3 Quick Industry Tips for Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve

So you’ve finally gotten through the process of filming, editing, and doing the audio pass on your movie. The next step is color grading. In an industry where doing everything yourself is terrifying, color grading in DaVinci Resolve doesn’t have to be!

A lot of industry professionals will tell you that Adobe Premiere Pro is also great for color grading. While I’m not denying that, DaVinci Resolve started as a color grading software that gives you way more leniency when it comes to grading your film, and you can use the free version or grab the commercial version for a flat fee of $299.

Comparatively, Adobe Premiere Pro has way more limitations and is a subscription-based model. If you are anything like me and love creating films, DaVinci pays for itself in no time and is well worth the investment. I love to use it in quick, minimal grades and color correction like in the film First Impressions (shown below), or with more stylized grades and tone changes like in the film Happy Birthday.

Whatever you’re looking to do, color grading in DaVinci Resolve should be the number one choice. 

What Exactly is Color Grading?

Let’s not get this confused with color correction. Color correction and color grading are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. Color correction is the first step in video editing that involves fixing issues with white balance, contrast, saturation, etc., so they match how hues and tones appear around us. It is also used to unify images if you are working with different cameras or if lighting changes.

But have you ever looked at a movie or a set of colors, and you felt at peace? Have you felt anxious or scared? Have you noticed your eye drawn to a particular part of the screen? Manipulating the color of a moving image to be able to portray a particular emotion or style is the art of color grading.

Color Grading in Davinci Resolve - color wheels
Source: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/

No matter what kind of film you make, the color can tell a visual language, from high contrast and bright color to dark and ominous tones. It immediately tells the viewer what they are supposed to be feeling without any words. Color is powerful and can guide the audience through a beautiful journey of silent storytelling. 

Color Grading Basics in DaVinci Resolve

Starting with the basics means you will want to have a well-balanced image. You must first focus your efforts on color correction and things stated above, such as contrast, saturation, and white balance. These three things will be key to ensuring you have the perfect groundwork laid out before you can go crazy with all the colors. Think of it as priming a canvas or stretching before a big workout! 

3 Quick Industry Tips for Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve

Contrast

This is going to give you a clear distinction between your highlights and shadows and keep you from having a dull image. It will give you a more vivid and engaging look. After you spent all that time filming, the last thing you want is to have it look flat!

Saturation

Saturation is going to really make those colors pop. This is a great step in deciding what the tone of your film is going to look like! High saturation can result in a more stylized look, while low saturation can add mood. Either way, play around with what looks best to you. Remember that DaVinci Resolve allows for a lot of experimenting, so have fun with it. 

White Balance

This is absolutely essential before jumping into your color grade. Adjusting the white balance means making sure that your white objects actually appear white. You will want to pay extra close attention to this when you are using different temperature light sources. It’s important to have the white balance be correct so that when you jump into the creative looks, you will have a lot more control over color adjustments. 

Creative Looks

This is going to set the tone for your film. Is it a horror film with deep green and yellow highlights? Is it more stylized with a teal and orange look? Does it have grain to replicate film? No matter what you choose, DaVinci has the tools to let your creativity flow. 

Now that you understand some color grading basics, let’s jump into our industry tips for color grading in DaVinci Resolve.

1) Customize Your Workspace

You wouldn’t want to be doing creative work in a cluttered room, would you? This is a crucial step to expedite your workflow. DaVinci is extremely forgiving and allows you to adjust not only what windows and scopes you are looking at but also the size of them. Decide which ones are best suited for you and create your own workspace. 

Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve - Customize Your Workspace

2) Use PowerGrades

Have you ever made a color grade that you absolutely loved and thought, “I’d like to use this on future projects! Let me save it as a LUT.” A LUT, or a  Look Up Table, is similar to a filter you would put on an image. Instead, save your looks as a PowerGrade instead of LUTS. PowerGrades allow you to store much more information regarding color tracking, noise reduction, and detailed grades. 

3) Use A Speed Editor

We are all looking to do the most with our time. Especially when finding that perfect look somehow leaves you in the same seat ten hours later, having not eaten and eyes bloodshot. The best way to implement it is with a speed editor. You can easily jump between cameras, set in and out points, insert clips, and more.

Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve - Use a Speed Editor

If you are still deciding if DaVinci is for you, take a look at this bundle! Not only do you get DaVinci Studio, which is a $300 value, but you also get the Speed Editor! All for a value of $395. Saving that kind of money sounds pretty great to me. Your stomach, eyes, and wallet will thank you.

Courtney's Choice

Conclusion: Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve

Color grading in DaVinci Resolve is one of the best parts of filmmaking. I love being able to adjust a scene with contrast and creative looks to get the audience more engaged. Don’t forget that you are just as much a part of the storytelling process. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced colorist, color grading in DaVinci Resolve makes the workflow so much easier, way more manageable, and just downright fun! I would absolutely love to hear any tips you might have in the comments, and happy color grading! 

Courtney Birk

Courtney Birk is a Los Angeles-based actress, colorist, and multi-media artist. She’s never quite satisfied with having enough artistic outlets – so she’s usually painting, singing, and collaborating with her best friend to find creative ways for new storytelling. Her passion for the arts has driven her to work in many different mediums, including music, fine art, theater and film production.

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