I've been working on a self portrait (WIP) and have hit a few speed bumps along the way. I have been asking around, searching for videos and through IMFX mags but I am feeling hopelessly lost here. I am trying to convert, or rather, apply color to my grayscale piece and I can't get it to work without either painting over it (which is not my intent). I mean, I've read t hat people suggest multiple/color/overlay layers and I have been experimenting with that and it's just not working. I've also been trying Curves, to get ambient (maroon) in my shadows and yellow in my highlights but I find it looks a bit too yellow.. and also not working.
I guess another issue I am having is creating a palette. I have a tenuous grip on color theory. I understand, I believe, on what I am supposed to do but am having a lot of trouble actually doing it. Also, I don't really want to color pick from my reference. I read a few articles by Marta Dahlig on creating a pallette but when I try to apply it I can't seem to replicate the results.
Anyone who can assist me or offer any links I would be greatly appreciative. I don't want to stop and start a new color painting, I want the ability to go from tonal to colors because I prefer to work in tone nad mass first.
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Jim Gurney's Blog GurneyJourney has some great information on color theory and using color. It is not specific for digital painting but just general theory about color. In the index you will see he has over 80 posts on color.
What I see in the self portrait is a lack of interesting color choices, everything is very monochromatic. Color is more prismatic as it moves from light to shadow.
The problem with default digital palettes is they don't give you a range of hues, they are usually set up to show a range of value and saturation for each color in isolation. This causes many digital artists to make color choices in only saturation and value causing the same problems you have.
Jim has a post that cover facial zones of color that will help you add interest beyond that I would recommend practicing some color mixing with limited palettes (red Yellow Blue and White) and working from life as a way to help train your eye to see richer color possibilities
Coloring grayscale picture will always have a bit transparent feel to it. Look at the eyes, blue eyes have a lot of colors, dark blue, very light sky blue, green in some cases, it's not different tones of the same color, it's different colors. So when you use only one, no matter how many values there is, it will still look monochromatic as dpaint pointed out. What i suspect you are doing right now is using only one color and hoping that the different values will do their work and make it like there are many colors. I doesn't happen like that, the different values should be different colors.
Have in mind that with overlay/multiply colors never appear as they should so it takes a little time to see how they turn out once on the canvas. If you are using overlay, try with darker colors, lighter only make highlight even more white and unnatural. Especially if you want to color shadows with overlay avoid light colors. I almost never use multiply, it kind of makes everything too dark for me.
Don't try to color everything on one layer. You can (after fixing some little gray spots) flatten the colored picture posted in the WIP forum. On top of it get a new overlay layer. This time pick some more darker colors, like very dark brown for the shadows, and very dark red color for the nose and cheeks and apply them with a brush that allows you to control the opacity. If you switch the layer to "normal" the colors will be almost invisible on white canvas, but when they are placed on top of other colors with overlay the difference is big.
And just experiment until you like it. Try with greens and blues you never know what color they will produce with the others when mixed with the overlay option.
I did a paintover of your colored picture to illustrate better what i mean about using darker colors. If it's okay to post it just say it here and i will show it in the original thread.
About the eyes, i suggest to paint them in color, not using grayscale + layer options. In such close up portrait they are the most interesting part and using overlay just can't make them look right. And don't be afraid to add some red to the cheeks/lips/nose, that's not only for women It will make you look more healthy and alive.
Thanks a lot! I really have a desire to learn and want to take as much info in as I can. Please post the paint over. I find seeing stuff in action very helpful. Thank you again for taking the time to help.
My quest to do a respectable portrait continues. Using the advice offered to me thus far I am posting my current wip. I haven't really started working in the yellowish high lights from the light source, and I only just started adding some color though the eyes. Any further advice is welcome, perhaps on color choices, blending or anything really. I want to learn and I will do whatever it takes.
Thanks again everyone! The community here on CA has been better than any other I've been to.