Color grading meaning

With its help, any imperfections not noticed during shooting can be corrected. It is also possible to apply creative effects and incorporate a specific concept into the project. And this is the purpose of color grading.

Color grading is a versatile tool that serves both technical and creative purposes. It is used in various forms of visual media, including photography and video production. Color editing is crucial in enhancing the visual quality, emotional impact, and storytelling capabilities of various forms of visual media, helping creators achieve their artistic goals and engage their audiences effectively.

It’s a very common editing method in the movie industry – you can probably immediately remember a film that uses a certain set of colors to convey a specific meaning. Sometimes, it even helps to guess the director – for example, Christopher Nolan is known for applying particular color palettes to his movies.

Color grading and correction

Plus, visual clarity is of utmost importance for advertising and social media content. The color palette can influence the viewer’s emotions and interpretation of the plot and theme of the video. High-quality visuals speak about the professionalism of the author and the effort put into editing.

Color grading vs color correction

Although these terms sound similar, they mean different things. Let’s look at what the difference is.

  • Color grading
  • Artistic or selective color grading is commonly used in the professional editing of videos. In this case, you can change any shades, create accent tones, add highlights and textures, and apply dynamic or static elements, for example, VHS strips.

  • Color correction
  • It is the first thing to do when editing any visual media. It helps eliminate errors made in the shooting process and improves the visuals. Primary color correction includes configuring exposure, white balance, contrast, and saturation.

Color correction

How to color grade

Even if you’re a novice, it’s not a problem since many modern graphics or video editors already have built-in functions for primary color tweaking. The rest is pretty straightforward:

  • First, determine the mood or look you’re going for, e.g., if you want the shot to appear warmer or cooler, have specific color filters, etc. With a defined creative vision, you’re more likely to finish faster because you’ll know what needs to be tweaked and where.
  • Then, start editing by fine-tuning the white balance and exposure to fix any color or brightness issues. Lower it to make the image darker, or increase it to lighten it.
  • Work with ‌contrast to control how bright or dark your project looks overall. Higher contrast can create a more dramatic look, while lower contrast softens it. At high values, it can also get the special HDR effect.
  • By modifying the saturation, hue, and luminance of individual color channels, you can get more vibrant or subtle colors.
  • Color grading example
  • Consider using Color Lookup Tables (LUTs) to apply predefined tones or to get specific looks quickly.
  • If the video includes people, pay special attention to their skin. You can adjust it to look natural and flattering but remember to match it to the background unless you want these people to stand out.
  • Use masking and key framing techniques to isolate specific frame parts or apply dynamic color changes over time.

Don’t forget to preview and make fine adjustments until you see the desired result. Compare before-and-after views to see what else you need to change.

Remember that becoming proficient takes time, practice and an understanding of color theory and visual storytelling. If you’re new to this, start with simple adjustments and gradually explore more advanced techniques as you gain experience.


What is ‌color grading?

Color grading is the process of adjusting and enhancing the colors and overall visual appearance of a media file to achieve a desired artistic or technical effect.

What is color correction?

Color correction is a change in an image's colors, tones, and saturation, used either to improve the picture or as a creative technique. Typical uses include getting more realistic colors or making the photo lighter.

What tools are used for color grading?

If the project requires a lot of time and minor adjustments, consider using advanced color grading software – professional graphics and video editors. For simpler correction, use online video editing tools and apps.


Color editing assists in setting a single style, correcting shortcomings, and evoking the right emotions in the viewer. It is widely used in post-production for photography and video.