January 23, 2019

Color Grading with Davinci Resolve

Welcome to our color grading tutorial — care of the Stocksy video team.  Let us walk you through how we use Davinci Resolve to edit and color grade videos for the collection. This powerful editing and color correcting tool has a free trial version that is more than capable to meet most users’ needs. Learn how we use it to get the most out of our footage. If you’re just getting started with Resolve, check out our tutorial on how to get started.

Introduction to Color Grading

Senior Colorist, Alimzhan Alan Sabir covers the basics of reading the scopes, waveforms, and initial primary adjustments. These tips will allow you to achieve that ideal cinematic color grading look.

Reading Waveforms

On the left you can see numbers from 1023 to 0, which represent the luminance value of the clip. Being above 1023 means we’re clipping the highlights and being below 0 means that we’re crushing the blacks.

The wave form very much represents the contrast of the clip. The more stretched out the waveform is, the larger the difference between the black and white levels. The goal is to always keep the waveform balanced and avoid losing information in the brightest part or darkest part of the image.

Color Wheels

Lift wheel: affects blacks but also bleeds into midtones.

Gamma: takes care of midtones, but spills into blacks and white levels.

Gain: adjusts brightness, or exposure, but also affects blacks and midtone points.

Offset: adjusts the entire waveform.

These are general adjustments that don’t target specific parts of the waveform as much as Log wheels.

Log Wheels

These are useful to finesse the image. These wheels will affect only the specific areas of the waveform, without bleeding or spilling into others.

Shadow: darks/blacks

Midtone: midtone exposure

Highlight: just the whites/highlights

Offset: the entire waveform.


On the first page of curves, you’ll find the contrast curve. If you’ve worked with stills before, this is very similar as you can find your black, mid, and white point and adjust accordingly.

You can get similar levels using either wheels or curves. You’ll find which you prefer through practice. Be bold and try new things.

Hue vs Hue

Allows you to target specific colors in your footage and adjust their hue and colors.

Hue vs Saturation

Allows you to adjust the saturation of your targeted color.

Hue vs Luminance

This lets you set the brightness of the colors in post, but be careful when using this on 8 bit files as they can quickly fall apart.

Luminance vs Saturation

This curve uses luminance to decide saturation. You can use it in your black and white points to smooth your black levels and highlights and the color casts in your shadows that separate them from midtones.

Davinci Resolve Tutorial

Advanced Color Grading

This video dives deeper into advanced grading techniques for Davinici Resolve. We’ll talk about nodes and adjustments like: lift, gamma, and gain. We’ll balance the overall clip, maximize contrast, adjust saturation, and then equalize hue vs hue. We’ll also add slight color tints to our shadows, while keeping clean blacks, to add separation. Subtle changes that add a clean cinematic look to your footage.

Intro to Power Windows, Qualifying and Tracking

Power Windowing is a very helpful tool that allows you to create a specific shape and isolate an area to target your adjustments within that selection only. 
For now let’s just focus on simple shapes like circles and rectangles. We can change the shape, position or softness aka feathering of your power window. Try to toggle the highlight tool to help you see what you are working with exactly. 

Once you determine what you want to target you can go ahead and apply your adjustments, we can apply any tool that’s available to us in resolve. After that we can carry on with our normal work flow the only difference is that the adjustments will only be applied to your window. Things like contrast, Wheels, or Bars.

This is a great tool, but what happens if our subject or camera are moving and we want to maintain our color adjustments. For that, Davinci is very well equipped with a fantastic tracking tool. You can toggle what movement should it track if its pan, tilt, zoom or even a 3D tracker.

With just one click, the tracker takes care of everything.

Finally, let’s talk about qualifying a color. Qualifier is a tough tool to master, but it has a great useful potential that can open up a lot of different adjustments for you. Essentially, what we do with it is select a color and target that specific color only.

It allows you to use any adjustment that Davinci has to offer on that specific color. You can use color wheels, curves, gain, gamma lift wheels or any other tool to alter that specific selection.

With such great precision comes great amount of finesse that needs to be done in order for your adjustments to look natural. Which can take a lot more time and effort than an average grade. I find that cleaning up your blacks and whites and blurring out the qualifier helps a lot to smooth out the effect. In addition to that sometimes you might have to go into the color bars with in the qualifier panel and adjust them. Otherwise you might get a lot of dancing color pixels.

Individually each tool is very powerful. But don’t forget that you can combine them together.

This concludes our tutorial series on Color Grading in Davinci Resolves. I hope I have answered some of your questions, helped you to further understand Color Correction and Grading. Please remember all of these tools have limitless applications and possibilities. Coloring takes time and patience, so keep practicing, find what works best for you, train your eyes, stay open to feedback and success will be inevitable.


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