Color Grading vs Color Correction- How are the Processes Different

Color Grading vs Color Correction: How are the Processes Different?

Color Grading vs Color Correction is a common topic that sometimes needs clarity, so lets dive in. We see all different forms of revisions and editing processes used to make film and video stand out. In cinema, color grading and color correcting are used for certain situations. When it comes to color grading vs color correcting, what are these coloring processes, and what role do they have on helping filmmakers achieve their creative vision?

Just as filmmakers often have to take on several roles such as producer, director, and editor, so too are they sometimes required to take on the role of color editor in which they are solely responsible for the correction and, more so the perfection of color within their films. Whether you’re new to the world of color correction or you’re facing the need to understand color grading and color correction more vividly because budget entails that you’ll be handling the color processing on your own this time around, knowing the difference between color grading and color correction is an important basic process that beginner and professional cinematographers should understand.

What is Color Grading?

Color grading refers to the process of improving the aesthetic value of a video by creating a visual tone or mood for the film through the color. Color grading processes are difficult to explain with words as these terms, color grading vs color correction both reference visual styles to images on a film screen. However, color grading involves changing the visual tone of the film after color correction has already taken place.

Essentially, color grading involves:

  • Using shape masks to produce color changes throughout the film.
  • Shot matching to ensure everything matches and aligns.
  • Removing objects that are not to have been featured in the film or which do not belong.
  • Producing the appearance of day-to-night shots after shooting in post-production editing.
  • Producing the appearance of a shot taken underwater.
  • Producing the appearance of a flashback to signify the visual style of the film.

Color grading is a process that not all films can afford to do. In fact, colorists are generally called in for movies to produce color graded final footage that surpasses the quality and visual style of video footage captured with the intent of sharing online or anywhere besides the big screen.

The process of color grading is labor intensive and time consuming. In fact, because color grading is performed on each individual  frame, the process can add several weeks or months to a movie production. The added labor also adds a significant dollar amount to the post-production editing expense and, therefore, is not affordable for most productions of a lesser extent and tends to be reserved for big screen productions solely.

What is Color Correction?

Color correction is generally done first as a means of balancing out any over-saturated colors in raw footage. Color correcting repairs any variances of color in footage so as to make it all appear exactly how it would appear if you or I were to look at the scene normally. In situations where the white or black levels match what you and I would see with the human eye, then the next step would be to correct colors so that they balance out as well and all appear naturally just as they would if actually looking at the set and not at raw footage.

Generally, color correction involves making minor adjustments to the image to ensure it is correct in forms of visual appearance as it aligns with the naked human eye.

Color correction can be used to:

  • Improve exposure or eliminate instances of over-exposure in order to balance shots out.
  • Reduce white balance to improve the continuity of the footage from one scene to the next.
  • To eliminate ISO noise from the footage.
  • To remove or to produce contrast in raw footage.

Were mistakes made with your camera settings from one shot to the next? Color correction can probably be used to iron out those mistakes and produce quality final footage out of the raw shots that were captured. Color correction builds a cohesive balance between shots from one to the next and, because it is relatively quick and easy to handle with software, should be performed on all video content regardless of budget or timeline.

Color Grading vs Color Correction Processes

Now that you know what the primary differences are for both color grading and color correction, let’s take a look at how the processes of performing each color technique take place in film production. Whether tweaking color just a bit or making full on color grading changes, the processes of coloring your film vary widely between these two arts. In fact, color grading can add months or more to the post-production process as each individual frame must be edited one-by-one and the changes must be carried through equally to ensure balance and the most pristine end result.

Color grading involves the individual adjustment of colors for each individual film frame to achieve a specific mood or tone. This process used to be referred to as color timing and was done manually during the development of film. However, today, color grading adjustments are made using software that helps to speed the process a bit.

While the exact process of color grading will vary, the overall workflow appears something like this:

  • The video footage is normalized and color correction takes place so that there are no issues with contrast or saturation. Exposure issues or contrast issues are balanced and white balance is fully stabilized throughout the entire video.
  • The video footage is color graded either manually or with a LUT (lookup table). Manual color grading provides the colorist with full control over the process but certainly takes longer than using an LUT which may be more consistent.
  • Final color adjustments are performed after the color grading has taken place. When LUTs are used for color grading, certain color tints may be too strong or overdone and the need to adjust colors and correct problems may arise to ensure the footage remains consistent and color balanced throughout.
  • Skin tones are reviewed through vectorscope to ensure colors are balanced and that skin tones match up appropriately.


Long after the cinematographer has used lighting, exposure, camera angle and shots to tell an engaging story and draw the viewer’s attention in, the post-production colorist plays a final role in taking the video to the professional level in balancing color, correcting color issues and color grading so that every scene is ultra-stylized, every action is aesthetically balanced and every last color element has been subtly modified to ensure a look and feel for the entire film that is exactly what the director’s creative vision intended.

For more information on color grading vs color correction, or to find out whether your video production should pass through both processes in order to achieve the desired results, contact Beverly Boy Productions. We can’t wait to help you achieve great success with your video content. From capturing footage to post-production coloring, our film crew is ready to share more than two decades of experience with you to make the most out of your project. Give us a call, we look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

Cinecom uploaded a short video explaining the difference between color correction and color grading with great visual examples:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *