What is your approach on painting from grayscale to color?

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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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    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; August 20th, 2014 at 01:49 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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    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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    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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    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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    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; August 24th, 2014 at 02:34 PM.
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  23. #18
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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.



    Just about anytime someone works digitally.




    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.
    I'm sorry Dpaint, but most of your comments about color theory, painting over a monochrome base, digital painting, etc. are just completely off-base. You are making some HUGE and very broad assumptions about digital painters. It's true that color theory isn't AS critical to digital painting as it is to traditional painting, but to say that "most" digital painters never use color theory, or that it is useless is absolutely incorrect, and kind of tells me that YOU in fact, don't really understand color theory or digital art.

    As someone else mentioned, there are MANY professional digital painters (many of whom also paint traditionally) that start with a monochrome base and paint over it. Now, I will say I almost without exception don't care for that look. It can look good, but you can tell it is a color painting done over a grayscale underpainting. However, if extreme realism isn't the goal, or they want that stylized look, then go for it. To sit there and say it's flatly "wrong" to do and nobody with any intelligence would work that way is laughable, since I can pretty much assume that many of the guys who paint that way are better than both you and me. And to be fair, not all the of paintings of the masters looked totally realistic either. Some of them had more of a stylistic look to them (probably more due to the expense of certain pigments).

    Secondly, almost every good digital artist needs and uses color theory. If I'm creating a painting where I need to know what colors the highlights might be, based on background lighting, skin tone, etc. then I need color theory. If I want to create a painting where I want to know what colors to use in the painting, for better contrast, harmony and pop, then I need color theory. Your comments seem elitist, arrogant and baseless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jman99 View Post
    As someone else mentioned, there are MANY professional digital painters (many of whom also paint traditionally) that start with a monochrome base and paint over it.
    There's a difference between being a professional who knows how to use this and is doing it to save time, and knowing nothing about value and colour theory and doing it because you're lazy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbravita View Post
    There's a difference between being a professional who knows how to use this and is doing it to save time, and knowing nothing about value and colour theory and doing it because you're lazy.
    I agree, but Dpaint would have us believe that any and all such techniques are stupid, lazy, and don't look good to anyone with a brain, regardless of how good they end up looking. And that, I have an issue with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbravita View Post
    There's a difference between being a professional who knows how to use this and is doing it to save time, and knowing nothing about value and colour theory and doing it because you're lazy.
    I agree, but as with any technique there is a skillful application of it, and an unskillful one. To condemn a technique across the board, just because someone doesn't like the way it looks, or agree with it, is just plain silly. He's saying that ANY and ALL such techniques are stupid, lazy, and don't look good, no matter how skillfully applied. That is what I have a problem with.

    I also have to point out how funny it is when people point out what is "right" or "wrong" in the art world. There are rights and wrongs in mathematics or chemistry, but NO such things in art. If it works for someone, then it is good and useful. Nobody else has the right to say it is "wrong." EVERYTHING is opinion.

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    Jman

    Actually there is a right and wrong in representational painting maybe you're just not skilled enough to know what it is. Prove me wrong and post your art smart guy. As I said in my initial comments if you don't take the time to master traditional techniques before starting digital you will always be second rate to someone who has. As for my knowing color theory lets compare awards and work history since nothing is more unbiased than other peoples opinions of an artists work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Jman

    Actually there is a right and wrong in representational painting maybe you're just not skilled enough to know what it is. Prove me wrong and post your art smart guy. As I said in my initial comments if you don't take the time to master traditional techniques before starting digital you will always be second rate to someone who has. As for my knowing color theory lets compare awards and work history since nothing is more unbiased than other peoples opinions of an artists work.
    Dpaint, sorry but the way you talk, I can't believe you're even old enough to have any awards or work history. You sound like an angry, opinionated teenager, and I noticed you haven't posted any of your work, either. At any rate, I'll spend my time listening to people who know how to talk to others in a respectful, professional manner, rather than waste my time debating with you. In my experience, it rarely goes anywhere.

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    Actually dpaint does know what he's talking about. Check out the top link in his signature. Teenager? lol

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    In case anyone reading this feels like skipping the learning step of working in monochrome first don't do that. Its super important to understand and see values correctly before working directly with colour. This is a point on learning and not on actually producing art though.

    Also for some people like me who haven't yet mastered it because I am still working on values I like to throw a colour layer and then a bit of painting on a normal layer over my grayscale just to see what it could look like in colour. When I feel comfortable I will move to starting with colour first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    Actually dpaint does know what he's talking about. Check out the top link in his signature. Teenager? lol
    Blackspot, yes teenager. Mature, intelligent adults don't talk to people the way he does. Look at his posts. He may know what he's talking about to a degree, but he was wrong about some things. "Almost every digital painter" knows nothing about color theory. Wrong. I see digital painters talking about it ALL the time. And his arrogant, condescending attitude isn't going to convince people he's "right" or even make them care about his credentials. I doubt this is how he really talks to his clients, coworkers, etc. in person. This may be the internet, and we don't have to be held accountable for what we say, because it's all anonymous, but I was raised to treat people with more respect, and it just got my goat. I have taken lessons from or seen blogs from quite a few professional artists, and none of them were blatantly disrespectful. Basically, they all say "If it works, use it. There are very few rights and wrongs in art."
    And yes, I did look at his work. He has a grasp of color theory, but nothing justifies him arguing things that other professionals have done, and continue to do, even though he doesn't do it. "How is it faster? You're just making excuses." Again, adding color over a monochrome painting (digital or traditional) IS done, has been done, and is the preferred workflow for many (professional) people. It IS faster for them, or they wouldn't do it. It doesn't mean they don't understand color theory or any such thing. I've seen some amazing paintings (both digital and traditional) done that way, by guys who have some impressive credentials and work history. They wouldn't even waste time having a discussion like this with someone. They would just laugh in their face and move on. But even if THEY said "THIS is the right way to do things" it would be wrong. Because there are many different types of people and ways of approaching things. You can say you don't agree with someone, or don't like that way of working, for yourself, but to totally go off on people who do, many of whom are a heck of a lot more skilled than you, is just crazy.
    And since most of my work so far has been digital (color and monochromatic studies) I won't bother posting anything, because it's not relevant to this particular discussion. But I do study and understand color theory, although obviously I haven't implemented it much yet.

    Last edited by Jman99; 3 Weeks Ago at 02:17 PM. Reason: Forgot something
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  35. #27
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    I agree. Working in color is at least 3 times as difficult as working in monochrome, for me. Skipping the monochrome step would lead to endless frustration for most people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jman99 View Post
    Blackspot, yes teenager. Mature, intelligent adults don't talk to people the way he does. Look at his posts. He may know what he's talking about to a degree, but he was wrong about some things. "Almost every digital painter" knows nothing about color theory. Wrong. I see digital painters talking about it ALL the time. And his arrogant, condescending attitude isn't going to convince people he's "right" or even make them care about his credentials. I doubt this is how he really talks to his clients, coworkers, etc. in person. This may be the internet, and we don't have to be held accountable for what we say, because it's all anonymous, but I was raised to treat people with more respect, and it just got my goat. I have taken lessons from or seen blogs from quite a few professional artists, and none of them were blatantly disrespectful. Basically, they all say "If it works, use it. There are very few rights and wrongs in art."
    I can always tell a wannabe from a pro. They look for shortcuts to pretend they have more ability than they do. If they just had the right brush preset or the right dumbed down method as a replacement for real hard work and eventually skill. Always looking for workarounds to compete with pros who have taken the time to develop their skills to a professional level and paint digitally or traditionally.They never get good jobs because they're too lazy to do the hard work it takes to get the skills they need to work in the industry and have a successful career.I have a successful career because when people told me the truth I didn't whine and argue I listened to them and did what it took to get to a professional level. People listen to me because they know I know what I'm talking about. I don't cater to the special snowflake crowd, they are not worth my respect, respect has to be earned, it isn't handed out like a gold star for just showing up.I have almost 6000 likes for 2400 posts, so some people are smart enough to be helped by me.
    Ignore what I'm saying, I don't care, your whiny little jabs don't mean anything, it just shows how impotent your abilities really are. Post some of your work, since according to you there are no rules, lets see where this line of reasoning has gotten you. You won't do it because it will expose you for the fraud you are.

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  37. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jman99 View Post
    I agree. Working in color is at least 3 times as difficult as working in monochrome, for me. Skipping the monochrome step would lead to endless frustration for most people.
    As someone earlier in the thread pointed out -- use a desaturation layer. Get a layer, fill it with black, set to "colour", turn it on every now and then to see your values. I do this and it's invaluable. Terrible pun not intended.

    Last edited by Umbravita; 3 Weeks Ago at 06:18 PM.
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  39. #30
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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.
    I agree that working straight in color is faster and looks better. However, working from grayscale to color still has its applications in concept art, where you may be be asked to create several completely different color schemes for a particular design. In that case, doing a grayscale painting with a few gradient maps on top can be a quick way to iterate on a design and provide multiple options for the client to pick from.

    If you use this method, then the final look certainly is far from perfect. However, you need to keep in mind that with most concept art the goal is not to create a perfectly polished piece of art that holds up on its own, but simply to create a guideline for the final art to be based on (whether that's a 3d model, a movie costume, or what have you).

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