Are you looking for reliable color grading software that can give your footage the style, tone, and ambiance you’re looking for? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
As an indie filmmaker myself, I know the importance of color grading and color adjustments for my movies. Giving your film or video a cohesive and professional look is essential and color grading software programs can help you achieve just that.
Fortunately, there is an abundance of powerful and easy-to-use color grading software on the market today!
In this article, we’ll cover the best 11+ color grading software options available right now – covering both free and paid options so you can find the perfect one to suit your needs.
We’ll also provide an overview on what color grading is, why it’s important, and how to use it for maximum impact. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, one of the options shared in this post will meet your needs. Read on to learn more!
What Is Color Grading vs. Color Correction?
Though the terms color grading and color correction are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re two different stages of the typical video editing process.
Color grading is the process of editing and enhancing a film or video’s colors to convey a certain mood and visual tone with your color palette. It’s how you add style to a video or photography project.
Color correction, on the other hand, is the process of correcting the colors so that they appear natural. It also involves tweaking aspects like contrast, exposure, and white balance.
What Is the Best Color Grading and Color Correction Software for Video?
To help you make an informed decision, I’ve reviewed Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and a bunch of other highly rated color grading and correction tools, both free and paid.
So, read on to find the right software for your needs.
1. DaVinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve is a powerful video editing and color management system utilized by many Hollywood studios.
In fact, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers were edited using this professional color grading software.
DaVinci Resolve is a node-based software that enables you to map your color grading in layers. This approach is notably effective in achieving color precision.
Another feature that sets this professional video editor apart is face-tracking, which allows you to lock onto individual faces for easier eyes and complexion editing. There are also auto-balancing features and a library of FX plugins.
- Top-notch motion tracking and color warping
- Advanced color-grading effects
- Has a free version that you can try before you buy
- One-off payment; no subscription
- Plenty of online tutorials that you can refer to
DaVinci Resolve costs a flat fee of $295, providing you with lifetime access and updates.
This color grading and correction software also has a free version that’s quite robust. So, you get to try it before making a purchase decision.
DaVinci Resolve Pros
DaVinci Resolve Cons
DaVinci Resolve is best for professionals seeking an advanced color management system and for those who like a one-time purchase model.
2. Adobe Premiere Pro
Arguably the most popular video editing software out there, Adobe Premiere Pro offers top-grade color grading and correction tools that enable you to control every aspect of your color management process.
You can use Adobe Premiere Pro to adjust the color, lighting, and contrast of your video or film using easy-to-use color wheels, curves, and slider arrangements found within the Lumetri Color panel.
This color correction and grading software allows you to enjoy one-click corrections, color presets, and plenty of plugins. It also supports a wide range of formats, including AVI, MOV, WMV, MP4, and FLV.
- Intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate
- Extensive built-in stock library
- Auto reframe for different aspect ratios
- Excellent cloud storage support
- Broad format support, including VR and 360º
Premiere Pro costs $22.56/month for individuals and $36.54/month per team license (if you pay yearly – it will be a bit more if you pay on a monthly basis).
If you’re subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud All Apps plan, you get to enjoy Premiere Pro for free, in addition to several other creative apps such as After Effects and Photoshop.
Adobe Premiere Pro Pros
Adobe Premiere Pro Cons
Adobe Premiere Pro is best for 360-degree, professional-grade video editing.
3. Final Cut Pro X
Developed by Apple, Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing software that’s also used by many studios.
Examples of movies edited using this software include No Country for Old Men and The Social Network.
Final Cut Pro X features color correction effects that you can use right off the bat to balance your hues. You can then use color and hue/saturation curves to edit your project’s colors.
This video color-grading software has a color board that alters highlights, shadows, Global, and mid-tones. On top of that, it allows you to edit your footage in standard or HLG color spaces.
- Multiple color points and wheels
- Plenty of automation features
- Renders quickly and in high quality
- Intuitive, easy-to-use interface
- Allows for multi-cam video editing
Final Cut Pro costs a one-time payment of $299.99.
Before making a purchase, you can try the latest version of the software for free for up to 90 days.
Final Cut Pro X Pros
Final Cut Pro X Cons
Final Cut Pro X is best for color grading and correction on macOS.
Lightworks is a Windows-specific video editing software that offers tons of professional-grade color correction and grading tools, including HSL color wheels, RGB graphs, and LUT templates.
Lightworks has been around for over 30 years, and it was used to edit some iconic Hollywood movies, including Pulp Fiction, Braveheart, Heat, L.A. Confidential, 28 Days Later, and more.
- Supports up to 8K video quality
- Pro-level color correction and grading
- LUT and social media templates
- Straightforward, easy-to-use interface
Lightworks is available in three different versions: Free, Create, and Pro.
The Create version starts at $9.99/month and is geared toward content creators, presenters, and educators. The Pro version starts at $23.99/month and is geared toward Hollywood-level editing.
Lightworks is best for Hollywood-level color grading and post-production.
5. Avid Media Composer
Avid Media Composer offers plenty of automatic color correction tools for quick and efficient adjustments. You can use them to set accurate white and black values, as well as remove unwanted color casts.
Though you can use Avid Media Composer for basic color grading, its strongest selling suit is its powerful color correction capabilities. It’s available for macOS and Windows, though it requires some hefty specs.
- Auto black, white, contrast, and balance
- Allows you to remove color casts
- Intuitive and highly customizable interface
- Tons of color correction features
- Comes with a cloud collaboration feature
Avid Media Composer is available in four different versions: First, Standard, Ultimate, and Enterprise. The First version is completely free and grants you access to most of the software’s features.
The Standard version is suited for independent video editors, and it starts at $23.99/month for a 1-year subscription. The Ultimate version is geared toward collaborative workflows. It starts at $49.99/month for a 1-year subscription.
The pricing of the Enterprise version is custom. You’ll need to contact Avid’s sales department and provide them with some information to get a custom quote.
Note that each version of Avid Media Composer offers a free trial.
Avid Media Composer Pros
Avid Media Composer Cons
Avid Media Composer is the best video color correction software in terms of customization.
6. Movavi Video Editor Plus
Movavi Video Editor Plus is a footage-enhancement software that’s designed with beginners and amateurs in mind.
It’s packed with powerful color management tools, yet it’s user-friendly and easy to learn.
Movavi’s color correction tools enable you to manipulate aspects such as saturation, temperature, brightness, and contrast. It also offers auto adjustment tools, such as auto contrast.
This color correction and grading software features a wide range of filters that you can use for quick results. And if you’re not satisfied with what you have, you can buy additional creative packs from the Movavi Effects Store.
- Built-in library of effects and filters
- Direct upload to YouTube and social media
- Supports a wide range of formats
- Doesn’t require high-end computer specs
- Several auto-adjustment features
The newest update to Movavi Video Editor has introduced some new user-friendly and advanced features! The best improvements include a streamlined timeline, a frame-precise cutting tool, professional color correction, AI-powered motion tracking, and versatile overlay effects with 13 blending modes, all designed to optimize editing from short clips to lengthy movies.
Movavi Video Editor Plus costs a one-time payment of $65.95 for both macOS and Windows. Alternatively, you can use the software for a year for $49.95.
You can download Movavi Video Editor Plus for free and enjoy a 7-day trial period. This should be enough time for you to determine whether or not it’s worth buying.
Movavi Video Editor Plus Pros
Movavi Video Editor Plus Cons
Movavi Video Editor Plus is best for beginner and amateur video editors.
7. FilmConvert Nitrate
FilmConvert Nitrate is a versatile piece of software that you can use as an independent color-grading application or as a plugin that integrates with the most popular video editing programs.
If you’re looking to add a cinematic touch to your footage, FilmConvert Nitrate is a perfect choice. It has ready-made presets that you can use right away, along with several saturation and color adjustment tools.
- Integrates into popular video editing software
- Remarkably fast rendering speed
- Plenty of presets and color adjustment options
- Camera-oriented preset selection
For individual use, FilmConvert Nitrate costs $174 for all platforms or $125 for particular platforms (e.g., DaVinci Resolve, Adobe, and Final Cut Pro X). The pricing is slightly lower for academic bundles.
FilmConvert Nitrate Pros
FilmConvert Nitrate Cons
FilmConvert Nitrate is the best plugin for color grading and adjustment.
8. HitFilm Express
HitFilm Express is a free color grading software that’s ideal for beginners.
It’s compatible with a range of add-ons and plugins (paid), so you can customize it based on your needs.
You’d expect a free piece of software to have limited format support, but HitFilm Express exceeds expectations with its support for AVI, MP4, MOV, WMV, and more, though it only exports in MP4 and AVI.
With HitFilm Express, you can use color grading and correction instruments in conjunction to improve color balance, temperature, hue, and more. There are also plenty of effects to choose from.
- Compatible with several add-ons and plugins
- Onboard tutorials and projects
- Features plenty of visual effects and LUTs
- Edits and exports simultaneously
- A simplistic interface that’s easy to figure out
Hitfilm Express is available for free. Keep in mind, however, that most of the software’s additional plugins and add-ons come at a cost.
HitFilm Express Pros
HitFilm Express Cons
Hitfilm Express is best for basic color grading and correction.
While not as popular as the likes of DaVinci Resolve and Premiere Pro, ColorDirector offers a good bang for the buck with its professional color-grading tools and visual effects.
This Windows-specific offers an instant color-matching tool that you can use to replicate styles and tones from reference videos. It also offers illumination tools and a full-spectrum color wheel.
- AI motion tracking for moving objects
- Full-spectrum color wheel
- An instant color-matching functionality
- Imports and exports LUTs
ColorDirector 365, which is the paid version, is priced at $19.99/month or $69.99/year. There’s also a free version called ColorDirector Essential.
ColorDirector is best for color grading on low-end Windows computers.
10. Color Finale 2
Color Finale 2 is a color grading plugin designed to integrate with Final Cut Pro X. It doesn’t integrate with other video editing programs like FilmConvert Nitrate does.
Color Finale 2 expands FCPX’s functionality with top-tier color-grading tools like RGB curves and three-way color wheels. It also offers quite a few film emulation tools.
- Integrates with Final Cut Pro X
- Three-way color wheels
- Top-notch film emulation tools
- RGB curves and color sliders
The standard version of Color Finale 2 costs $99. The Pro version, which offers more features, is priced at $149. You can also get Color Finale 2 Pro with a training course for $189.
Color Finale 2 Pros
Color Finale 2 Cons
Color Finale 2 is best for extending Final Cut Pro X’s functionality.
11. VEGAS Post
If VEGAS Pro is your preferred video editing software, chances are you’ll love using VEGAS Post as your post-production and color management software for Windows.
VEGAS Post‘s software comprehensive color panel enables you to use color curves, white balance tools, HSL sliders, and camera LUTs. It also has a section dedicated to color masks and filters.
- Comprehensive post-production software
- Numerous color grading controls
- White and black point correction features
- Hundreds of presets and effects
VEGAS Post costs $16.99/m on an annual basis or $44.99/m on a monthly basis. You get to enjoy a 30-day free trial before making a purchase decision.
VEGAS Post Pros
VEGAS Post Cons
VEGAS Post is Best for intermediate colorists and VEGAS Pro users.
12. Red Giant Colorista
Colorista, which is part of the Magic Bullet suite from Red Giant, is a powerful color grading and correction plugin that integrates with Premiere Pro and After Effects.
The Red Giant Colorista plugin allows you to use RGB curves, a three-wheel color corrector, LUTs, hue controls, and skin overlays. It also grants you access to Adobe’s masking and tracking features.
- Powerful color correction system
- Three-wheel color corrector
- Timeline-based clip adjustments
- Customizable UI elements
To use Colorista, along with other Magic Bullet plugins, you need a Red Giant subscription, which starts at $49/m (billed annually).
Red Giant Colorista Pros
Red Giant Colorista Cons
Red Giant Colorista is best for Premiere Pro and After Effects users.
What Are Color Grading Software Programs?
Color grading software programs enable you to adjust a video’s colors, contrast, brightness, saturation, and other aspects to achieve a certain look or mood.
Though most professional video editing tools allow you to carry out some basic color grading, some programs are designed specifically for professional-grade color grading and correction.
Common Questions About Color Grading Software
What Software Does Hollywood Use for Color Grading?
The software that many Hollywood studios use for color grading is DaVinci Resolve. It allows for complex color-grading effects and offers tools such as color curves, wheels, and histograms.
Does Adobe Have Color Grading Software?
What Is the Best Free Picture Color Grading Software?
Adobe Lightroom is considered a top-tier software for free-picture color grading. It’s intuitive, user-friendly, and offers a host of features that will help give your pictures the edge they need.
There are also several AI photo editors that can help you with color grading.
Is Premiere or DaVinci Better for Color Grading?
Both programs are great in their own right. DaVinci Resolve is the way to go if you prefer powerful built-in features and your work involves a careful and extensive color grading process.
On the other hand, if you favor powerful AI features, a broad range of essential integrations, cloud storage, and third-party support, you can’t go wrong with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Final Thoughts on Color Grading Software Programs
Picking the right color grading software for your needs can be a bit overwhelming, as there are plenty of great options to choose from, whether you’re an amateur or a professional.
At the end of the day, the choice will boil down to your budget, experience, workflow, as well as the color grading features you’re looking for. So, I recommend experimenting with different options until you find the color grading tool you like the most.
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