In the analog world, “color timing” was a lengthy photo-chemical process that took place in a photo laboratory. Now color processing is done digitally; the color profiles of images and footage can be utterly transformed with just a few clicks of a mouse.

There are two main types of color manipulation, and their names are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably. Color correction and color grading are similar in their process, but different in how and when they are used.

Color Correction

Color correction is a singular process that involves making adjustments to an image to “correct” any deviations from its standard appearance.

These corrections include:

  • Exposure
  • White Balance
  • ISO Noise
  • Contrast

Color correction can be used to cover mistakes made with camera settings as well as to pull more information from flat-profiles. You should color correct your footage whenever possible, as it creates cohesion between shots.

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.

-Paul Klee

Color Grading

Color Grading is a multi-process that can change the visual tone of an entire film. Once your footage is corrected, you can work to change the thematics and aesthetics. Grading is used more as a brush to paint a picture with purpose. These include:

  • Shot Matching
  • Removing Objects
  • Shape Masks
  • Cinematic Looks (day-to-night, underwater, flashbacks, etc…)

Color grading is considered a more “high-end” process than color correction and it’s not used quite as often for most videos. If you are looking to create more detailed color profiles, be prepared for more labor intensive editing and longer render times.

What tools can I use for color grading or color correcting?

The real trick is to use the right tools. And believe me, there are a lot of tools available to you out there. However, in general I wouldn’t recommend attempting to do too much color editing on any of the free video editing platforms out there. Not because they’re not great programs for cutting together digital video content, but in many instances color editing does require some more in-depth tools and features.

Some great options for both color grading and color correcting are these popular video editing programs:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
  • Magic Bullet Colorista

The first few options here are also basic NLE platforms which you can use for all of your regular video editing needs, however if you do desire to go even more in-depth into the world of color editing there are certainly plenty of programs intensely focused on just color.


Hopefully these basic definitions, guides, and tips and tricks have given you a good understanding as to what the key differences between color correcting and color grading really are. At the end of the day though, color editing in general will always be what you make of it.

Just because footage was corrected and graded in certain ways before doesn’t mean you have to exactly follow the same steps for your own projects. It’s helpful to learn the basics, but feel free to explore the fascinating world of color on your own.

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