Grayscale to Color (+Tips and Tricks) | Digital Painting Tutorial

Grayscale to Color (+Tips and Tricks) | Digital Painting Tutorial

Hey guys!
Lately I’ve been asked a lot to make an updated version on how I’m getting things done and
thing is, I suck at tutorials. So if this sucks, I apologise in advance!
Also I’d like to mention that this is how I am getting things done; I am by no means
a professional and there are plenty of more efficient techniques out there. So I appreciate
your feedback on this so I can improve. So let me know what you think!
Let’s skip this blahblah and go right into the subject! I usually start with a cleaned
sketch for orientation because my style does not require a high level of accuracy. So I
don’t use a lineart. I guess all following steps will work with a lineart as well. I
didn’t try it out but you can try it out and show me your results.
The first thing I am doing – like everyone else – is marking the light source in the
background layer. Thing is, many people are using two dimensional arrows to mark the light
source. I prefer using 3-dimensional arrow thingies, because, you know, our motif is
going to be 3-dimensional as well so we would only limit ourselves if we used a 2-dimensional
light sourse. I am also a huge fan of using more than one light source: I usually use
one neutral coloured and several highly-saturated ones. You’ll later see what I mean. I think
it gives the result a really nice touch in the end.
The next step consists of creating a base layer for our colours. I like to paint every
kind of surface on its own layer, so it doesn’t get that messy in the end. So for example,
skin goes to one layer, hair goes on another, and one kind of fabric is on another kind
of layer as – I don’t know – another kind of fabric. So I lock the layers usually so
I don’t have to erase a lot later on. And then I start painting a kind of gradient that
can go from a dark gray to a really light gray – depending on the light in the scene
of course. And after the gradient is set, I start with creating very basic shadows so
I get a feeling about where really hard shades are, where areas are really dark and where
lighter areas are. So I kind of start building up the volume of the motif I try to depict.
In the following step I try to bring more life into the art work by creating more details
and the illusion of many details by using textures. In the first steps I used smooth
brushes just to create shadows and now I switch to textured brushes to bring smooth areas
to life. Like skin, hair, fabric, organic textures in general are not smooth. And so
you can make them a bit more stand out by using textures. And I think you create, like,
the illusion that there are a lot more details just by using a textured brush without using
any details at all. The quality of my artwork usually depends
on photo references. That’s why I love to take my own. In this case, however, I used
photos from as reference for the flowers. Unsplash offers really neat photos
for whatever you want for free and the photographers don’t even want you to credit them – it’s
nice if you do so nevertheless. So I really recommend using photo references.
Now that we got all greyscale parts finished – except the flowers – we can start to bring
in some colour! Now this is where things get a bit tricky, because we need a lot of layers
for that. But no worries, I’ll repeat everything after that.
So first, pick the grayscale layer and create a new layer directly above it. This will be
our first colour layer. So we can begin filling the layer with a single colour. And I usually
set the layer to “multiply or “colour” depending on the scene. It’s “colour”
and not “multiply” in this case. To lock this layer’s contents to the size of the grayscale
layer beneath it, you just need to create a clipping mask. You can do so by clicking
right on the layer and select “create clipping mask”. That’s how easy it is. So after that
I refine the colour just a bit by using a different hue with a big soft brush. After
that is done, we need again a new layer clipped to the grayscale layer. And this time it needs
to be set to “multiply”. Fill it with a dark shade of purple and pick a huge but soft brush
with a lower opacity and then pick a low saturated yellow or orange or green tone to highlight
the parts closer to the light sources, a bit similiar to the process of sculpting shadows
in the beginning when we were just working with black and white.
We are almost done with new layers now. I like to use adjustment layers instead of applying
every adjustment to the layer right away, so I create a “colour balance” adjustment
layer – clipped to the grayscale layer again – to play around with the overall color scheme.
I usually get much better results that way. In case you lost track of all the layers,
let me recap everything: Beneath all lies the grayscale layer, which
all following layers are clipped to. Above that, there’s a layer that contains
all the colors and which is set either to “multiply” or “colour”.
The next layer refines the overall lightning situation a bit. It is set to multiply and
contains mostly dark shades of purple and low saturated yellows.
The last one in this set is one or several color adjustment layers. I only used “colour
balance” here. And now we’re almost at the end of this
tutorial! Give yourself a high five if you’re still watching!
There’s not much to say about the last steps – I just add a few layers above EVERYTHING
I’ve done so far and keep painting over things. I also added the second, highly saturated
light source in this step. This time, it’s a subtle and weak purple light, so it doesn’t
affect the overall light situation a lot. And that’s it. That’s a quick walkthrough
of my painting process. There’s unfortunately no magic involved and now that I actually
had to write a script for this video, I have to admit that it’s not that spectacular
at all. Anyway, I still have to say a few things before
this video is over. So this is how my result looks, and there’s a version of this video
out there for those who find my voice as annoying as I do!
Thanks for watching guys! If you enjoyed this messy tutorial then give this video a thumbs
up, if not… well, you could technically still give it a thumbs up… but you would
make me even happier if you told me what I can improve!


  • Catherine Stanford says:

    I definitely found this to be very helpful, and very inspirational to give it a shot! I think the way you did the tutorial is great to give the basics for how the method can be used, but still allowing people to alter it and see what works best for them. Thank you very much for the video!

  • Negru Iulian says:

    This is very helpful , thank you so much for this tutorial, it really improvement my paintings 😀

  • Moze says:

    hey you didnt an awesome job explain stuff! you rock. thank you! KEEP MAKING VIDEO 😀 sub

  • Jodi 2000 says:

    Thank you! I've just started going into digital art and so a lot of this is all new to me!

    First of all though : have confidence in yourself, your tutorials are looking great!
    Secondly, you may need to introduce some of the effects and layer options because for some of the newer (like me) we might like to know what each effect does (as you use them in your video that is ) like for the multiply in this video

  • Universalmusicgroup says:

    The fact that the voice record is already not crisp and clear.. add that with the slang I have to replay some scenes to try to understand what you're saying. it's like cashie me outsidie hawbow dah?

  • Rex Sobb says:

    Thanks dude, appreciate it, helped me lot

  • Сосед Твой says:

    very helpful, thank you <3

  • Jody Knight says:

    great video thanks

  • VITTXRIO says:

    This is the technique that I've been looking for. The fact that the mixing of colors is very interesting. Mind if I ask for the brush you use for this? Or you just use basic brushes?

  • L'Ctenidae Studio says:

    What brush you use?

  • Estelar Von Loose says:

    Thank you so much for explaining this. This specific feature is what I've been trying to find for a looong time. I've been trying to find an expanded explanation on how to add/use clipping mask and the use of greyscale!


  • Estelar Von Loose says:

    I would loooooove to see more tutorials from you!!

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