color grading in video editing
  • September 27, 2023


Video editing is an art form that goes beyond just cutting and splicing clips together. One of the most transformative aspects of video editing is color grading. It’s the secret ingredient that can turn an ordinary video into a cinematic masterpiece. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of color grading, from the basics to advanced techniques, and equip you with the knowledge to become a color grading expert. Let’s have a sneak peek into it!

What is Color Grading?

Color grading is the process of altering and enhancing the colors of a video to achieve a desired visual style and mood. It’s similar to giving your video its unique personality through the manipulation of colors. Whether you want to create a warm, nostalgic look or a cold, futuristic atmosphere, color grading is the tool that brings your vision to life.

Why is Color Grading Important?

Color grading isn’t just about making your videos look pretty; it’s about effective storytelling. Here’s why it’s crucial:

Colors can evoke emotions and set the tone of your video. Warm tones might convey happiness and nostalgia, while cool tones can create a sense of calm or suspense.

Color grading helps maintain visual consistency throughout your video, even if the footage was shot in different locations and lighting conditions.

It can highlight specific elements in your video by making them pop or receding them into the background, guiding the viewer’s attention.

Through color grading, you can transport your viewers to different time periods or locations. Make a modern video look like it was shot in the 1970s or transform a sunny day into a moonlit night.

Understanding Color Theory

To become a master of color grading, you must understand the fundamentals of color theory. Understanding these fundamentals will help you in choosing colors that align with your video and message;

Color Wheel

The color wheel is your compass in color grading. It helps you understand color relationships, such as complementary and analogous colors, and how they can be used to create harmony or contrast in your videos.

Color Temperature

Understanding color temperature, measured in Kelvin, helps you control the warmth or coolness of your shots. Higher Kelvin values result in cooler (bluer) tones, while lower values yield warmer (redder) tones.

Color Harmony

Delve into concepts like triadic and split-complementary color schemes to create harmonious color palettes in your videos.

Color Psychology

Learn how different colors can affect emotions and perceptions. For example, red might convey passion or danger, while blue can evoke calmness or sadness.

Now that you know the key concepts of color theory, let’s learn about some basic techniques!

color grading in video editing

Basic Color Grading Techniques

Here are some basic color grading techniques to ensure that you start off on the right foot;

Exposure Correction

Exposure correction is a fundamental step in color grading. It involves adjusting the brightness of your video to ensure that it isn’t too dark (underexposed) or too bright (overexposed). Underexposed footage can result in loss of details in the shadows, while overexposed footage can lead to blown-out highlights.

White Balance

Correcting white balance is essential for ensuring that colors appear natural in your video. Different lighting conditions can cast various color temperatures, leading to unwanted color casts. To achieve accurate white balance, use tools that allow you to adjust the color temperature and tint.

Contrast and Saturation

Manipulating contrast and saturation levels is key to enhancing the visual impact of your video. Contrast adjustment involves fine-tuning the difference between the darkest and brightest parts of your footage. Saturation adjustment controls the intensity of colors. Boosting saturation can make colors pop, while desaturation yields a more muted or monochromatic effect.

Color Balancing

Achieving consistent color balance across all shots in your video is crucial. It ensures that skin tones, objects, and environments maintain their natural colors. Tools like the vectorscope help you identify color imbalances.

Now that you know the key concepts of color theory, let’s learn about some basic techniques!

Advanced Color Grading Techniques

Once you get a good hold of basic techniques, you can easily try and experiment with some advanced techniques to learn more. Here are some advanced techniques with which you can begin;

Color Wheels and Curves

Color wheels and curves provide advanced control over color grading. Color wheels allow you to adjust shadows, mid-tones, and highlights independently. Curves, on the other hand, offer precise control over luminance and color channels. By manipulating these tools, you can create specific looks and moods.

Use of LUTs (Look-Up Tables)

Look-Up Tables (LUTs) are pre-defined color grading presets that can be applied to your footage. They are especially useful for achieving cinematic looks or emulating specific film stocks. You can choose from a library of LUTs or create custom ones tailored to your project’s requirements.

Selective Color Grading

Selective color grading allows you to isolate and adjust specific colors within your video while keeping the rest of the colors intact. This technique is powerful for highlighting certain elements or creating artistic effects. For instance, you can desaturate the background while keeping a subject’s clothing in vibrant color, drawing the viewer’s attention to the subject.

Film Emulation

Film emulation is a popular advanced technique that replicates the look and feel of classic film stocks. You can choose from a variety of film emulation presets, each mimicking the characteristics of films from different eras and genres. This technique is commonly used in filmmaking to evoke a sense of nostalgia or to create a cinematic ambiance.

color grading in video editing

Tools for Color Grading

Choosing the right software and equipment is essential when it comes to color grading. Here are some important tools for video editing;

It is a versatile and industry-standard video editing software. When it comes to color grading, it offers a comprehensive set of tools.

DaVinci Resolve is a powerful and free-to-use color grading software, widely used in the film industry. It offers advanced color grading capabilities and is known for its professional-grade features.

Final Cut Pro is Apple’s video editing software known for its intuitive interface and robust color grading tools.


By understanding what each of these tools offers, you can make informed decisions based on your specific video editing and color grading needs.

Wrap Up

Color grading is an art that requires practice and patience. As you delve deeper into the world of color, you’ll discover your unique style and approach. Remember, there are no rigid rules in color grading—only guidelines to help you achieve your vision.

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