Color grading is an important part of the post-production process for video editing. It involves adjusting color balance, contrast, saturation and other elements to achieve a specific look or aesthetic for your footage. Two of the most popular video editing programs that offer color grading capabilities are Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve. But which one is better for color grading – Premiere or DaVinci?
Overview of Color Grading in Premiere and DaVinci
Both Premiere and DaVinci provide a range of color grading tools, but there are some key differences in their approaches:
|Software||Color Grading Tools|
|Adobe Premiere Pro||Lumetri Color panel with wheels for shadows, midtones, highlights, saturation,etc. Curves, vignettes, HSL secondary adjustments.|
|DaVinci Resolve||More advanced color wheels, tracking, power windows, qualification, node-based workflow. Designed primarily for color grading.|
As this overview shows, DaVinci Resolve is designed specifically with professional color grading in mind, while Premiere Pro includes color grading capabilities alongside its other editing tools.
Precision and Control
When it comes to precision color adjustments and control, DaVinci Resolve has the edge. The color wheels, tracking tools, power windows, and node-based workflow offer tremendous finesse for isolating specific color adjustments. You can truly sculpt the color grading to achieve very nuanced results.
Premiere Pro’s Lumetri wheels and curves provide a solid toolset for color adjustments, but can’t quite match the advanced capabilities of DaVinci. Complex secondary adjustments are easier to execute in DaVinci. The node editor gives you incredible control over the order and layers of adjustments.
Ease of Use
While DaVinci may offer deeper grading tools, Premiere makes it easier to get started with color correction. The Lumetri wheels integrate smoothly right within the main editing interface. You can quickly balance shots and create basic looks without switching workspaces.
DaVinci’s massive toolset and node-based workflow has a steeper learning curve. The program can be intimidating for beginners, as you need to learn specific terminology (nodes, power windows, tracking, etc) and work through a more complex grading workflow.
When using Premiere for editing and DaVinci for color grading, roundtrip workflows are straightforward. You can use XMLs or AAFs to move timeline projects between the programs with clips and edits intact. However, there can be issues with effects and complex timelines getting misinterpreted in the roundtrip process.
Staying within one program avoids any roundtrip issues. Grading in Premiere allows you to skip XML/AAF exports and relinking footage. But DaVinci’s superior grading tools may make the roundtrip worthwhile.
Speed and Performance
DaVinci Resolve is optimized specifically for color grading, so it can process footage and render color adjustments more efficiently than Premiere Pro. The program is designed to work well with RAW formats and high resolution footage like 4K or 8K video.
Premiere can struggle at times to render color effects, especially when working with complex source media. Large projects with lots of Lumetri adjustments can bog down performance. DaVinci has a clear advantage in terms of speed.
While DaVinci has come a long way in its audio features, Premiere Pro is still the leader for audio mixing and effects. You get sophisticated tools like submixes, channel routing, FX racks, and the Essential Sound panel. For combining color grading and audio work, Premiere has the edge.
DaVinci is primarily oriented toward visual editing rather than audio. The audio tools are solid for basic editing, but audio engineers and mixers will find more capability in Premiere.
Integration with Other Software
Premiere plays nicely with After Effects, Photoshop, and other Adobe software. You can Dynamic Link content from Premiere to After Effects for motion graphics work. And Photoshop documents can be imported with layers intact. The tight integration makes collaborative workflows smoother.
While DaVinci Resolve can incorporate common media formats from other programs, it doesn’t have the same level of integration with VFX software like Premiere has with After Effects. This can introduce more steps in a collaborative, multi-software workflow.
DaVinci Resolve has a free version with generous features, including the full color grading toolset. This allows you to get professional-grade color correction at no cost. The only limitation is output resolution and formats. The Studio version unlocks 4K+ output and collaborative tools for $295.
Premiere is only available through an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. For Premiere alone it is $20.99/month. For the full suite of Creative Cloud apps, it ranges from $52.99-$82.98 per month. So DaVinci is clearly the more affordable option.
|DaVinci Resolve Free||$0|
|DaVinci Resolve Studio||$295 (one-time payment)|
|Adobe Premiere Pro||$20.99/month with annual plan|
So which is better ultimately – grading in Premiere or DaVinci Resolve? There isn’t a universal winner. It depends on your specific needs and preferences as an editor.
If you want the most professional color grading results, DaVinci Resolve is the clear choice. The precision, control and performance for correcting color simply can’t be beaten. It’s the gold standard for colorists.
But for intuitive Creative Cloud workflows, tight integration with After Effects, and combining editing with audio mixing, Premiere Pro makes sense. For end-to-end video post workflows, Premiere is more seamless.
For large projects, a combined DaVinci Resolve and Premiere Pro workflow can be very effective. Use Premiere for initial edit, audio mix, and integrating motion graphics from After Effects. Then use DaVinci for final color grading polish and output.
The good news is you don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. Many editors use both programs together to take advantage of the unique strengths of each platform.
DaVinci Resolve offers superior color grading tools, but a steeper learning curve. Premiere Pro provides solid color correction capabilities alongside its editing and audio features. For straightforward usability, tight integration with the Creative Cloud, and the ability to edit, mix audio, and color grade in one app, Premiere Pro is the best option. But for the highest quality color grading results and 4K+ output, DaVinci Resolve remains the professional standard.
The ideal scenario may be utilizing both programs – Premiere for editing, audio, and basic color balance, then DaVinci to fine-tune the grade and export final master files. With some care taken during roundtrip, this combined workflow gives you the best of both worlds.