Color grading is an essential part of working with photographs, especially if you want them to look their best. Whether you are a photographer or a graphic designer, learning how to work with color grading is essential to create the most professional images possible. With the ample amount of resources available on the internet, finding an array of color grading tools is simple and either free or quite cost effective. What is Color Grading?
When you work with a color grading software tool you will be able to change the colors that are shown in a picture. You can choose whether you want to make a stark contrast or if you want to make a minimal difference, such as working with white balance. At times you may notice that the colors in your picture are already perfect but you can still work with them to show your creative expression.
You can also use color grading in video clips where you can vary a color palette for an intentional impact. In fact, the mood of your narrative may depend on the colors that a particular scene has. For example, you can use certain colors to emulate a bleak and dreary setting or you can use certain colors to make a scene seem happier and more lively.
How to Choose the Right Color Grading Tools
Even though it may sound simple, color grading can take a lot of time and if you're charging clients by the hour it can also be expensive. You may not want to use an expensive color grading software if you're starting out and a beginner. Whereas if you're being paid a significant sum of money, taking your time with a professional program is advised.
In most cases designers and developers will take the client into account as the sole factor for deciding what color grading tools to use. If you're not charging your customers for color correction you can simply rely on built-in color grading tools or plugins instead of booting up your favorite program. Time is money, so choosing the most efficient and professional method is your best bet.
The Best Color Grading Software
#1. DaVinci Resolve (Formerly DaVinci Resolve Lite)
If you're looking for a free program that you can use to your advantage, this is the one for you. It includes all of the features that you would receive from the full DaVinci Resolve program. The catch is that projects can only be UHD resolutions or less than that. You will also only be able to process on a single rocket card or GPU and there isn't stereo 3D support. Other features that are missing include: noise reduction, sharing, remote grading, and power mastering. If you're starting out, this would be an excellent program to get an idea of how color grading can change an image or frame. More information about the program can be found here: Top 10 New Features in DaVinci Resolve 12.5
#2. Red Giant Colorista Free
As another free color grading software tool, Red Giant is known amongst the filmmaker community as they have been around for many years. Colorista Free is a great program that gives you 3-way color correction and a variety of different inputs. If you're using additional programs such as Adobe Premiere CC you will be able to use Colorista Free as a secondary correction tool. You can also take a look at Colorista II for $199 as a plugin for After Effects. Find out more here: Red Giant Colorista Free
#3. Adobe Premiere CC
With recent updates, Adobe Premiere CC now allows editors to have automated tracking masks which allows you to apply filters to certain parts of an image and the program will follow the highlighted portion for a certain amount of time. Amongst professionals, this is a tool that is included in the highest quality color suites that you can find. Learn more here: Adobe Premiere CC
4. DaVinci Resolve Studio
Commonly referred to as the most power color corrector that the media industry has ever seen, DaVinci Resolve 12 gives you an abundance of activities that you can take advantage of. You will not only be able to color grade but you can also edit, finish, and deliver entirely through the program. You will be able to use it at home, in Hollywood productions, for independent projects, and more. It is also known to have an incredibly level of work speed and perfect compatibility, making it convenient for every level of photographer and filmmaker. You can find more information here: DaVinci Resolve Studio
Color grading is essential not only for setting the mood of a specific project but to also make sure that the project is able to look its best. If you don't have a lot of experience with working with colors, it is advised that you try the free programs first to get an idea of how it works. Once you have gathered enough experience, you can consider buying your own software such as DaVinci Resolve 12.
Recommendation: Wondershare Filmora
Wondershare Filmora is a simple and practical video editing software for beginners. With its built-in color grading tool, Wondershare Filmora allows you to adjust the contrast, saturation, brightness, hue, and white balance, etc., on your video clips: