What is the difference between color correction and color grading in film?

Color correction and color grading are essential phases of post-production. But how are they different? We will give you the recap.

For many DIY filmmakers, the coloring of footage doesn’t really go beyond the realm of increasing contrast or saturation when needed. A professional coloring workflow, however, is actually a much more complicated and multi-faceted affair.

Few things in this world get us going like quartering our hair in the editing room. Let’s discuss the difference between color correction and color grading, two extremely important phases in the post production pipeline.

What is color correction in film?

A woman grading images.
Image Credit: Erwin Verbruggen /Wikimedia Commons

As we live in an age far beyond the strict guidelines of traditional television, we still have standards to meet as technicians in the field of video production and color correction.

Color correction is any adjustment made to any of these standards. These can include things like color space, or even just the standard that most people would consider “acceptable” in terms of watchability. That is, nothing is too dark or too light to be recognized quickly.

A first cycle of color correction can include any of the following tasks:

  • Achieve a certain level of image quality at all levels.
  • Refine the exposure of a sequence.
  • Adjusting the white balance and color of a shot or series of shots.
  • Improve consistency between shots in a sequence.
  • Compensate for things like the sky or a dark landscape.
  • Translate a project to a different color space or projection format.
  • Calibration across multiple platforms or formats as appropriate.


Color correction can be seen as all you need to accomplish – you’re solving X one way, and your goal will usually be obvious right off the bat. Color grading, on the other hand, is where you can get a little more creative.

Related: How to Play Lumetri Staves in Adobe Premiere Pro

What is color grading in a movie?

A high-end coloring berry that meets industry standards.
Image Credit: ARRI AG /Wikimedia Commons

Once you’ve laid the foundation for a readable image throughout the project, you’re ready to come back and add some creative flair to each scene. What does this imply?

Our favorite looks are subtle, atmospheric, and cinematic, and different storylines embrace these characteristics through a number of different channels. Color, luminance, masks, tick marks, and more can all be used to make your movie look a lot closer to what the pros are publishing.

There are so many ways to amplify the mood of any shot. Some examples :

  • Play with the color of your highlights, midtones and shadows.
  • Adjustment of the overall palette of the image.
  • Apply a global filter, such as a sepia filter or a night filter.
  • Increase heat or cool an image.
  • Mattify and supersaturate an object in the frame.
  • Using a creative LUT or color preset.

Anything that happens after you’ve done your homework can be grouped into this category. Some color grading applications such as DaVinci Resolve provide you with a host of related tools: advanced input hierarchies, custom node sequences, and a number of different graphics and scopes that you can use to build your color grading. most precise evaluation possible.

The extent to which you rate your project will depend a lot on your working style and aesthetic style. The perfectionists among us will probably appreciate this aspect of post-production more than anything that comes before them.

Related: How to Use Nodes in DaVinci Resolve: Tutorial for Beginners

Color grading and correction: two sides of the same coin

No matter how far down the pipeline you are, you can be sure that the work you are doing is work that needs to be done next. We encourage you not to waste time mince words. Instead, we urge you to get your hands dirty.

Proper color correction is an integral part of a professional looking project. Color grading is just the icing on the cake. Incorporating the two practices into your editorial routine is key to beautiful, cinematic front-to-back footage.

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