Grisaille is monochrome painting, usually in shades of grey, that can be used as underpainting or left as it is to mimic ornately carved stonework as Michelangelo did in areas of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Other colourways can be used such as shades of brown (brunaille) or shades of green (verdaille) and even a number of different colours in muted shades.

Full colouring of a subject makes many more demands of an artist and working in grisaille was often chosen as being quicker and cheaper although the effect was sometimes deliberately chosen for aesthetic reasons. With the advent of Alla Prima painting for more immediate interpretations of the subject in the 20th Century, the technique fell out of favour although some Artists do still work in Grisaille for underpainting or mural painting effects.