Color grade in Premiere Pro

How To Color Grade in Premiere Pro [Beginner’s Guide]

Table of contents

Welcome back to the fourth tutorial in the series where we’ll be taking a look at how to color grade in Premiere Pro.

We’ve already looked at how to import footage, edit and add transitions. Now your video has been trimmed perfectly, it’s time to start polishing it.

Now, it’s time for color grading. This is an important step of the post-production phase in Premiere Pro and something you can spend a bit of time on.

Why is Color Grading Important?

Have you ever watched a film with a scene from the Arctic and for some reason you can’t help but feel cold?

Alongside all of the other factors that go into that scene, take note of how blue it looks. This is completely intentional. For example, look at the film Arctic (2018).

Arctic screenshot blue color grade

Similarly, if you’re watching a scene that’s perhaps a character’s happy flashback or forwards to the memory of a sunny day, it will be warm and golden. The classic ‘wheat field scene’ in Gladiator (2000) is a good example of this.

Gladiator screenshot golden color grade

Color grading and the film’s color palette play an important part in how your audience feels throughout a film. As we mentioned in our previous article covering the best software for color grading.

A color grade has the ability to completely transform the mood and tone of a film, subtly (or sometimes not so subtly). It can convey key messages to your audience and, as a result, determine how they interpret it.

Basics of Color Grading in Premiere Pro

So, let’s get you started on the basics of color grading in Premiere Pro.

Firstly, you’ll want to switch from the Editing tab at the top to Color.

Color correction workspace
Color Correction Workspace

This will center your program monitor and enlarge it so you can really see what you’re editing.

Additionally, to your right, you’ll find Adobe’s Lumetri Color panel.

Adobe Lumetri Color panel
Adobe Lumetri Color Panel

Interestingly, if you’re familiar with other Adobe programs (particularly Lightroom and Photoshop), color grading in Premiere Pro may actually be really easy for you. The tools are very similar and largely do the same things.

Adobe Lumetri Color settings
Adobe Lumetri Color Settings

Matching Footage

Looking at your footage, there are a few things you may have noticed.

For example, if you have been filming with auto-white balance on your camera, some shots are perhaps a little warmer (orange) or cooler (blue) than others.

Furthermore, if you’ve matched footage from two different cameras, there are bound to be differences.

Using these sliders you want to try and match the footage so that it all looks the same.

Comparison View

Firstly, it’s a great idea to enable Comparison view so that you can see both the clip you’re editing and the clip that you want to match to.

To do this, select Color Wheels & Match in the drop-down options and then, click Comparison view. You’ll now have the clips side by side in the program monitor.

Auto Match

Premiere Pro now comes with an Auto Match feature which if you’re in a rush works very well. Once you’ve got your footage lined up on the timeline, let’s jump in.

  1. Choose Comparison View.
  2. Choose a reference frame.
  3. Choose a clip to match to the reference frame.
  4. Enable Face Detection (if you want) to prioritize skin tones.
  5. Click on Apply Match. The color match tool will study the reference clip, and after analyzing it, the changes will be applied to the current clip.
  6. That’s it!

Manual Match

To manually match clips, have a look at the drop-down options. In the Color Wheels & Match panel, for example, you have three color wheels. There’s one for highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.

By dragging the center point of each one, you can change the tones of the clip. For example, we can make our shadows very blue and our highlights quite orange.

Have a play around and see what works best.

Add Adjustment Layer

With your footage matching, it’s then time to add the color grade. Rather than editing the clips on the timeline themselves, we’ve found it’s best to add an Adjustment Layer. You should treat this adjustment layer as a filter that you lay over your footage.

As a result, if something goes wrong with the color grading or you need to start again, all you have to do is delete or undo that single adjustment layer.

Trust us, it’s a lot better than going through each individual clip! 👍

So, to do this, simply switch back to the editing tab and click the New Item icon in the project panel, select Adjustment Layer.

Subsequently, you can then click and drag this over the top of your footage on the timeline.

Now, go to View, Display Mode and select Composite Video. This will set your program monitor back to seeing just one clip at a time, depending on when your playhead is on the timeline.

Then, check out Curves.

Add Color Grade

Once we’re happy that the clips match, this is usually where we like to start color grading.

By dragging up the line towards the right, you can increase the highlights and by dragging it down on the left, you can increase shadows. This turns the straight line into an S shape – also known as the classic S-curve. It adds contrast and dynamic range to your footage.

Furthermore, at the top of the Lumetri Color panel, you’ll find basic correction settings.

Here, you’ll see a number of sliders such as Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows.

Because we’ve already created the S-curve we don’t really need to touch the sliders for contrast, highlight and shadows, etc.

However, the Temperature and Exposure sliders prove rather useful when it comes to matching footage and perhaps adding warmth or cold to a film.

Lastly, take a look at the Creative section. Here you can input a LUT.

Basically, this will do all the hard work of the grade for you. Some see it as lazy, while others find it’s the best way. It’s really up to you.

Simply click the dropdown bar next to Look and select Browse. You can then find the LUT you want and apply it.

Below that, you can change the intensity of the LUT. If you find the darks and shadows are far too crushed but you like the temperature, just ease the slider down a bit.

In short, that’s the basics of color grading in Premiere Pro. Not quite as bad as you thought, right?

We recommend playing around with everything and seeing what you like. Each video editor has a different style and taste.

Check out our next article, where we’ll cover exporting in Premiere Pro.

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