Grading is often the last part of post-production in a film and gives it a final look and feel. Working with color requires a unique skillset combining practical and creative approaches.
If you want to learn color grading or gain a better understanding as a video creator, cinematographer, or director, this article is for you.
We will break down the best online courses and resources for color grading. Both free and paid options will be covered, and we included a self-study guide to help you get the most out of the courses recommended below.
Best Way to Learn Color Grading
Before we begin looking at the best color grading courses online, let’s take a look at how you can learn to grade.
The craft of color grading can be divided into theoretical, color theory with creative, and storytelling techniques. And the more hands-on, practical approach through LUTs, color wheels, and grading plugins.
If you want to learn color grading, you should really get a good understanding of both. That is why we have included courses on specific tools and software and more theoretical courses on how to create your own moldboard, for example.
You will have to pick a software before going out there and starting grading. Maybe you already use Premiere or Final Cut Pro, in which case you can take a course on grading there.
But many professional editors grade on DaVinci resolve, even though they might edit in another software. This is because DaVinci has great color grading tools that outmatch many of its rivals. It is a tool used to grade feature films as well.
Your choice of grading software will mostly come down to preference. To balance things out, we have included courses on DaVinci, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro so you can find the right one for you.
Probably one of the best ways to get good at something is to imitate the masters. The same thing applies to color grading.
The best way to learn color grading is to find examples of looks in films and media and then see if you can replicate them with the available tools.
It’s a more goal-oriented, enjoyable, and educational way of going about it. This is why a lot of these courses on this list break down and show you how to create looks from famous films.
Lastly, you won’t be able to learn grading without actually doing it. Practice, practice, practice!
Most courses have included downloadable media so that you can grade along with instructions. But you will probably find it way more fun to work on your own projects and films. We have always found that when working on your own stuff that you care about, you become more creative.
Top Color Grading Courses
Now you have gained an understanding of how grading works and how to go about learning it. Without further due, let us look at the best color grading courses available.
1. Official DaVinci Resolve Training (Free)
What better course on color grading in DaVinci than one offered by the creators of the software themselves? This entirely free course on Davinci is designed for complete beginners and professionals in the field.
When you have mastered DaVinci, you can always apply to become a certified colorist in the software.
2. Cinematic Color Grading: Making Your Videos Come Alive
Comprehension: Beginner – Intermediate
If you don’t want to focus on specific software, this course teaches you color grading on Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Davinci Resolve. The techniques and tips taught apply to all video editors.
You will not only learn how to do proper color correction, noise removal, and grading but also what you need to think about as you shoot the video.
The course instructor is Matti Haapoja, a filmmaker and YouTuber living in Canada. He has done both cinematography and color grading for many projects. His approach is more practical, so the only thing missing is the more theoretical stuff, like color theory and such.
3. Adobe Premiere Pro: Color Grading Masterclass
Comprehension: Beginner – intermediate
This Udemy course focuses on color grading on Premiere Pro using the built-in Lumetri Color.
The final section offers more advanced techniques when you have a basic understanding of color grading. You also break down the grading of major Hollywood films like “The Matrix,” “Mad Max,” and “Avatar.”
The course is updated regularly with new information and resources. The instructor is George Katsilidis, a professional filmmaker with more Udemy courses.
In addition to everything mentioned above, you will get a whole 50 LUTs for free to use in your projects when you have completed the course. Pretty good deal if you ask us!
Yet, for all its pros, this is a relatively short course compared to others on this list, with the videos only reaching 3,5 hours in total.
4. Color Grading with Da Vinci Resolve: Beginner to Advanced
Comprehension: Beginner to advanced
This is a behemoth of a course with 32.5 hours of on-demand video.
The unique this about this course is that the teacher uses real-world paid projects to teach color grading.
Sharath N. is the instructor for this course and is a Blackmagic Design certified trainer in Da Vinci Resolve.
You really get into the nitty-gritty in his lessons, and he isn’t afraid to show you the more advanced techniques in color grading. Overall, this course is one of our top picks for sure.
Recommended to anyone planning to grade on DaVinci Resolve.
5. Color Grading for Filmmaking: The Vision, Art, and Science
This Skillshare course offers a more theoretical and scientific approach to color grading. Still, you also learn specifics using Lumetri Color in Premiere.
The course will teach you how to “see” color, use color for storytelling, and a technical 5 step process to work within the editing and grading software.
Dandan Liu is the course teacher. She is an award-winning filmmaker whose films are streaming on Roku and Apple TV.
Overall we find this course perfect for people coming into color grading from a storytelling and filmmaking approach. A great idea would be to pair this more theoretical course with one more in-depth on grading software.
6. Premiere Pro Lumetri: Color Correct like a Pro
Comprehension: Beginner – Intermediate
This is a course taught by Jordy, who is behind the YouTube channel, Cinecom, with over 2 million subscribers.
Overall, it’s pretty basic, with short lessons on each topic of color grading. Good if you don’t want to commit to a longer course yet.
7. Color Grading from Beginner to Advanced in Final Cut Pro X
At last, we have a Final Cut grading tutorial.
The classes here are very comprehensive, taking you from a complete beginner to an advanced color grader in Final Cut. You will also learn a lot about applying LUTs, and where to get them.
We recommend this course to those who already use Final Cut Pro to edit videos and don’t want to have to switch between software.
Having said that, if you are going to focus on color grading, DaVinci Resolve is probably a better pick for you.
8. Before You Start Colour grading: Moodboards and Colour Palettes
Color grading is not all about software and color wheels. If you are working on a film project, you need to plan ahead and convey what you want the final outcome to look like.
This is why it’s a good idea to learn how to create mood boards. This short course teaches you to create a color palette and mood board for your film project – a quite unique skill that can be combined with more technical knowledge as well.
9. Colour.training Online Seminars
Comprehension: Intermediate – Advanced
Colour.Training offers various courses on color grading in the form of recorded seminars.
Although they are quite pricey, they offer valuable techniques and industry tips for graders. Everyone giving the seminar is an industry professional.
We would probably not recommend these courses for beginners. Take a more introductory grading course on this list instead and return to this one later to enjoy its benefits.
Other Color Grading Resources
In addition to the courses above, we recommend many other grading resources. Top colorist resources include podcasts, YouTube channels, websites, and books.
Color Grading Books to Read
Color Correction Handbook – This color grading book is nearly recommended by everyone in the industry. You can actually liken it to a course on its own, as it is a comprehensive guide to learning grading from beginner to expert. The book even includes a code for downloadable log-encoded media and LUTs you can use for practice to follow along. Overall, this one is a must if you are looking for a color grading book. Just make sure to get the second edition, as it has added an additional 200 pages of content and updated existing topics.
Look Book Creative Grading Techniques – This second book by Alexis Van Hurkman is more focused on the creative aspects of grading. It expands on a chapter from her first book, “Color Correction Handbook,” and is a great companion to it. You will get breakdowns of looks from films and step-by-step guides on how to achieve them. The good thing with this book is that it is system independent, meaning you should be able to follow along with any color grading software.
DaVinci Resolve 17 Manual – Lastly, you can always pick up the DaVinci Resolve manual for free. The 3,605-page user manual will definitely give you a great practical starting point in the software. And who better to turn to than the makers of the software themselves? Of course, you won’t learn as much about the theoretical and creative aspects of grading as the manual focuses more on the tools within the software itself.
Top Websites on Color Grading
Lowepost – This website is built around a membership for a yearly fee of $79. When you are a member, you get access to post-production courses. And many of them are about grading. They also have a blog and forum, although it’s not so active.
Best Color Grading Podcasts
Masters of Color – The “Masters of Color” podcast is from the same people behind lowepost.com. It features 1-hour long episodes in an interview format for different industry professionals. While there arent so many episodes out yet, they have already brought on some really accailmed colorists like Eric Weidt. Eric, David Fincher’s favorite colorist, has worked on films like Mank and House of Card.
Colorist Meetup – The “Colorist Meetup” podcast has pretty much the same setup as the “Masters of Color” with 1-hour long interview episodes. Their experienced guests include Alastor Arnold who has worked on “The Lego Movie 2.” Really a more in-depth podcast that will satisfy even the most colorist nerds out there!
With these top color grading online courses and resources, you should be well on your way to taking your colorist skills to the next level.
If you are interested in post-production, we recommend you also check out our top video editing courses to get a better understanding of the process as a whole.