How to colour greyscale

For colourists who are used to working with line art, greyscale colouring can feel a little intimidating. But don’t worry – that’s why we’re here with our ultimate guide to colouring greyscale, to help you pick up all the skills you need to colour greyscale like a pro!

If you’re new to colouring, take a moment to read our how to colour guide for beginners, which contains lots of handy tips and resources.

What is greyscale colouring?

Grayscale is a type of colouring patch that uses shading to add extra dimensions and details, giving the page a 3D effect. It’s quite different to traditional black and white line art, and it can sometimes be confusing or challenging, but it can also be a really helpful guide.

For example, light greyscale can provide extra detail to help you colour, suggesting where you might want to put light areas and shadows, and providing texture for things like hair, fur and fabric.

Heavy greyscale can be a little harder to work around, as the darker shading does not allow as much flexibility. But you may find you’re able to achieve beautiful results with less effort, which can be a pleasant way to colour for fun.

Light greyscale colouring page.

Colouring by Gemma from our Mermaids Special.

How to colour light greyscale

We have a brilliant video tutorial all about how to colour light greyscale, featuring a page from our new Colouring Heaven Collection Legends of Japan issue. Featuring designs by Maud Lamoine, this issue is a wonderful introduction to lighter greyscale, and the video tutorial by Bonita Doodles can guide you through the process of colouring these beautiful pages.

How to colour darker greyscale

The techniques used to colour light greyscale are exactly the same for dark greyscale. Simply apply your colour, using light pressure in the lighter areas of the designs, and applying more pressure where the design is darker. This allows you to take advantage of the shape, texture and dimensions of the greyscale design.

Heavy greyscale designs often won’t need extra shading, but if you want to go in and add further dimension to your design, we recommend shading with a colour (try blue, purple or a warm brown) to help elevate your design.

Heavy greyscale colouring page.

Colouring by Sandra from our sold out Gothic Fantasy Special.

How to shade greyscale

You can shade greyscale designs just as you can with any other colouring page. Some of your shading might be defined or shaped by the greyscale details the artist has added to their design.

We recommend using multiple layers, starting with a light base and adding darker colours and more pressure with each layer.

Grayscale gives you a wonderful opportunity to create a strong contrast between the light and dark parts of your colouring page, so be careful not to overwork your highlight areas – depending on the design, they may be almost white in colour. You can go in with an eraser or white marker/paint to apply a bright white highlight where needed.

Take a look at our guide to making your colouring pages more realistic for more shading tips.

How to colour greyscale with markers

We’ve talked about a lot of techniques for colouring greyscale with coloured pencils, but what if you want to use pens or markers?

Adding subtle and controlled shading with pens and markers can be difficult, but with greyscale, some of this work is already done for you. You may find you are simply able to add one layer of colour with a marker, and the greyscale design does the rest. This may be a brilliant option if you prefer a short and sweet colouring project, or if you want to create a pretty design without worrying too much about shading and techniques.

If you want to add your own shading, you’ll want to start with lighter colours, then medium, then dark, being careful at all times not to go too dark in areas that you want to be highlighted.

Why do people colour greyscale?

Although some colourists prefer line art designs, lots of people love colouring greyscale. It gives you a guideline for where to add your highlights and shadows – which in the long run, can help you learn about shading for your line art designs too.

However, some colourists prefer to create shading themselves, experiment with unusual light sources, and add their own textures and details.

A work in progress light greyscale colouring page.

Colouring page from our sold out Gothic Fantasy Special.

What are the challenges of greyscale?

The biggest challenge of greyscale is that it can leave your finished design looking a little gray or muddy. This is especially true for heavy greyscale as there is already a lot of grey to work with when you start colouring.

To counteract this, you can use lots of colours in your shading, rather than depending on grey and black. Think deep purples and blues and warm browns. Get creative! Sometimes blue can make a great shadow for yellow, or red can add a warm shadow to brown.

Equally, don’t be afraid to add some colour to your highlights – but remember to keep them very light and bright, to add contrast to the darker areas of the design.

Most importantly – have fun!

Colouring should be fun, enjoyable and stress-free! If you find yourself stressing about greyscale designs, why not take a step back and have a little break, or try a line art design you feel more comfortable with for a bit.

We know greyscale designs can look a bit scary, but once you’ve tried colouring one, you might find you love it! Our Colouring Heaven Collection Legends of Japan issue is a great place to start for light greyscale. If you want to give heavy greyscale a go, we have some beautiful Zan Von Zed colouring pages available to download for free.

We can’t wait to see your greyscale colouring pages!

Coloured a beautiful page and want to share it with your friends and family? Take a look at this article about how to photograph colouring pages.

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