7+ Best Color Grading Software for Video: Free & Paid [2024]

best color grading software

Key Takeaways:

My top overall choice for color grading software has to be DaVinci – it’s the gold standard for color grading, and it has a free version!

For editing and color grading all in the same program, go with Adobe Premiere Pro. I think those are the best two options out there right now!

Trying to figure out what color grading software you want to use can be tricky. There’s so many great options out there, but which one is right for you?

As an indie filmmaker myself, I know the importance of color grading and color adjustments for my movies. Giving your video a professional look is essential and color grading software can help you do just that.

Luckily, there’s a ton of powerful and easy-to-use coloring software out there today!

When my production company was doing the color grading for our feature film, Spin The Wheel, we looked into each of these programs. After tons of research and trials, we ended up using DaVinci Resolve for our film, and we really liked it! But, to be fair, there are lots of other options as well.

In this article, we’ll cover the 7+ best color grading software options available right now – covering both free and paid options so you can find the perfect one for your needs.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

What Is the Best Color Grading Software?

If we’re talking color grading and correction under one roof, Adobe Premiere Pro is the way to go. If we’re talking strictly color grading, DaVinci Resolve is the ultimate solution.

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.


best for Professional Color Grading

1. DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci-Resolve-18-Blackmagic-Design

DaVinci Resolve is the go-to coloring software for any professional colorist – even in Hollywood.

Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers were edited using this software. How cool is that?!

Overview

DaVinci Resolve is a node-based software that lets you map your color grading in layers. This helps keep you more organized and lets you go back to tweak or turn off certain layers.

Another feature that sets this coloring apart is face-tracking, which tracks any feature like the whole face or just the eyes so you can change the color effects on just that area. You can also use an auto-balancing effect, along with a whole library of FX plugins.

Top Benefits

  • Top-notch motion tracking (Seriously, it’s the best motion tracking I’ve ever used. You can use motion tracking in Adobe Premiere Pro, but it’s waaaay less accurate.)
  • Super advanced color-grading effects
  • Even the free version gives you a wide range of capabilities, you might not even need the paid version
  • One-off payment; no monthly subscriptions that end up costing an arm and leg
  • TONS of online tutorials that can show you all the tips and tricks

Pricing  

DaVinci-Resolve-Pricing

DaVinci Resolve costs a flat fee of $295, which gives you lifetime access, even with any future updates.

BUT I will say, I’ve been using the free version of DaVinci for years on a several of my projects and I’ve never felt like I needed to pay for the full version. The paid software gives you access to advanced features like noise-reduction effects and exporting at 32K.

My Experience Using DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci Resolve Interface with Nodes

Not only does DaVinci Resolve have impressive coloring capabilities, but it’s also FREE?! Literally, when I saw all that the free version could do, my mind was blown!

Okay yes, I did need to watch an hour long YouTube tutorial on how to use DaVinci to color grade, but once I got the hang of it, it was seriously impressive.

In fact, our post-production team used DaVinci’s color grading tools on our feature film, Spin the Wheel, and we were thrilled with the cinematic look we achieved with it.

I really liked having the nodes so you can see exactly what each effect is doing. There’s also a ton of LUTs you can choose from if you want to work from one of those.

The tracking ability in DaVinci really sets it apart, as you can easily track someone’s face throughout the entire scene and then add a mask to lighten just their face.

*Pro Tip: Sometimes I’ll edit a video in Premiere and export a ProRes 4444 version to import into DaVinci to color. And even better, DaVinci has an auto cut detector where it can detect all the scene changes from my video and cut them automatically, so then I can edit scenes individually.

DaVinci Resolve Pros

  • The DaVinci Resolve color grading software is known as being the best on the market!
  • You can also edit your video in DaVinci, so you never need to leave the platform.
  • No subscription fees – it’s a lifetime access program.
  • Most beginner or intermediate colorists can do great coloring on just the free version alone

DaVinci Resolve Cons

  • It does have a higher learning curve than most software programs, but you should be good after a day of following along with some online tutorials.

Bottom Line  

DaVinci Resolve is best for anyone who wants to do expert and detailed color grading, especially if you’re working with RAW or LOG footage.


best all post-production in one

2. Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe Premiere Pro

Arguably the most popular video editing software out there, Adobe Premiere Pro has a great coloring system.

Overview

You can use Adobe Premiere Pro to not only edit professional videos, but also to easily color them. Their coloring tools in the Lumetri Color panel offer a wide range of customizable color wheels, curves, and more.

This software is the most popular for a reason: it’s a one-stop shop with a user-friendly interface that allows you to edit videos, add effects and motion graphics, edit audio, add color grade, etc.

Top Benefits  

  • Intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate (MANY tutorials on Premiere out there as well)
  • Users gain access to Adobe’s extensive stock library
  • Auto reframe for different aspect ratios so you can post on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and more
  • Has the ability to integrate seamlessly with all Adobe platforms
  • Great for video editing AND color grading on one software
  • Broad format support, including VR and 360º

Pricing  

adobe premiere pro pricing

For individuals, Premiere Pro costs as little as $22.99/month if you sign up for the yearly plan, or $34.49/month if you want the option to cancel anytime. The best deal would be to pay for the yearly fee upfront at $263.88.

If you want access to other popular Adobe platforms like After Effects, Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat, etc., you can sign up for their Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan for $59.99/month.

Check back during holidays and sometimes they have good discounts going on for their subscriptions.

*Pro Tip: If you have a student email address with a ‘.edu’ at the end, Adobe offers a discount on their monthly All Apps plan for $29.99/month.

My Experience Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe Premiere Pro Lumetri Color

I know many filmmakers and editors who use Adobe Premiere Pro for their video needs.

It’s easy to learn, and the interface is pretty straightforward and intuitive.

When editing videos for social media, the coloring tabs are very capable of doing what I need. Like with Davinci, I enjoy having one platform to do everything video related.

For those who do a lot of video work for their business needs, it’s worth the monthly cost, but it is pricey and it would be nice if it was a flat fee.

Adobe Premiere Pro Pros

  • Supports VR and 360 degree video editing.
  • The color correction tools are high-quality.
  • Many people prefer to use Premiere Pro to edit, making it a great one-stop shop platform for editing and coloring.
  • If you have the All Apps plan, you can seamlessly integrate the platforms together, like using After Effects for motion graphics and Audition for editing audio – all while editing your video in Premiere.

Adobe Premiere Pro Cons

  • Adobe is a monthly or yearly subscription which can add up to a high price over time.
  • The tracking abilities in Premiere is not very accurate.

Bottom Line  

Adobe Premiere Pro is best for someone wanting to edit and color their videos in one platform.


best For Mac Users

3. Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro

Developed by Apple, Final Cut Pro is a professional video editing software that’s used by both beginners and professionals.

No Country for Old Men and The Social Network were both edited on Final Cut!

Overview

Final Cut Pro features color correction effects that you can use right off the bat to balance your hues and saturation.

One of it’s coolest perks is that it has a button to automatically change the colors of one clip to match the look of another clip. Perfect for color correction! On top of that, it allows you to edit your footage in standard or HLG color spaces.

Top Benefits  

  • It has several color points and wheels for the ultimate customization
  • Many ‘one-click’ buttons to automatically adjust the color
  • It’s highly rated for rendering quicker than most other software
  • People love Final Cut Pro for it’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface (Aka you won’t need to spend a whole day watching YouTube tutorials)

Pricing  

Final Cut Pro Pricing

Final Cut Pro costs $299.99 – a one-time payment that includes upgrades for life.

Before making a purchase, you can try the latest version of the software for free for up to 90 days. I’d say that’s a pretty good time period to really test it out to see if it’s the right software for you.

My Experience Using Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro Color Grading

Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of color grading on Final Cut Pro. Maybe it’s because I’m used to Premiere and DaVinci, but I thought the options were a little limited.

You had to click through different tabs to find the color wheels, curves and basic adjustments. Then, I tried to start the color over and I had to go through each tab and reset each minor adjustment I had made.

If you’re doing very basic color enhancements on regular footage, I’d say this is all that you need. But I’m willing to bet those Hollywood films that were edited in Final Cut were color graded somewhere else!

Final Cut Pro Pros

  • It was specifically created for macOS, which means it integrates super well with all the macs out there.
  • Works well for color grading and correction, as well as overall video editing.
  • It’s a one-time payment, so not a monthly cost that will add up forever.
  • It’s great for beginner video editors that need an easy and intuitive interface.

Final Cut Pro Cons

  • Even though it’s a one-time fee, the $299 can be expensive for a lot of people.
  • If you want to do any file sharing or team projects, everyone needs to be on a mac computer.
  • It’s not as great for really complex projects that require lots of layers and timelines.

Bottom Line  

Final Cut Pro is best for beginners wanting to do some color grading using their macOS.


Best for Beginners

4. Lightworks

Lightworks-LWKS-Video-Editing-Software

Lightworks is a video editing software that offers tons of professional-grade color correction and grading tools, including HSL color wheels, RGB graphs, and LUT templates.

Overview

Lightworks has been around for over 30 years, and it was used to edit some iconic Hollywood movies, including Pulp Fiction, Braveheart, 28 Days Later, and more.

Top Benefits  

  • Pro-level color correction and grading, including custom LUTs
  • Easy-to-use social media templates
  • Very intuitive interface, perfect for beginners

Pricing  

lightworks pricing

Lightworks is available in three different versions: Free, Create, and Pro.

The Create version starts at the low price of $9.99/month and is geared toward content creators, and educators. The Pro version starts at $23.99/month and is geared toward Hollywood-level editing.

My Experience Using Lightworks

Lightworks Color Correction Interface

I actually had a great experience with Lightworks!

After installation, it provided a 15-minute tutorial on how to use the platform (the perfect length). And even after watching the tutorial, it gave me little callouts on everything I clicked on to help me understand how to use all the features.

It was easy to find the color correction window and play with the tools, which even had keyframes.

But keep in mind, the window says ‘color correction‘ for a reason. In order to get to the color grading features, I would need to upgrade from the free version to the Create version.

So while I can’t speak on the color grading features specifically, I was really impressed with the follow-along approach provided by Lightworks.

Lightworks Pros

  • It is very affordable (or even free!).
  • Great for beginners to learn on an easy interface.

Lightworks Cons

  • The Free version only supports up to 720p exports and the most basic coloring features.
  • Since Lightworks has been around for a long time, it’s been seeing less users each year and isn’t as speedy with upgrades.
  • Not all file formats are supported.

Bottom Line  

Lightworks is best for beginning creators looking to enhance their color grading and post-production skills on a budget.


Best Customization Options

5. Avid Media Composer

Avid-Media-Composer-Video-Editing-Software-for-Mac-and-PC

Avid Media Composer has an entirely customizable interface with a wealth of advanced color grading features.

Overview

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.

Top Benefits  

  • A lot of automatic one-click color adjustments
  • Highly customizable interface, so you can arrange it to suit your needs
  • Comes with a cloud collaboration feature

Pricing  

Avid Media Composer Pricing

Avid Media Composer is available in three different versions: Standard, Ultimate, and Enterprise.

The Standard version is suited for independent video editors, and it starts at $23.99/month for a 1-year subscription, or $239 for the year. The Ultimate version is geared toward collaborative workflows for industry professionals. It starts at $49.99/month for a 1-year subscription, or $499 for the year (The photo above shows it for a limited time discount at $399).

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.

There is a 30-day free trial of the Ultimate version, but you’ll need to google it to find it, as it’s really hard to find on their website.

Avid Media Composer Pros

  • Great for customizing the interface exactly how you want it.
  • Tons of color customization options as well.
  • If you’re looking to collaborate with other editors, it has a great collaboration feature on the Ultimate version.

Avid Media Composer Cons

  • You’ll need a powerful computer to run Avid.
  • It’s a yearly or monthly subscription, not a one-time payment.

Bottom Line  

Avid Media Composer is the best video color grading software in terms of customization.


Best for Social Media and Content Creators

6. Movavi Video Editor Plus

Movavi video suite home

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.

Overview

Movavi’s color grading tools let you adjust the saturation, temperature, brightness, contrast, and other aspects as well.

This color correction and grading software has 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.

Top Benefits  

  • It comes with a built-in library of effects and filters
  • You can directly upload to YouTube and other social media platforms
  • There are no high-end computer specs required
  • Several auto-adjustment features
  • AI integration to help you edit smarter and faster
Movavi Recent Updates (October 2023)

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.

Pricing 

Movavi Video Editor Plus pricing

Movavi Video Editor Plus costs $94.95 for a 1-year subscription, or you can buy a lifetime package of the Video Suite + Photo Editor for $124.95. If you decide to stick with Movavi after using the free 7-day trial, you might as well pay the extra $30 to have lifetime access.

My Experience Using Movavi Video Editor Plus

Movavi Video Editor Plus Interface

Overall, Movavi was super easy to set up and start using.

When first opening the software, they provide callouts explaining all the tools and steps required to start editing.

I was super impressed with their AI background remover effect which was able to remove the background from one of my video clips in 10 seconds. I was trying to do this same edit last week in After Effects and it took a long time rotoscoping to remove the background. So that was a win here!

As far as coloring goes, it doesn’t have advanced coloring features, but if you’re using Movavi to edit social media videos, then the color correction tools it does have will do the job just fine.

Movavi Video Editor Plus Pros

  • It’s really easy to learn to use.
  • The lifetime access to both the Video Suite + Photo Editor is very affordable.
  • The AI capabilities let you do some really cool editing at the click of a button.
  • There’s lots of templates and effects that are perfect for social media use.

Movavi Video Editor Plus Cons

  • It’s not the best if you have a super complex project that requires lots of layers and timelines.
  • It only has color correction tools, not advanced color grading capabilities.

Bottom Line 

Movavi Video Editor Plus is best for social media content creators.   


Best Color Grading and Adjustment Plugin

7. FilmConvert Nitrate

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.

Overview

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.

Top Benefits  

  • Integrates into popular video editing software, like Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro
  • Remarkably fast rendering speed
  • Plenty of cinematic presets and color adjustment options

Pricing  

FilmConvert Nitrate Pricing

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.  

My Experience Using FilmConvert Nitrate

FilmConvert Nitrate Plugin

The free trial of FilmConvert Nitrate was fairly easy to download and then it automatically popped up in my Premiere Pro effects panel when I opened it next.

Along with the ability to do regular color correction, FilmConvert provided a bunch of different cinematic film LUTs that you could overlay onto your footage. It even went a step further and gave many customization options to control what the grain looked like.

If you’re making any kind of film or video and you want it to look like a cinematic masterpiece shot on film, FilmConvert Nitrate can help you do just that!

FilmConvert Nitrate Pros

  • Gives your films a cinematic and grainy look.
  • Helps make your film look less “digital” and more cinematic – great for indie filmmakers.

FilmConvert Nitrate Cons

  • You’ll need another video editing program in order to use this plug-in.
  • It’s not cheap!

Bottom Line  

FilmConvert Nitrate is the best plugin for color grading and adjustment.  


Best Coloring Plugin for Professional Premiere Pro and After Effects Users

8. Red Giant – Magic Bullet

red giant magic bullet

The Magic Bullet suite from Red Giant is a powerful color correction and finishing plugin containing hundreds of effects and tools that integrates with Premiere Pro and After Effects. Colorista, specifically, is the set of color grading tools inside of Magic Bullet.

Overview

The Red Giant Magic Bullet plugin allows you to use RGB curves, LUTs, beauty overlays for skin, denoising tools and so much more.

Top Features  

  • Powerful color correction system + more
  • Integrates seamlessly with Adobe Premiere Pro & After Effects
  • Customizable UI elements

Pricing  

red giant magic bullet pricing

To use Colorista, along with other Magic Bullet plugins, you need a Red Giant subscription, which starts at $49.91/month (billed annually).

This lets you have access to EVERYTHING in Red Giant, which includes advanced motion graphic and VFX tools. That’s not a bad price for everything you get! (If you take advantage of all it has to offer.)

My Experience Using Red Giant Magic Bullet

magic bullet plugin

I was easily able to download Red Giant and start the free 14-day trial. I installed Magic Bullet which automatically came up in my Premiere Pro effects panel.

From there, I had the option to use any of the effects from the Magic Bullet suite.

I started with Colorista and was impressed by all the color grading options. It even gave you a neat little intro on how to balance your shot.

Then, I played with their Cosmo effect, which lets you pick out skin tones and use tracking to blur out harsh lines and blemishes. If you’re creating a film with female leads, this beautifying effect is a must!

Overall, Red Giant is a fantastic tool for someone who is creating professional or indie films.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Pros

  • It allows for professional color correction tools directly on your editing timeline within a video editing program.
  • Gives you access to all the advanced finishing tools in Magic Bullet.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Cons

  • You still need a video editing program.
  • It gets expensive!

Bottom Line  

Red Giant Magic Bullet is best for professional Premiere Pro and After Effects users.


What Are Color Grading Software?

Color grading software allows 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 correction, some programs are designed specifically for professional-grade color grading.

Color Grading vs. Color Correction?

Though the terms color grading and color correction are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re usually two different stages of the video editing process.

Color correction comes first, as it’s the process of correcting the colors of the footage to make it look more even and natural. If you shoot in two different rooms but want it to look like the same room, you’ll need to tweak the colors until they look as similar as possible. You’ll also need to tweak contrast, exposure, white balance, etc.

Color grading usually happens after the picture is locked, and it’s the process of creating a certain mood or color palette for the entire video. You can also make smaller changes, like desaturating a bright red jacket.

Final Thoughts

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.

what is color grading

Common Questions (FAQs)

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?

Yes. Adobe Premiere Pro is one of the most versatile color-grading softwares available. You can also use Adobe Premiere Rush for on-the-go color grading and basic color correction. 

What is the best free photo color grading software?

Adobe Lightroom is considered a top-tier software for free photo color grading. It’s intuitive, user-friendly, and offers a ton 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 a broad range of essential integrations and third-party support, you can’t go wrong with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Interested in video editing and film production? Check out these other great articles:

The 25+ Best Filmmaking Tools for Creative Professionals

9+ Best AI Video Editor Software Tools [Reviewed]

5+ Best Film Production Software Tools (Reviewed)

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *