What is color grading and why is it important?

When you’re first starting with post-production, just getting usable footage cut together feels like the end of the journey. To elevate your project, however, and ensure your footage looks as good as possible, it’s time to dive into the world of color grading. But what is it and when should you use it on your projects?



In days not far gone, color grading was a separate post-production process altogether. As editing software began catching up to dedicated machines, however, the lines between video editor and grader have blurred.

These days editors are expected to know, and implement, color grading when hired for projects. It’s more important than ever to understand what color grading is and why you’ll come to rely on it.

The simple answer is it’s a post-production process centered entirely on altering the color qualities of an image you’ve captured. This includes contrast, sharpness, blackness depth, white balancing, color overlays/spotlights and overall saturation. This may sound clinical, but when used properly, color grading has a drastic effect on your project’s overall tone, emotional impact and storytelling.


Most people tend to use the terms color correction and color grading synonymously, but there is a distinction. Correction refers more to ‘fixing’ the image presented and is traditionally the first step in the process. It’s about making sure the footage captured looks the way it’s intended. Thus, through balancing out the whites and ensuring things aren’t washed out or oversaturated you can achieve a better look.

Grading is the next step. Grading allows you to take that corrected footage and establish an overall mood or aesthetic for your scenes. You can also make visual effects changes, such as day for night. While most of the tools used in both processes are the same, it’s important to know the difference. Plus, knowing when to implement them, will always serve you.



There are a number of reasons to implement color grading into a project. Much like with all the video production tools at your disposal, however, it’s crucial to know when to utilize it. A heavy hand or overuse can be as detrimental to a project as doing nothing at all.

Using colors to represent moods isn’t a new concept. Take a look at the prevalence of mood rings from decades past. There’s a wealth of color theory about which hues elicit certain responses. You, however, will need to figure out when and how to use them on your audiences.

This isn’t always easy to do, but you’ll get a better feel for implementing specific grading techniques the more projects you do it. You have to think about your video and the story you’re telling. As you watch cuts of the project, think about the emotions you want viewers to feel during specific sequences.

Say you have a sequence where your main character received bad news. There are a couple of ways you can use color grading to affect the dynamics of the scene. You could push the sadness aspect by adding in darker shades of blue or show a more violent/angry reaction by kicking up the reds. Both deliver drastically different reactions from your audience, so it’s important to know what you want to achieve.

Find out more about GM Creative Studio and our services

Tell us Your Challenge and we shall battle it for you