Tips from Colour Grading Breakdowns

Tips from Colour Grading Breakdowns

One of the most interesting things to invest your time in as a budding colorist is examining, frame by frame and node by node, the work of professional colorists to see how they are crafting their RAW resources into beautifully perfected finished shots. One colorist who is exceptionally generous at sharing his work is Montreal based colorist Charles-Etienne Pascal. His single shot breakdown series is now into the double digits, and his more detailed colour Grading steps series has some great insights in it too. Here is an example of both series, but be sure to check out the blog posts that go with each video too… Colour Grading Breakdown – Marked For Murder | Colour Grading Steps – Marked for Murder

Step 03: Grading the Midtones

It’s time to add some color in there. My shadows seems to be good for now, so I start right away with the mids. Let’s add a little bit of green and yellow to get a step closer to our initial goal. The key is to add just the right amount of warmth without introducing to much red. We are aiming for a dirty industrial look and the yellow with a greenish tint is just perfect for the mid tones. I’ve also added a notch of brightness to slightly brighten the image.

Another facet to Charles-Etienne’s site is are his occasional tutorials, which are always worth the time to digest. In this shot breakdown he details how he combined three separate colour keys to add texture, balance and richness to the final grade.

Another Montreal based colorist, Mathieu Marano, is a multi-talented man, colorist, blogger, trainer and more. He also creates handy things like this Mistika Shortcuts PDF, and some really nice colour grading breakdowns like these two above and below. There are even more on his blog like this one for a nifty ad for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, so hop over there and have a rummage around on the home tab.

What’s more if you’re a french speaker/reader then you should totally check out Front Créatif de Montréal, a site that Mathieu has written “about 90% of the articles” on.

This 10 minute live grading session from Senior Colorist Keith Roush, of Roush Media, demonstrates how to grade 4K F65 log footage in his Nucoda grading system. It’s a great opportunity to see a detailed layer by layer dissection of several shots together, rather than just one shot.

For even more colour grading breakdowns check out this previous post over on, or these two posts right here on the blog Colour Grading Resources Round Up Part 3 | Colour Grading Tutorials, Tips & Tales. Just for fun, here’s another of Charles-Etienne’s grading breakdowns (video above) and some related breakdown tweets…

You can also get a very detailed two part colour grading breakdown for this Doritos Superbowl spec spot, graded by editor and colorist (and now Creative Director) Aaron Williams. Part 1 | Part 2

Beauty Grading – Skin Smoothing in Resolve

Colorist, author and trainer, Alexis Van Hurkman shares some wise thoughts on the ethical aspect of this colour correction process over on his personal blog that are well worth a read. The question of whether the kind of ‘perfected’ body image, that almost all commercials, films and TV work promote, should be what the industry creates, or whether we should be faithful to the real person and be happy with that. Personally whenever I’ve sat in (as an editor) on grading sessions where the female actors are being stretched, squeezed and polished I’ve always rejected it as completely unnecessary.

Knowing on the one hand that all digital images given to me will benefit from some adjustment, and on the other hand realizing that overcorrection will encourage bad habits in an industry that is all-too-often guilty of encouraging unrealistic ideals, I’ve developed a simple rule that I try to adhere to when grading performers in a project.

  • Don’t make any correction to the color, contrast, or texture of someone’s complexion that couldn’t have been done by a makeup artist doing a naturalistic job.

This is the main rule I live by in the grading suite, and that’s the rationale I use with clients who want to push me to do more. Usually this explanation suffices. Sometimes it doesn’t and the client who’s paying my bills pushes me to go farther anyway, but I’m lucky in that being the exception rather then the rule.

In this 5 minute tutorial Alexis Van Hurkman you can learn how to achieve some skin smoothing in DaVinci Resolve. If you like Alexis’ style you can check out his paid for training on

Fashion Looks

In this post on you can work through a few related techniques to achieve a couple of different fashion looks in DaVinci Resolve.

French colorist Benoit Cote has graded over 500 commercials on DaVinci Resolve and in these two before and after videos (above), you can see some of his experience at work. You can see a lot more of Benoit’s before and after grading breakdowns on his site here. What’s unique about the shot above is that Benoit shares his powergrade for his ‘linear light’ mode in Resolve. You can directly download it by clicking the node tree image below.

Skin Grading Beauty Power Grade

In this final video you can check out some of Benoit’s beauty grading skills when it comes to fixing the look of a hero shot in a car ad.

Colour Grading on Pablo Rio

Although this blog often focuses on DaVinci Resolve, by far and away the most accessible professional colour grading system, there are plenty of other professional options out there, including Baselight, Mistika, Scratch, Nucoda and Pablo Rio, to name a few. It’s interesting to note that Light Iron Digital favours the Pablo Rio and Quantel’s Genetic Engineering 2 shared storage, that makes it all tick. You can find out a lot more information on Light Iron’s grading system in this previous post – just head for their 6K Diary video.

You can also check out the new features in Pablo Rio 2.0 in the video below and find out a ton of further information on the Quantel website here. Another really handy thing to check out, whether you’re an editor, colorist, DP, producer, director or pretty much anyone working in film production, is the Digital Fact Book from Quantel. It’s basically an online glossary of technical terms, definitions and common phrases explained in a very easy to understand way. If you’re not sure on something, it’s well worth having a rummage for it on the Digital Fact Book.

More Colour Grading Twitter Tips

One of the most popular recent posts I’ve shared on the blog was this one – Pro Tips To Improve Your Colour Grading – featuring a shed load of really great colour grading tips from RedBull Media Colorist Phil Strahl. So here are some more great tips from the Twitter colorist community…

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