Coloring the Greyscale - Gradient Map & Contour Line Paint


In this tutorial I'll share my technique on how to color the greyscale painting by using GRADIENT MAP and CONTOUR LINE PAINT feature. This technique gives you some advantages:

1. Time saving, because it'll give you a nice gradation and turn out the greyscale into color in a blink of an eye.
2. More consistent gradation compared by brushing the color manually on the canvas.
3. More color variations since you can easily control the color combination.
4. Removing all the black-white color / greyscale information that makes your painting look muddy/desaturated.

NOTE: This technique will work very well if your greyscale painting has pretty good value. Value is how light and how dark the surfaces of the object.


If you want to follow the process by using my painting you can download them here:

There are 2 files. First one is the unfinished one where you can follow my tutorial with that. The second one is the finished one just in case you get confused. I hope those files will help so much.


Let's start with the face. For this part we're going to use GRADIENT MAP feature to remove the black-white / greyscale information so our painting won't look desaturated/muddy.

Select FACE layer then right click. Go to New Correction Layer --> Gradient Map.

The gradient map menu will appear like this.
To change the color, click the triangle icon first. Then click the solid color bar.

Here's the color that I pick. I choose blue for the darker part because I want some color variations in the shadow area.

You can add more than 2 colors by clicking anywhere on the gradient bar to create new triangle. But actually 2 colors are fine.

Don't forget to click OK. :)

The painting will look like this.

With the gradient map layer still selected, turn on Clip to Layer Below. By doing this the gradient map will only appear inside face area.

Next, change the layer blending mode of the gradient map from normal to color. This will make the gradient map adjust its value to the greyscale layer underneath.

The result will look like this.
Yup, that's how you apply gradient map in Clip Studio Paint. After removing the greyscale information we can make some detail color adjustment easily later on.

Now let's make some adjustment to make her face more colorful & beautiful.

Create new layer above gradient map. Then turn on Clip to Layer Below.

Change the layer blending mode to color as well.

Now pick any soft airbrush that you like. Default soft airbrush from CSP is fine too. Change the brush opacity between 30%-60% because we want to add the color softly.

We're going to add more red color on these areas.

Here's the color that I choose.

Brush on the marked area gently.

Give more pressure on lips area so the red color stand out even more.

If you can control your pen pressure properly the result will look like this.

Here's the comparison.

Still on the same layer, I add blue color to her eye as final adjustment for face area.


For her hair, we're going to use another approach. CONTOUR LINE PAINT is very useful for coloring the hair because we can control the shape and the direction of the gradation.

First thing we need to do is to hide all layers except layer "Lineart for Contour Only".

If we want to create a gradation in certain area then we should have a border line. So the layer that I named "Lineart for Contour Only" will act as a border line.

Create new layer above our border line layer.

Now select Curve tool.

We will make some border lines for the color gradation by using this curve. Pen is allowed as well.

At this point you need to decide what colors and how many colors you want to use. So be crazy with the colors.

Next, create a line that lies across the border line to make sure we close any pixel gap. I start from the top with Navy Blue.

I use 4 different colors. The lower part is turquoise. The other 2 colors are some colors inbetween navy blue and turquoise with a little bit variation on the value and saturation.

Now let's start the fun part!

Select Gradient icon.

Then choose Contour Line Paint.

Here's the setting.

After that, click somewhere inside the area in between border lines.

There you go, a very nice gradation!

Here's my result.

As you can see, we can control the direction of the gradation easily. Something that can't be done with gradient map.

Now unhide all layers except "Lineart for Contour Only". This layer is only for a guide so we should hide it now.

Next, bring our gradation layer right above HAIR layer.

Then turn on Clip to Layer Below.

Also, change the layer blending mode from normal to color.

Boom! She's looking so beautiful!


Since the hair band is only taking small area then we're going to use a manual technique.

Create new layer above Hair Band layer. Then turn on Clip to Layer Below.

After that, change the layer blend mode from normal to color.

Choose any brush that you want and pick any color that you like. Brush it above the hair band area on the canvas manually. I use green for this part.



There are so many ways to color the greyscale painting. Some people out there tend to use Multiply-Overlay combination of layer blending mode, the others like to brush the color manually, all of them are OK to use. But from my experiences, this technique is the fastest and easiest one. I've told you all the advantages that we get at the beginning of this tutorial.

Here are some works where I used this technique. Of course the color adjustments on these pieces are more complex. At some points I use Overlay mode to brighten some certain areas, Multiply mode to darken and Color Dodge mode if there are some parts that needs to be really really bright. But the basic technique is the same, applying gradient map first in color mode, then manual color adjustment in color mode as well.

If there're some steps that you couldn't understand you can ask me in the comment section. Good luck!


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