How to Color Grade in DaVinci Resolve

Color grading is one of the most important processes that dictates the overall look during video editing. This tutorial shows you how to color grade in DaVinci Resolve, a tool that started out as color grading software!

What is color grading?

Colour Grading is the process of adjusting the two core components of what makes up a visual image:

  • Luminance: made up of the parts of the image that are the highlights (brightest parts), midtones (anything that isn’t very bright or dark), and shadows (the darkest parts of the image.)
  • Colour: made up of hue (specific shades of color that are visible) and saturation (the strength or intensity of the hues).

All parts of luminance and color can be adjusted in DaVinci Resolve, granting the user complete control of the visual result.

Preparing the footage

In our example, we will be using footage from an airshow in Poland, labeled Ungraded_Video.mp4. It has not been color-graded or altered at all.

  1. Press CMD + I (Control + I in Windows) to the media files to color-grade. Click Open to import them.

    Select the desired audio and video clips to work on, press open to load them.
  2. Click on the Edit tab at the bottom of the workspace – the blue and green icon that is 3rd from the left.

    Click on Edit.
  3. Drag the footage and audio from the Media Pool into the Timeline. Your audio will go in A1, the audio channel and your video footage belongs in V1 for Video.
    Drag the selected clips into the Timeline into their respective channels.

The footage is now ready to be color-graded.

Color Grading tools in DaVinci Studio

Color Workspace

The Colour Workspace is where the tools for color grading are located. Click on the Color tab, the rainbow-colored circle at the bottom of the workspace.

The Color Tab is located at the bottom of the workspace, the 4th tab from the left.
Select the Colour tab.

Here’s a quick rundown of the panels involved:

  • Viewer: Where footage is seen during the editing process.
  • Nodes: The nodes panel allows you to edit clips – similar to layers in Adobe Photoshop.
  • Scopes: Used to compare color levels from shot to shot.
  • Colour Wheel Panel: where the key color-grading tools reside.

    The Colour Workspace.

Colour Wheel Panel

The bulk of color-grading adjustments are done using the Colour Wheels Panel.

To open it, click on the round ‘target’ icon.

Color Wheel Panel.

Color Wheels

Colour Wheels are the primary tools used to color grade in DaVinci Resolve. They control the luminance and color values mentioned earlier.

Here’s a quick rundown of what each color wheel does:

  • LIFT: Affects the shadows, the dark and darkest parts of the clip.
  • GAMMA: Affects the midtones; anything that isn’t too bright or dark.
  • GAIN: Affects the clip’s highlights or brightest parts.
  • OFFSET: Offset adjusts all of the above three simultaneously. Think of it as a ‘master switch’ for the former panels.

    The Lift, Gamma, and Gain color wheels directly affect the clip’s shadows, midtones, and highlights.

Parts of a Color Wheel

  • Main Color Wheel: Comprised of a ‘rainbow ring’ with a white dot in the middle. The dot is dragged towards the desired color on the rainbow ring, changing the color of specific areas.
  • RGB Values: The amount of Red, Green, and Blue.
  • Color Wheel Slider: This controls the strength of the respective value each panel is named after.

    The specific parts of an individual color wheel panel.

Colour-grading using the Colour Wheel Slider

  1. Determine what needs work. Is the image too dark? Lacking in vibrance? You can adjust those in the process of trial and error with the color slider.
  2. Click and drag the bottom Colour Wheel Slider to adjust its strength. Drag left for a weaker effect and right for a stronger one. Repeat this process for the Lift, GammaGain and Offset color wheels.

Click-Drag the Colour Wheel Slider at the bottom of the Colour Wheel panel.
  • Lift wheel (shadows) slider for the dark areas in the clip.
  • Gamma (midtones) slider for the mid-tones.
  • Gain (highlights) for the highlights.
  • For an overall adjustment, click-drag the Offset Colour wheel slider.

Once done, this is the result. The “haze” in the mid-tones is gone, the dark colors of the plane are fuller, and the jumpsuit is less washed out.

The video clip after Colour Wheel Slider adjustments.
The video clip after Colour Wheel Slider adjustments.

Colour-grading using the Main Color Wheel

The main color wheel offers a way to manipulate the shades of colors in specific areas such as the lift (shadows), gain (midtones), and gamma (highlights).

For example, let’s say that we want our footage to appear to be in a hot, desert country and need it to look more ‘hot’ and sunny. The bright parts of the image can be tuned to a ‘warmer’ color to resemble a hotter climate.

Step 1: Choose which color wheel to use.

Position your cursor to the middle white dot of the rainbow ring of the desired color wheel.

Using the Colour Ring on the colour wheel
Drag the center dot towards the desired hue on the rainbow ring.

Step 2: Change the hue

You can now change the hue. Click-drag the middle white dot to the desired hue on the color ring. The closer the dot is to the outer ring, the stronger or more saturated the hue will be.

A striking visual change can be attained with a simple adjustment in the color wheel. We now have a scene that looks like it’s filmed in a hotter climate!

Using the Colour Ring on the Colour Wheel
The striking difference of color grading

Note: to reset the values, double click anywhere inside the circle.

Colour-grading using the Adjustment Rows

The rows of values running along the top and bottom of the Colour Wheel panel are potent tools for color grading. They are a great way to fine-tune the clip overall. Eleven different values can be adjusted.

The Adjustment Rows offer various ways to fine-tune your color grade.

TOP ROW:

  • Temp: how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ color tones in the video clip are.
  • Tint: the color of the gain (brightness value).
  • Cont: darkens dark colors and lightens light colors.
  • Pivot: a control for contrast, used to set the ‘mid-point’ between contrast values.
  • Mid/Detail: improves detail or sharpness in the overall clip.

BOTTOM ROW:

  • Col Boost: color boost makes colors more vivid without affecting their contrast.
  • Shad: adjusts shadow visibility across all areas.
  • Hi/Light: affects the brightest areas.
  • Sat: affects the minor saturated areas
  • Hue: changes the shades of color across the overall image. Use sparingly.
  • L.Mix: luminosity mix is used only in specific advanced situations.

To change these settings, click-and-drag your cursor left for a lower effect and right for a stronger effect.

Click in the center of the number box and click-drag from left to right.

Note: to reset changes in the adjustment rows, double click on the name of the value you want to reset.

When combining Colour Wheel corrections with Adjustment Row changes, you can have a more vibrant, visually compelling result.

The end result of colour grading
The final result after color grading.

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