How to Color Grade in DaVinci Resolve 18 - Learn From A PRO!

Key Takeaway: To color grade effectively in DaVinci Resolve, start by balancing image color using the primary correction tools, then use curves for fine-tuning color and contrast. Additionally, consider using plugins and presets to enhance your workflow and achieve professional results.

August 8, 2023
How to Color Grade in DaVinci Resolve 18 - Learn From A PRO!
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DaVinci Resolve Color Grading Tutorial

Color grading in DaVinci Resolve is more than just adjusting hues and saturation; it's about storytelling. It's an incredibly powerful part of the filmmaking process that allows you to manipulate color in creative and artistic ways. Whether you're a student, online creator, or professional Hollywood colorist, DaVinci Resolve offers hundreds of artistic tools in an easy-to-learn node-based interface. In my opinion, this makes experimenting with color both fast and exciting!

Balance Image Color: The First Step

Balancing color is the first step in the color correction process. This is done with the primary correction tools, located at the bottom left of the screen. These primary tools affect the entire image, and you use them to adjust brightness and color levels to remove unwanted tints and create a neutral starting point. For instance, each wheel is mapped to a different part of the tonal range (shadows, midtones, and highlights). Simply click and drag inside a wheel to adjust that range's color. That said, once shots are balanced, you can begin the creative grading process to create unique "looks."

Step Description Requirements Pro Tips
Introduction to Color Introduces you to the powerful color page in DaVinci Resolve. Learn the primary and secondary grading tools, how to read scopes, balance shots, and more. DaVinci Resolve software, Basic knowledge of video editing Always start with primary grading tools before moving to secondary tools.
Advanced Color Discover advanced features used by Hollywood colorists. Learn color management, structure grades with the node editor, work with RAW media, use tracking with the Magic Mask, and more. DaVinci Resolve software, Prior experience with basic color grading Use node-based grading to maintain flexibility in your grading process.
DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel Work faster and gain more creative control with the DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel. Navigate the color page, edit multiple parameters simultaneously, and grade without using a mouse. DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel, DaVinci Resolve software Customize the Mini Panel shortcuts for a more efficient workflow.
Fairlight Color Management Understand why color management is crucial in your editing workflow. Learn about the various color management systems and settings available in DaVinci Resolve. DaVinci Resolve software, Basic understanding of color science Consistent color management ensures uniformity across different displays.

Primary Wheels and Adjustment Controls: The Core of Color Grading

The primary color wheels in DaVinci Resolve let you adjust balance and brightness in overlapping tonal ranges called lift, gamma, and gain. The offset wheel adjusts the whole image. In other words, these wheels are your main tools for shaping the color of your footage.

Furthermore, the primary palette contains incredibly powerful primary adjustment controls that let you quickly adjust image contrast, saturation, hue, temperature, tint, midtone detail, color boost (intelligent adjustment of low saturation areas), and more. In my opinion, these tools are indispensable for producing amazing results.

Log Grading: Film Style Grading

Log grading wheels have more tightly defined tonal ranges for shadows, midtones, and highlights than the primary wheels. They're designed for film style grading, allowing you to adjust one tonal area without affecting others. How about experimenting with these wheels to achieve a cinematic look? I'd suggest using them when you want to create a film-like appearance in your footage.

Auto Balancing and Matching: Consistency Across Shots

Balanced and matched shots make content from different cameras look consistent. You can use the auto balance tools to quickly balance a group of similar shots. On the other hand, you can also match the color between different shots. It seems that this feature is particularly useful when working with footage from various sources.

Curves: Fine-Tuning Color and Contrast

While the primary wheels give you broad control, curves let you sculpt the color and contrast of an image with much finer detail. Each curve lets you adjust a customizable region of the image based on hue, luminance, or saturation. For instance, Hue Vs Sat lets you select a hue and then change the saturation of that hue. In addition, custom curves allow you to create smooth cinematic contrast adjustments, boost specific colors, and much more.

Secondary Color Correction: Targeting Specific Areas

Selecting a specific area for color correction is called "secondary grading." Let's say you want to change the color of a shirt without affecting the rest of the image. The qualifier palette in DaVinci Resolve lets you select and adjust part of an image based on hue, saturation, or luminance. All things considered, this feature provides a high level of control over specific elements within your footage.

Power Windows: Object Targeting

While qualifiers target an area of the image based on color, luminance, or saturation, Power Windows let you define a selection by drawing shapes around specific objects in a scene. According to my experience, this is a powerful tool for isolating and enhancing specific objects or areas within your footage.

Plugins and Presets: Enhancing Your Workflow

DaVinci Resolve offers a wide range of plugins and color grading presets to enhance your workflow. These tools can save you time and provide professional results. In other words, they are essential additions to your color grading toolkit.


Can you color grade with DaVinci Resolve?

Absolutely! DaVinci Resolve is an industry-leading video editing software that excels in color grading capabilities. It offers a wide array of tools and features to manipulate color creatively and artistically, making it a go-to choice for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

How do I color grade a video in DaVinci Resolve?

Color grading in DaVinci Resolve is a step-by-step process. Begin by balancing the image color using the primary correction tools, then fine-tune color and contrast with curves. Additionally, consider using plugins and presets to enhance your workflow and achieve stunning results.

Does DaVinci Resolve 17 have color grading?

Absolutely! DaVinci Resolve 17, like its predecessors, is renowned for its robust color grading capabilities. It continues to be a powerful tool for colorists and editors, offering advanced features to achieve cinematic looks and precise adjustments.

Can you color grade on DaVinci Resolve free?

Yes, you can! DaVinci Resolve offers both a free version and a paid Studio version. The free version provides access to extensive color grading tools, making it a fantastic choice for beginners and those on a budget. However, the Studio version offers additional advanced features for professionals.

Is it better to color grade in Premiere or DaVinci?

In my opinion, while Adobe Premiere Pro does offer basic color grading tools, DaVinci Resolve shines when it comes to advanced color grading. With its node-based interface and dedicated color grading features, DaVinci Resolve provides a more powerful and flexible environment for achieving professional-grade color adjustments.