How to Color Grade a Video?

This article explains how to use some color correction tools:

  • White Balance
  • Brightness and contrast
  • Sharpening tool
  • Three-way color corrector

Edited by Nataly Bogorad

January 14, 2020

Color Grading for Video Editing

Color grading is an important work in editing video and photos. This article shares basics on tips and insights into the art and act of color grading for video editing and some color-grading tools to execute this editing technique.

How to Color Grade a Video

What is color grading? In theory, color grading involves a series of processes that are done and applied to a picture (static or motion) to enhance their appearance for certain purposes and on certain devices. Over the years, color correction and adjustments had been classified as a job of colorists. However, with the trend in non-linear editing (NLE) and the emergence of color grading software and tools, the role has fallen on video editors. Here’s the tutorial on how to color grade.

Some Color Correction Tools

Although color grading depends, largely, on computer programming, the user interface of the tools is developed to appear like radars and graphs on the monitors of users. It is amazing that the color grades have been standardized to appear uniformly on different software. The following are common color grading tools you can find in color grading software and what they do.

Get Started on LUT

A Look Up Table (LUT) is the first step to color-grade RAW or log-encoded videos. This tool allows you to remove large and unnecessary data (e.g. black point, color, gamma, etc.) from your image while leaving them with the important and needed parts. Basically, LUT moves an image from a color space to another.

White Balance

The tools are found in post-production, providing the ability to shift the colorcast of an image to look warm or cool. It sets an improperly tuned video shot into white balance settings.

How it works:

By setting the temperature on a white balance setting towards the orange or red side, the warmer a video comes out to be; however, on the Kelvin scale, it would be hotter.

Some software tools offer an automatic adjustment with an eyedropper tool that allows you to select specific areas that have improper white balance so that you can adjust them in a video or picture. Using this tool on a saturated color will tint the automatic white balance of an image to a relative or complementary color. Other programs may have presets (specific styles applied to the image) changing the white balance depending on the lighting on the video.

Brightness and Contrast

This set of tools are sliders that are set to adjust or influence the brightness of a scene and the contrast of the images on the scene.

How it works:

Once there is an increment in the radar of brightness, a scene from your movie or video lightens up. And usually, when the brightness is adjusted, there is an increment or decrement in contrast between the distinct hues present in the scene. The same changes apply when the contrast is adjusted.

The RGB Parade

This tool is used to display, independently, the Red, Green, and Blue values in your video or image, as waveforms. For images or scenes where color seems to shout more prevalently than the others, you can use this tool to reduce the intensity or saturation of the loudest color on a red, green, and blue scale. When a picture or video is filmed on auto, it is possible that some color effects are adjusted, disrupting the atmosphere or aura around the captured film. The RGB parade can help you correct and set the tone of the picture to what it should have looked like under the given light conditions. It is labeled “curve” in some software.

How it works:

If your editing stack is not set on auto, then you can improve the warmth or coolness of a scene by adjusting the scale of the blue, green, and red to what you want. Basically, when the blue scale is high, it means the picture is cool; therefore, the red scale should be lesser, and the green should scale somewhere between the blue and the red.

Some of the free video editing software have qualifiers to select and adjust secondary colors like teal and orange.

Sharpening Tool

Sharpening tools help to pronounce the sharp edges of images in a film, as it appears to the viewer. It is possible to use this tool on pictures as well. For instance, it is a prevalent feature in Movavi Photo Editor. This wonderful feature, however, does not make an out of range picture appear clearer. The trick behind the feature is that it does some color adjustments by making some stand out against another (usually, in the background). Unsharpening tool/mask is an often-accompanying tool that allows you to blur out some parts of an image, such that another part stands out as though it had been sharpened.

How it works:

For a satisfactory effect, you can increase the sliders of the tools to the maximum and gradually slide them back until you have gotten something that looks befitting to you. Unsharpening creates a contrasting edge for a focused object against others by blurring the brightness of the latter against the former.

Three-Way Color Corrector

This is a power tool! It has functions that allow you to control the brightness and contrast, hue, and saturation of a scene or image after photography. All these are contained within this tool. They are faster and easy to use than navigating around various tools to balance these close grading effects.

How it works:

Each of the function in the three-way color corrector has a control button that can be dragged along its circular wheel. By default, the control is at the center of each of the wheels. Dragging the control from the center to different sides of the wheel controls the hue. Dragging the control around the further from the center to the edge or otherwise would either increase or decrease saturation, accordingly. The three wheels control highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in your photography or video. Depending on the software, the color wheel can be labeled as lift, gamma, and gain.

Color Match

Color match tools are used to analyze the colors of a particular image to match a particular target image. The feature is used to harmonize video clips taken by different cameras or ones by the same camera with paused intervals. It is a swift tool that ensures that you get the colors of your editing right and united, by using one clip as a reference for the other to match up to.

How it works:

As much technical as it might seem is required to get the color gradients and toning right, the opposite is the truth. This tool is usually a simple button or menu options to click and have the changes established. Voila! Nevertheless, you have to carefully examine the scenes if they are matching and really look alike.

There you are. Although these functions slightly differ from a software to another. Movavi Video Editor Plus is a good choice that would provide you with the tools needed for a beginner to get started on video editing. With this program, you can create actual movies and cinematic trailers, learn and practice all the techniques mentioned above. With this program, it’s easy to see the before and after of your color grading. You can also utilize the effects’ packs from the Movavi Effect Store to make your video more colorful.


Movavi Video Editor Plus

Your next step in video-making

  • Edit video clips, images, and audio on a timeline
  • Add transitions, filters, titles, and stickers
  • Animate objects using keyframes, use more built-in media
  • Export videos in any popular format

* The free version of Movavi Video Editor Plus has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output videos, and, if you’re saving a project as an audio file, an ability to save only half the audio length. Learn more