You’re going to learn 3 things today: How to turn an image that’s in grayscale to color Procreate wise, how to color grayscale skin to color, and how to use Procreate’s color filter.
These 3 things are going to make your digital art improve very quickly. It speeds up your process & lets you focus on one thing at a time. As excited as I am? Let’s go!
I suggest you read up on how hue saturation and value work. It’s very simple and will make you understand this topic way better!
How to turn grayscale to color Procreate Beginner’s guide (2021)
Procreate blending modes explained
To understand how to change our grayscale image to color, we need to know how blending modes work.
What are blending modes?
Blending modes allow us to make one layer interact (blend) with another layer. Each color has certain values. These values can all be multiplied, subtracted, divided etc. to get a certain effect. This is done by changing your layer to one of the many blending modes. The effect will show in the layer below the layer with the blending mode.
Blending modes allow us to blend two layers together which results in a certain effect.
How do layers work with blending modes?
Blending modes work with layers. Each new project has a canvas with a determent maximum of layers.
I use the top canvas for Instagram. It’s 1080px1350p. It has a maximum amount of layers of 250.
I use the bottom canvas for detailed texture maps. It’s 2048px2048p (which is very high). Its maximum amount of layers is 125.
As you can see the maximum number of layers is decided by the size of your canvas. If you pick a high-quality size the number of maximum layers will decrease.
Where are blending modes located?
The blending modes are located on each layer. To access blending modes go to:
layers > N (Normal blending mode)
If you tap the N you’ll get a list with all of procreates blending modes. Remember, the blending mode of your current layer will affect the layer below it.
Tip: Use the layer that contains the blending mode as a clipping mask to avoid painting outside the layer below.
Why use blending modes?
The advantage of using blending modes is that you can work in a non-destructive way. This means you can allow yourself to make mistakes because you can always go back!
If we don’t like something we can easily delete it or change the blending mode. I always scroll through different blending modes to see which one works with what I have in mind.
It also allows us to work in greyscale. This means we don’t have to focus on the complexity of all things color theory but we can focus on value alone, which is the foundation of a good drawing.
The most important blending modes for grayscale images to color image
We will be using 4 blending modes today. These particular blending modes are part of the component group.
It’s called the component group because it destructs color into its 3 components: Hue, saturation, and value (which is called luminosity in blending mode language). It also has an extra component which is called colour.
For each example I’ll show 2 spheres: The original sphere and the sphere affected by the blend mode.
Hue blend mode in procreate
So here I have a red sphere which I’ll be using blending modes on. The bottom sphere is the original one and the top sphere is how it looks with the applied blending mode.
Let’s add a new layer on top of our red sphere. Now we change the blending mode to Hue by going: Layer > tap N (normal blending mode) > scroll to Hue (located near the bottom of the list). Let’s now paint the top sphere blue.
Hue blending mode changes the hue on the underlying layer to the hue of the current layer. It does not affect saturation or value but only the color (hue).
However, the hue blending mode can only change an existing hue into a different hue. This means that all of your gray tones will not be affected. There’s simply no hue to be changed! You can see this in the shadow of the top sphere. It stayed the same because it’s gray.
Hue blend mode: Changes existing hue to a different hue. It won’t affect greyscale.
Saturation blend mode in procreate
The saturation blend mode will match the saturation level of the affected layer to the layer with the blend mode. It does not care about hue or value. Only saturation.
The three blue swatches on the left all have the same value and hue. I only changed the saturation. When I painted these swatches on the sphere, it changed its saturation. We don’t see that much of a difference with number 1 and the original sphere.
We now know that number 1 must have a similar saturation level as the original sphere.
This blend mode does not affect greyscale because the color gray cannot become less saturated or more saturated: a grey with different saturation levels will still be grey.
Saturation blend mode: Matches saturation level. Does not care about hue. We can use this blend mode to go from color to grayscale by setting the saturation level to 0%
Color blend mode in procreate
The color Blending mode combines the two previous blending modes. It will match the hue and saturation of the above layer. It will not affect value though. This blend mode allows us to go back from color to greyscale.
I picked the same blue with 2 different saturation levels: 100%, 50 %, and 0% saturation. After painting these colors on the sphere we can see that both saturation and hue are affected by this blend mode.
Color blend mode: affects both hue and saturation. It leaves value alone. We can use this blend mode to go from color to grayscale in a non-destructive way by setting our saturation to 0%
Luminosity blend mode in procreate
Luminosity affects value without changing hue. It’s best to use gray colors for this to keep things simple.
Luminosity blend mode: adjusts the value of the affected layer to the values of the layer with the blending mode.
Tip: use gray colors to know the exact value what you are painting
How to go from grayscale to color procreate skin tutorial
So now we have to work from gray to color. The only blending mode that does this is the color blend mode. I have made an entire article on how to draw skin with 3 colored pencils in which I explain how skin tones work.
To summarize: skin color is a desaturated orange. This orange can lean towards yellow or red. The value determines how light or dark the skin is. It’s important to know that the darker the skin the more saturated the color has to be.
The lighter the skin, the less saturated it has to be.
So now that we know this, all we have to do is choose the right hue & saturation (since we already have the value in our greyscale)
Go to new layer > Blending mode N > change to color blending mode
I pick the two skin colors on the left and paint the spheres with this color. Notice anything strange?
The sphere above seems to get a predictable result. The sphere below seems way too dark and does not match our swatched color at all. This is because our original grayscale sphere is way too dark, value-wise.
When I change my original sphere to grayscale we can see how dark the value actually is (as seen in the top sphere).
I lightened the bottom sphere by changing our blending mode to luminosity:
New layer > N > luminosity > paint lighter values. Next: New layer > N > color > paint skin color
This is the new result of the bottom sphere:
Now the color matches!
Changing grayscale value by using procreates curves
There’s a different and maybe easier way to change the values of an image.
Select image layer > go to adjustments (wand icon) > curves> layer
Tip: duplicate your image before adjusting it with curves so you always have a back up
Tap in the middle of the curve to create a point.
Now you can lift these points up or down to change the values.
The point on the left side represents your shadows, the one in the middle represents your midtones and the one on the right represents your highlights.
Lifting them up will brighten them and dragging them down will darken them.
Let’s now add a layer with color blending mode and paint on the swatches again
The advantage of using curves over changing value by hand painting is that it’s neater and quicker.
Using procreates gradient map to assign colors automatically
This technique works on color images as well as greyscale images.
To access procreates gradient map, go to:
Adjustmenst (wand icon) > gradient map > layer
(make sure to select your layer first).
Click on the plus icon > tap in the middle to add a new box. Select this box and choose a skin tone.
You can choose a color for the shadows and highlights as well. Remember, the shadows should be more saturated than the highlights.
You can add as many boxes as you want.
Working in Grayscale mode in Procreate
If you want to work exclusively in grayscale mode in Procreate you must adjust the settings of your iPad and not the settings of Procreate. You do this by turning on Color Filters in the accessibility tab.
The art community on Instagram has currently a reels trend going on where artists pick random colors, and mix them together using liquify.
Then they turn their iPad into grayscale mode and randomly pick each color, based on their values to paint with.
This is a great way to focus on values (which is the most important thing in a painting). Then, they turn off grayscale mode and reveal what their artwork looks like in color.
To turn Procreate into grayscale mode, you:
- Go to the Settings app on your iPad
- Go to Accessibility
- Go to Display & Text Size
- Go to Colour Filters
- Switch on Colour filters
Now everything on your iPad, including Procreate is in grayscale. Just note that everything looks like it’s in grayscale. I tried to screenshot it, but upon sending to my computer it was in full color.
This means that it just displays your screen in grayscale, rather than actually being in grayscale. Which makes sense!
So there you go: that’s how you turn a grayscale image into a colored image, and turn Procreate into grayscale. I hope you learnt something new. You can save this article with the Pinterest button below!
See you next week,