colour over greyscale looks horrible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbravita View Post
    Have to agree with everyone else: painting colour over greyscale looks horrible.
    Not really, it is what the old masters did. However, for the beginner it is overly complicated, and it takes a lot of skill and experience to make it work...

    Grinnikend door het leven...
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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque View Post
    Not really, it is what the old masters did. However, for the beginner it is overly complicated, and it takes a lot of skill and experience to make it work...
    Yes it does look like crap to anyone with any skill or intelligence. No its not what they did. Some of them used glazing but most painted directly with color and all of them understood how to paint with direct color. What people do now is just lazy and ignorant and it doesn't look better because they still lack the bandwidth and discipline to just learn basic color theory.

    People on this forum are always whining that the tools don't matter, only your knowledge and skills do, well that cuts both ways. If you can't learn color theory and you have to find lazy workarounds to fake it then you're right, tools don't matter, your inability and lack of knowledge still shows through all the tech.

    Last edited by dpaint; 4 Weeks Ago at 12:49 PM.
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    Going from greyscale to colour in digital is simply inefficient (in most cases). You can always have the best of both worlds by putting a desaturation-layer on top of your colour work to check the value read. And if you can't handly painting directly in colour, you won't succeed in "colouring" the greyscale painting, even if the values are correct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Benedikt View Post
    Going from greyscale to colour in digital is simply inefficient (in most cases). You can always have the best of both worlds by putting a desaturation-layer on top of your colour work to check the value read. And if you can't handly painting directly in colour, you won't succeed in "colouring" the greyscale painting, even if the values are correct.
    Have to agree with this. A desaturation layer really helps.

    Also, even if the masters did it, it still looks terrible.

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    Just to be devil's advocate here, I do think that gray->color has it's place. It's a lot easier to explore and fiddle with a composition from imagination if you can start out by roughing in the grayscale (more important than color anyway in most cases), with maybe a 5 second shoddy color layer over top to test out different color schemes. It's a lot faster at least, and you'll be more willing to make changes if you haven't put in a lot of early effort. From there you can decide whether you want to bring it to a higher level of finish, maybe by repainting with a normal layer using the colored sketch as guidelines. Or you may decide that time is money, and leave it as is. Good enough for concept art. This is a business after all, and using tools to speed the job is not "lazy and ignorant". Even comic book artists now use Sketchup to do all their perspective work.
    At any rate, it's a handy skill and worth learning how to do.

    The real key I think is to make sure you learn your color theory properly, and don't take any shortcuts. Gray->color can be a tempting shortcut to beginners who don't realize it's a lot more complicated than it looks, and can trick them into thinking they understand color when they really don't. Maybe a good guideline is don't try gray->color until you can accurately and repeatedly paint in straight color from life/photos/master copies, then gradually interweave some gray->color work in once you have a solid understanding of color. And whatever you do, do not let it become a crutch.

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  14. #11
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    how is it faster than doing it in color once? Its not. you are just making excuses. Yes its a business so you have to have the skill before you get the job then you don't have to waste time doing double the work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque View Post
    Not really, it is what the old masters did. However, for the beginner it is overly complicated, and it takes a lot of skill and experience to make it work...
    The typical approach prior to the second half of the nineteenth century was not painting over greyscale, nor direct painting, but involved variations on the idea of "painting in layers" over a first stage of simplified colouring sometimes known as "dead colouring". For example in his widely imitated manual of 1756 Thomas Bardwell described the first stage of flesh painting using several tints of Light Red (oxide) and white in the lights and a mixed purplish grey "shade tint" in the shadows. In his Guide to Oil Painting of 1845 J. S. Templeton described the "First Painting" as "giving to each object a somewhat slighter or weaker effect of light, shade and colour than it is intended to possess when finished"; "to produce this, the colours used should be as few as possible...". In both descriptions this first stage is followed by more varied tints, glazes and scumbles. (Both texts available here)


    Yet another way to skin a cat.

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  17. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    how is it faster than doing it in color once? Its not. you are just making excuses. Yes its a business so you have to have the skill before you get the job then you don't have to waste time doing double the work.
    It's faster sometimes, and not faster others, it depends on the person and the project. If you're willing to sacrifice the subtleties of color and kind of block stuff in just so it reads instead, color over grayscale can be very quick. It can also be very convenient when the painting/concept has not been fully worked out yet, because major changes can be applied to grayscale faster and more simply than working in color. There are many ways of working. I've seen too many professional concept artists that use the technique successfully to say it's useless. Here's one off the top of my head - http://www.jonfoster.com/book-covers.html

    I'm not trying to condone the widespread adoption of the gray->color method here. I still think straight color looks better 95% of the time. I'm just saying it isn't quite a black-and-white issue (heheh).

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    I wouldn't call that successful. Successful to me is good-looking colours. The art is good, but the colours aren't. They're not lifelike at all.

    I mean, colours don't have to be an oversaturated acid trip, but you can tell the difference between lifelike colours that really give a piece some spark and when they... don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Yes it does look like crap to anyone with any skill or intelligence. No its not what they did. Some of them used glazing but most painted directly with color and all of them understood how to paint with direct color.
    That really depends on which tradition and time period you are talking about. The dutch masters almost always started with a monochrome to get the chiarro-scurro correct, and then added in color with glaze after glaze. Rembrandt almost always worked that way, and I wouldn't say his works look like crap.

    What people do now is just lazy and ignorant and it doesn't look better because they still lack the bandwidth and discipline to just learn basic color theory.
    Since when does working from grayscale to color not require color theory?

    People on this forum are always whining that the tools don't matter, only your knowledge and skills do, well that cuts both ways. If you can't learn color theory and you have to find lazy workarounds to fake it then you're right, tools don't matter, your inability and lack of knowledge still shows through all the tech.
    Where did anyone say not to learn color theory?

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  20. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coene View Post
    That really depends on which tradition and time period you are talking about. The dutch masters almost always started with a monochrome to get the chiarro-scurro correct, and then added in color with glaze after glaze. Rembrandt almost always worked that way, and I wouldn't say his works look like crap.
    And that has nothing to do with digital work. Traditional glazing uses the physical properties of the paint to bounce light through layers of pigment and oil mediums. Digital painting uses algorithms that mimic only some of the effect of subtractive painting and combines it with some of the effects of additive painting. If you don't understand that then the idea of color theory is useless in digital mediums.

    Since when does working from grayscale to color not require color theory?
    Just about anytime someone works digitally.

    Where did anyone say not to learn color theory?

    People are always whining about its too hard and this if faster and easy to fake it. The whole process is made to skip learning and understanding one of the most basic tenets of painting.
    Digital painters who didn't take the time to master traditional skills first don't know their stuff (most of them) and work in monochromatic strings of color, too hard to get a prismatic effect when you aren't actually mixing paint. They don't understand light and color because they sit inside all day on their computers. Don't take my word for it even Feng Zhu, Iain McCaig, Dylan Cole and Craig Mullins say the same thing. But everyone thinks it doesn't matter and then looks for workarounds thinking it will help them in their career, it doesn't. It just locks them into a lack of steady work, and low pay. But go ahead and argue its just continued job security for me.

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  21. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    And that has nothing to do with digital work. Traditional glazing uses the physical properties of the paint to bounce light through layers of pigment and oil mediums. Digital painting uses algorithms that mimic only some of the effect of subtractive painting and combines it with some of the effects of additive painting. If you don't understand that then the idea of color theory is useless in digital mediums.
    Fair point. However, I have often worked digitally from grayscale to color without issue. It gives me a chance to figure out a basic dark-light composition first, and then I'll throw in some color layers, maybe a color burn, to figure out the overall color palette. I've found that it gives me a chance to focus a bit more on the specific colors I want, and how I will place them. Yes, it can be done horribly wrong, but I've found that the problem is not that working this way excludes color theory, but rather that many people will forget that they still need a sense of color theory even when working that way. (Also, that this only works when blocking in the colors; you still need to go back in and paint over it to get a fully fleshed out painting.)



    Just about anytime someone works digitally.
    I'm not saying that I'm a master, however, as stated above, I often work from grey-tone to color; here's an example.

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    People are always whining about its too hard and this if faster and easy to fake it. The whole process is made to skip learning and understanding one of the most basic tenets of painting.
    See, I never looked at it that way. I always saw it as a way to use it as a step to focus on that tenet of painting, not to skip it.

    Digital painters who didn't take the time to master traditional skills first don't know their stuff (most of them) and work in monochromatic strings of color, too hard to get a prismatic effect when you aren't actually mixing paint. They don't understand light and color because they sit inside all day on their computers. Don't take my word for it even Feng Zhu, Iain McCaig, Dylan Cole and Craig Mullins say the same thing. But everyone thinks it doesn't matter and then looks for workarounds thinking it will help them in their career, it doesn't. It just locks them into a lack of steady work, and low pay. But go ahead and argue its just continued job security for me.
    You don't understand what it is that I'm arguing. I personally did not pick up digital painting until I was almost entirely done with school and I agree wholeheartedly that one should learn to paint first. And I already have talked to Feng Zhu, Iain McCaig, Dylan Cole and Craig Mullins; they all studied at my school and would come back to give lectures. In fact, Ian McCaig was the one who taught me a few tricks in using color burns when working digitally from gray-scale to color.

    My point is that working from a monotone to color does not have to be a way to avoid color theory, but can, in fact, be a way of embracing it. We should not be teaching new artists that an entire way of working is invalid, but instead that it will only work when still embracing the fundamentals of color theory, rather than using it as an excuse to avoid them.

    Last edited by Peter Coene; 4 Weeks Ago at 01:34 PM.
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