Ultimate Guide to Video Color Correction and Color Grading

Several elements come together to create an excellent cinematic experience. But perhaps one factor that most people often overlook is the entire color process. Although its effects may seem subtle, having the right colors can help you control the scene’s mood. But learning how to do it can take some time and effort. So, where do you start?

Understanding the difference between color grading and color correction can help you learn how the color process goes. So, in this post, we’ll dive into the difference between color correction and color grading. Even more, we’ll also discuss a few more color elements to help you establish your style. 

The basics of color process

Color grading vs. color correction: Understanding the differences

Most people often interchange color grading and color correction because of their function. However, these two processes are entirely different, especially once you get to video post-production. 

Color correction. The first step in the entire color process is color correction. That’s because raw footage tends to be over-saturated. Even more, the colors usually are unbalanced, so you need to fix it first to make it as natural as you can. Primarily, the color grading process’s role ensures that every footage looks precisely the way a person sees it in real life. So, if the white and black levels match what the human eye sees, it means that the other colors have the right balance.

Color grading. Although color grading is as technical as color correction, it heavily relies on the editor’s perspective of what the output should be. In short, color grading creates the exact aesthetic of your video. However, it’s entirely optional, especially if you want to make it as realistic as possible. But for those who want to be a bit more creative, then color grading is an ideal way of adding a unique atmosphere into your project. It can also help you define the story better by blending the color to each scene’s emotions. 

Understanding the difference between color grading and color correction will make it easier for you to create a project representing your concept. So, it’s not really about choosing one over the other. Instead, it’s about using those differences to create your desired output. Keep in mind that colors can mean differently to many people. So, there’s no right or wrong way to use green or orange. The crucial factor is to find an appealing unique way to stir up your audience’s feelings every time they see your project. 

The Essential Parts of Video Colors

Understanding color hues

Hues refer to the colors that the human eyes see. In other words, hues it’s all about the difference between red and blue. You can change the footage’s hue by adjusting its brightness and saturation. “HSB” refers to hues, saturation, and brightness. This combination plays a crucial role when it comes to editing any video image. 

Contrary to what most people believe, hues shouldn’t always have to be vivid. Nor does it have to center around primary colors, too. For instance, working on a skin tone requires a different hue compared to your other subjects. If you want to achieve a fairer skin for your subject, you can choose a brown hue with very little saturation. Then, adjust its brightness to high to give your subject a more glowing skin.

Meanwhile, you can saturate the hue and darken it to give it an entirely new skin tone while using the same brown shade. It would be best if you remembered that each skin tone is different. So, there will be times when you’ll have to change the hues altogether. That’s why it’s best to use a sampler to help you quickly identify the right hue for your subject’s skin.

But understanding hues is not limited to getting the perfect skin tone alone. You can also use it to depict emotions in the scene and even tell the character’s story. Through colors, you can bring the emotions of the scene creatively and artistically.

The basics of color saturation

Saturation pertains to the color’s intensity. You can determine it by looking at the footage’s amount of gray in the hue. It starts with pure gray until the colors become vivid.

If you want your color’s footage to pop, tinkering with saturation is the best way to go. You can modify it to make the whole footage’s colors to either look more saturated or obscure. You can also mix pure black or white to your existing color hues to get a darker or brighter color for every scene.

However, saturation does not define how light or dark a color is. However, many saturated colors tend to be lighter than less saturated ones. Thus, adding white to the latter will increase their brightness until both values match. Meanwhile, colors tend to get less saturated as the object is farther from the observer and recedes into the distance because of a phenomenon known as an “atmospheric perspective.” 

How the color brightness works

Brightness pertains to the color’s level of light. To put it simply, it determines whether the subject will appear darker or lighter on the screen. 

You can adjust this setting to customize the darkness or lightness of your footage. For example, although you’re shooting an apple with the same level of hue and saturation, the subject on each file will look different, depending on the brightness of the image. One can look more burgundy, while the other will look more like a candy.

The same rules apply when shooting other subjects, too. Sometimes making the colors dark will make the scene look creepier, which can be useful, especially when making a horror film.

Filmora is one of the most popular software professionals use in video editing, especially when adjusting the brightness. Here are a couple of steps to help you process your edits to change your footage’s brightness.

Import the video. Open the Wondershare Filmora9 software application and then click the “Import” button. Next, the footage by opening the media item window, which then displays the files on your hard drive. Soon after, you need to select your video by choosing the video’s thumbnail in the program’s media area. Once you’ve chosen the file, you need to drag it to the bottom part of the window and position it on the Video Timeline.

Increase the video’s brightness. To adjust the video’s brightness, switch to between Video, Audio (if it has), and Color and Motion tabs by double-clicking the footage in the timeline. Next, adjust the clip transform using the Rotate, Flip, Scale, and Position Settings in the Video tab. You’ll soon find the White Balance, Tone, and 3D LUT options in the Color tab. Now, To edit the video’s brightness, you need to go to the Tone option and then drag the slider to the right.

Meanwhile, you can play the video by clicking the spacebar so that you can see the real-time result’s preview. If you feel that the video is still too dark for your liking, you can repeat the preceding step to adjust the brightness. However, keep in mind that the video will get brighter when you increase the contrast and brightness settings.

Save the video or share it. Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can save it by clicking the “Export” option. Next, choose the format that you want it to be by going to the “Format” tab and selecting any popular formats like FLV, MP4, PSP, MOV, and so much more. You also have the option to upload the video directly to YouTube and Vimeo.

Determining the best color tool

There are tons of available options to help you edit the footage’s colors when editing videos. Some even have a couple of features that can help you correct and grade your film simultaneously. 

Adobe Premiere Pro. One product that you can consider is Adobe Premier Pro. Although other software applications promise to provide better color correction options and grading, Adobe Premiere is still the best choice for both beginners and pro editors. That’s because it’s non-linear editing (NLE) software application that includes a wide selection of color tools for its users.

DaVinci Resolve. Da Vinci Resolve is another option that you can consider when editing your footage. It’s a stand-alone color program that also includes editing options for its users. However, it’s a lot more complicated than Adobe Premiere Pro. Thus, making it ideal for professional editors and videographers. 

Red Giant Magic Bullet Colorista IV. It’s another type of software for color grading that you can use for your project. But unlike DaVinci Resolve, it allows you to grade your footage directly. It’s a perfect tool for users who prefer to use less popular video editing software.

Final Cut Pro X. It’s another popular alternative for Adobe Premiere, which gives its users access to dynamic color wheels, which can efficiently address exposure issues and color balance problems with any of your shots. It has access to curves for shadows and highlights, too. Thus, helping you remove color casts from the shadow. You can also use it to get rid of tints from highlights.

Primary features that can help improve your image quality

Editing footages isn’t all about having the right software. It would help if you also considered various factors to ensure that you get the right color blend. Rushing through the editing process could only negatively affect the output. Thus, putting all your efforts to waste. 

White balance

The white balance in every software application is similar to the feature that you have on your camera. It primarily describes your image’s color temperature. Learning how to apply it to your camera will help you produce images with its original colors that fit your desired values. However, even if you know how to do it on your camera, there are still times when you need to make a few edits from time to time. 


Scopes is a monitoring tool that grants users access to color and light information. It enables you to access extra value color info that you won’t usually see in almost every editing software. Scopes also allows you to color correct your footage correctly without spending hours in front of your computer. Using it makes it easier to compare each hue and get the right balance for each characteristic.


Curves is another helpful option that allows you to add points. These points let you drag colors to new sets of values so that you can edit the shadows and highlights of your project. You can change the mid-tones of each footage with precision, too. Curves are ideal for color grading and color correction.  

When making any curves adjustments, you need to move the drag points to adjust the entire color channel. By doing so, all the changes that you connect with the rest of the color elements. It also allows you to gradually make the necessary changes, which can be quite helpful, especially when mixing colors correctly.

Color match

Color match is an automatic calculation tool that lets you select a reference picture that the system will analyze and apply to your chosen image file. This option is also where people tend to get creative with their edits utilizing using favorite movie clips as their reference image. 

Then, they use their footage as the primary file. Doing so is entirely okay when doing color grading. However, you won’t get the same results if you’re using it when color correcting. That’s because it’ll only change your colors’ value, which only throws off everything that you’ve worked for hours.

The best way to use this feature is by using it after you’ve corrected the color of your footage. Then, save the file and apply the same color corrections to the other clips that you’re editing. To do it, you can copy-paste the effects and add a new to a new adjustment layer. However, this procedure may not work for any footage that has exposure and lighting disparities. 

Three-way corrector

Three-way color correctors are another useful feature that allows you to use color wheels to balance the mid-tones, shadows, and highlights easily. You can either use the control drag point or set numerical values based on hue. A lot of professional colorists use this when editing videos because of how easy it is to use. 

Color qualifiers 

Another feature that can help you with editing the image is color qualifiers. It enables you to identify colors that you want to use for a specific scene permanently. Doing so will help you make the necessary adjustments without worrying about making changes with the other colors and elements in the file. It lets you change a particular color or range of colors without any worries, too.

Color masks

Color masks let you define a specific area in a clip that you want to blur and cover. It highlights the subject and enables you to apply effects, too. But more importantly, color masks can help you to color-correct your image. It’s exclusive with Adobe Premiere, but a similar option is also available for DaVinci Program called Power Windows. Same with Adobe Premiere’s color masks, you can also choose a particular shape to your subject so that you can isolate its colors.

Color correcting your footage the right way

There are three primary steps when color correcting footage. You need to adhere to each step to ensure that you get your desired output. Each procedure comes with its own sets of rules and with their particular instructions. 

Step One: Picking the right picture profile 

In most cases, shooting in RAW format allows you to make more changes to your files than images and videos already saved in a specific format. However, saving your files in RAW format does have its flaws. Since these files are uncompressed without any parameters, it tends to take up more space than usual. 

However, if you’re planning to save it in any other format aside from RAW, then it’s best to record it in either a Log profile or a flat picture profile. Doing so allows you to make the necessary changes, especially when coloring and improving your video images. 

A picture profile applies to a series of parameters that define the footage’s characteristics. You can edit it in any way that you want. But leaving it flat lets you do the most changes without putting your file at risk. 

Step Two: Color correct your video

Now that you know how to pick your project’s picture profile, it’s time to learn color correction. The method of correcting a footage’s color has gone through so many changes since the development of technology. But it still plays a crucial role, especially when it comes to editing videos. But before we discuss things further, it’s vital to learn how color correction works.

Color correction is about balancing white and black levels and exposure. It also focuses on contrast and white balance, which gives you an image with accurate colors. The point of correcting a footage’s color is to ensure that subsequent color adjustments have more precision. Doing so will prevent unwanted output during post-production. Another benefit that color correction brings into the table is visual consistency. Doing so helps create a better flow with all your footage and scenes. Thus, making it more cohesive and professional-looking. 

Color correction is also quite helpful when fixing a few issues with the footage’s color profile. If your picture profile looks desaturated and flat, color correction enables you to adjust it to get your desired results. So, let’s delve into the steps to help you color correct your footage. 

Use your input LUT

Using LUT (Lookup Table) will help you apply the colors in your file footage to suit your desired aesthetics. Once applied, it’ll make it easier for you to quickly go through the entire color grading process. When editing a video, you need to ensure that you edit the log footage so that the color grades will be more accurate. 

Using a LUT is also an excellent way to white balance your file footage. You can do it by either using the Auto White Balance feature or adjust the temperature manually. When taking footages, you need to ensure that you’ve white balanced your camera before the scene. Doing so will make it much easier for you to edit it during post-production. 

However, there are times when some picture profiles need a slight color temperature adjustment altogether. So, you may want to review it again and see if it needs some color rebalance.

Also, don’t apply the tint unless you need it in any of the scenes. Chances are, you might only mix all the changes that you’ve done with the footage.

Select a home-based clip

The best way to make the color cohesive in every clip is to look at all the clips. You need to distinguish the one with the average exposure and levels and compare it to the rest of the footage. In that way, it’ll be much easier for you to match everything. If you choose a video clip with extreme exposure, you won’t have the chance to adjust those clips to match one another. Thus, reducing any chances of getting as many clips as possible.

Adjust the whites and blacks

To find black and white real value, you need to find the scopes to access the footage’s color and light information. From there, you’ll know if you’ve gone above or below with your brightness levels. Even more, you’ll also know if your RGB curves need to get adjusted. 

Set overall gamma

Generally, an image’s gamma includes the highlights, shadows, and mid-tones. Although it seems like a great idea to edit the video’s colors through gamma, it’ll only make it look sloppy and amateurish. One tip that you need to keep in mind when adjusting the overall gamma is to correct the color when it comes to color fidelity. It would also help if you also considered the relation between each level’s light intensity in the image.

Basic secondary corrections

The primary corrections involve fixing and improving the footage. Meanwhile, secondary color correction means detaching particular parts of the footage within the frame. Then, correcting these specific clips to get a more accurate color. Doing secondary color corrections makes it easier for you to correct any errors to help you achieve your intended look.

Advanced secondary corrections

The advanced secondary corrections happen when you begin to adjust specific colors toward your desire. When doing these corrections, you still need to keep your goals in mind so you won’t go disarray. Naturally, you want to meet the end goals just as you planned. So, it’s best to spend enough time doing these corrections to achieve your desired results.

Learning how to color grade

When color grading any footage, you need to ensure that you have a reliable software application to use. It can either be a non-linear editor like Adobe Premiere, or a program made especially for color control, similar to DaVinci Resolve. But before you choose the right software, you first need to understand the basics of color grading and what it’s all about.

Color grading. It’s how you improve or change the motion picture’s color. It applies to still and video images, too. Color grading is what videographers do to adjust their footage’s colors so that you can achieve your desired visual tone. The changes can either be as drastic as what you see in films. It can also have a hint of subtleness similar to what you see in most documentaries.

Although it may not seem obvious, every footage you often see these days has color grades, no matter how subtle or simple it can be. And it’s up to you to adjust them to fit your desired look.  

To simply put it, your color grade describes your style as a director or videographer. Using the same tools you’ve used to correct the image’s colors, you can add another layer to apply your preferred color grade. Doing so will help you add more color information to your already existing file. What’s great about it is that you can also enable a creative LUT on your project. Doing so will help you to color correct your footage quickly with a single click.

In most cases, using LUTs can undoubtedly make your post-production much faster. You can even create your custom color grade, too. All you need to do is save it as an export LUT and then use it to the rest of your scene, and you’re good to go. Although color grading is what most professionals do when processing colors, you can still use it as a starting point for your color grade during pre-production.

Before and After video colors

Not every camera has a Log setting. So, if your camera lacks that feature, you can search for the “Neutral” profile and decrease the contrast and saturation level. Doing so will help you create a custom picture profile that looks like Log. Let’s discuss a few examples of color profiles to glimpse how professionals use it in their projects. 

Color correction examples

Understanding how professionals develop properly color corrected images is an excellent way to help you understand how footage transforms before you start to color grade. But before we proceed, you first need to understand resolve color management.

Resolve color management allows you to control how the software interprets footage in your projects. As a user, you can tag non-RAW assets with precision to their native specifications. By doing so, the software can calculate how to transform footage into your desired output. 

What’s great about it is that it’s more than just a feature. In some cases, it can even help you turn your projects into something more professional and polished. Let’s say you’re using three different cameras to shoot a single film. One uses a red log film. the other uses a BMD film log, while the remaining one uses S-LOG 2. Even though all these cameras are shooting the same scene, they save their file differently in terms of color and luminance.

As the colorist, you need to work on all three files to ensure that it complements the rec.709 display. The rec.709 display is the primary setting for both TV and monitor. In a non-color manage workflow, you can either do it manually or use LUTs to convert. However, doing the correction manually can take a lot of time while using LUTs can result in a different output depending on who’s doing the editing. So, it’s still a must to use your keen judgment when doing the editing. 

However, with RCM, you only need to tell the system where you shot the footages and the color space of each file. Resolve then decodes the files from each camera, respectively, and converts each of them into rec.709. Once that happens, each camera now has an equal level of color distribution, and matching each camera’s footages becomes easy. The best part of it is that RCM does everything automatically across your entire timeline. Because of it, most professionals consider it as the most reliable and also the fastest way to manage colors.

Moving forward, once you’ve color graded your project, you can now have a rec.709 image that’s perfect for TV. However, you’ll need to save it in a different setting if you plan to show it in a theatre. That’s because theatres use another color space called DCI-P3. So, trying to show a file suited for rec.709 on a projector will make the footage look uneven. That’s why you need to entirely change each file’s settings to match the new color space meant for theatres. 

However, with RCM, all you need to do is tweak your color management settings so that it’ll fit the DCI-P3 requirement for projectors. Then, you need to do a few minor editing before sending it to the theatre where your audience can see it the way you intend it to be. 

How to use RCM

So that you can start using Resolve Color Management (RCM), you need to open up your project preferences. You can find the cog icon in the lower right-hand corner of the UI.

Next, On the Master Project Settings Tab and with the Color Science pull down. Once it’s complete, you can choose between standard DaVinci YRGB processing and ACES & ACES LOG 1.0 processing. Another option is the new YRGB Color Managed Option.

In this new Pane, you need to look for the “New Section” found at the top for Color Management settings.

When using RCM, you have the option to choose color processing for the Input (media in your media pool), the Timeline, and your Output. All three of these options default to REC 709 Gamma 2.4, but a quick click in one of the pull-downs reveals several more options.

Color grade examples  

One movie you can look at to see how significant color correction can be is Black Hawk Down. If you noticed it, every scene’s blue hue is heavily saturated. Meanwhile, the brightness is tuned down together with the highlights.  

Another Ridley Scott film that you can look at is The Martian. You’ll immediately notice how much darker the sand in the ungraded clip appears. The same goes for the saturation level in the sky. Thus, making it look like the characters are on Mars.

Color palette examples

Akira Kurosawa is one prime example of how powerful color palettes can be in a film. He associates colors to represent the character or the overall theme of the film. For instance, he used red in one of his movies to describe men’s lust and violence. 

There are also times when he uses the opposite colors in the color wheel to complement the movie’s theme. This kind of technique fits films that center around war and battles. Meanwhile, he also uses clashing colors to make his characters stand out. Also, the use of clashing colors helps the audience feel the film’s climax by making the scene stand out. 

Kurosawa also uses a unique technique wherein he places three triadic colors in three evenly spaced ones on the color wheel. When combined, the three triadic colors create an exciting aesthetics to the scene. 


When it comes to video editing, color is one of the more complicated factors to understand. Directors and actors are in charge of the performance, while DP and gaffer can help manage the lights. But to achieve the best color combination, you need to understand good lighting and ideal production design. It also requires the collaboration of a director and a skilled colorist to make it work. But on top of all these things, sound matters, too.