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How to do colour grading in davinci resolve 18?

Colour grading is an essential part of the post-production process for video editing. It involves altering and enhancing the colours in your footage to achieve a particular look or mood for your project. DaVinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design is one of the most powerful colour grading software available, offering advanced tools for professional colourists. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the basics of colour grading in DaVinci Resolve 18.

Overview of the Color Page

The Color page is where you will do all your colour grading work in DaVinci Resolve. Here are some of the main tools and panels you need to be familiar with:

  • Viewer – Displays the current frame of your clip.
  • Gallery – Contains saved stills and grades that you can apply to clips.
  • Node Editor – Allows you to build complex node-based grades.
  • Timeline – Displays clips in your project for grading.
  • Scopes – Analyze colour and luminance in your clips.

Additionally, the layout is fully customizable, so you can set up the interface specific to your needs and preferences.

Setting Up Your Project

Before jumping into grading, you need to properly set up your project first. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you have properly corrected and balanced your footage for optimal grading results.
  • Add any LUTs (Look Up Tables) you want to use into the 3D LUT folder.
  • Set the project to the appropriate color science (such as DaVinci YRGB).
  • Choose the right timeline resolution and framerate.
  • Organize and name your clips appropriately.

Taking the time to set up your project correctly will give you the best foundation for grading.

Primaries Wheels

The Primaries wheels are the basic colour correction tools in DaVinci Resolve to adjust the lift, gamma, and gain parts of the image. Here are some tips for using them effectively:

  • Lift – Affects the dark shadows of the image.
  • Gamma – Adjusts the midtones of the image.
  • Gain – Alters the highlights and bright regions.
  • Start by making broad strokes adjustments then fine tune as needed.
  • Use the trackballs to make adjustments faster and more intuitively.
  • Watch the scopes to see how your adjustments are impacting the colour and luminance.

Using the Primaries wheels properly will give you a great starting point before you move on to more advanced grading.

Using the HSL Qualifier

One of the most powerful tools for targeted colour adjustments is the HSL Qualifier. Here are some tips for using it effectively:

  • Select the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance range you want to affect.
  • Use the eyedropper to select areas of your image.
  • Refine your selection by narrowing or expanding the ranges.
  • Use the window and qualifier tools to further isolate and finetune your selection.
  • You can then apply adjustments just to the selected color range.

Mastering HSL qualifiers gives you precise, selective control during grading.

Making Secondary Adjustments

Secondaries allow you to make targeted adjustments to specific parts of the image, such as skin tones. Here are some tips:

  • Add a new node in the Node Editor and make it a Serial or Layer node.
  • Use a Qualifier or Power Window to isolate the region you want to affect.
  • Make adjustments to just that region using Primaries wheels, curves, or other tools.
  • Use multiple secondaries for different parts of the image.
  • Try using masks with Power Windows to further fine tune your selection.

Using secondaries properly will give you tremendous control during colour grading.

Creating a Day vs. Night Look

A common colour grading scenario is creating different looks for day and night scenes. Here are some tips for this:

  • Do initial balancing adjustments in the Primaries wheels (warm for day, cool for night).
  • For day, boost contrast mildly, raise shadows, and enrich colours subtly.
  • For night, lower contrast, darken mids and shadows, boost saturation selectively.
  • Use secondaries to subtly cool, desaturate, and darken backgrounds at night.
  • Add halation around bright lights at night using windows and blurs.

With some practice, you can effectively convey different times of day with your grade.

Creating Stylized Looks

DaVinci Resolve includes creative tools to apply stylized looks to your footage such as the following:

Look Techniques
Black & White Use Color Boost effect with saturation lowered.
Sepia Add Sepia Tone effect.
60s/70s Film Use Film Color effect with appropriate settings.
Blockbuster Strong S-curves, teal/orange hues, heavy vignette.

Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with the built-in effects to create unique stylized looks.

Matching Multiple Shots

When colour grading shots for a scene, it’s important to match the shots so they feel cohesive. Here are some tips for shot matching:

  • Spot check clips to find a suitable reference frame.
  • Match primary adjustments across each clip (blacks, mids, whites).
  • Analyze shots in split screen to check for inconsistencies.
  • Use waveform and vectorscope to technically match shots.
  • Copy grades from one shot and apply selectively to other clips as needed.

Putting in the work to match shots will elevate your entire scene.

Exporting Your Grades

When you finish grading your project, you need to properly export grades and renders. Here are some tips:

  • Grade in floating point then render out in appropriate color space (Rec.709).
  • Limit grade bit depth to 10-bit for standard deliverables.
  • Use LUTs or Resolve Color Management for proper grade translations.
  • Render out XMLs, EDLs, or Resolve projects for finishing artists.
  • Include rendered files, LUTs, and any metadata needed to finish properly.

Correctly exporting out your grades is the final important step in the grading process.


Learning the ins and outs of colour grading in DaVinci Resolve 18 takes time and practice, but the payoff is having immense creative control over the look of your video projects. Start by learning the fundamentals like the Primaries wheels, HSL qualifiers, and making secondary adjustments. From there, explore more advanced techniques like creating day vs night looks, stylized treatments, shot matching, and properly exporting your grades. Colour grading is equal parts art and science, so keep pushing your creativity and developing your technical skills. With the techniques covered in this guide, you now have a solid foundation for doing professional colour grading work in DaVinci Resolve 18.