May 20, 2015

How to Color Grade Video in Photoshop

In today’s episode, we show you how to color grade video in Photoshop! This is the second section of our 4 part video editing series, and it picks up directly from where we left off in the first section. If you haven’t seen that first episode (How to Edit Video in Photoshop), click here. To follow along with the same clips we work with in this episode, download them here!

Why would you use Photoshop to edit video?? Well, a professional video editor is most likely going to use a video centric program rather than Photoshop. However, it can be very useful to color grade your videos and apply filters to them- especially if Photoshop is the only program available to you. For someone familiar with Photoshop, this should come surprisingly easy. This is because you can think of editing video in exactly the same way as editing photos! It’s a practically identical process. Why not have a little fun!

Part I: Using Local Adjustments to Color Grade

  • Local Adjustments: Affects individual clips

To start off, select the layer you would like to make adjustments to. In the same way you would add adjustments to a photo, we can do the same for that video layer! Try it out by creating a new curves adjustment layer. After you adjust the contrast with curves, you will notice that it will clip directly to the single video layer you applied it to (be sure your clips are grouped into one folder). You can add multiple adjustments to the same layer, just like you could with a photo…cool!

Part II: Using Global Adjustments to Color Grade

  • Global Adjustments: Affects an entire group of clips (ie everything!)

To adjust all of your video footage at once, make sure that your clips are grouped into one folder (If they are not: Select all of your clips in the layers panel. Then, click on the little film strip icon on the timeline and select ‘New Video Group from Clips’). Then, create an adjustment layer and place it on TOP of that video group. This will apply that same adjustment to everything consistently.

Part III: Color Grading Techniques 

Let’s get started with color grading! Create a levels adjustment layer, and select only the blue channel. Drag the black slider in to the right, and blue will be added into the shadows. Yellowish highlights tend to look great with cool shadows, so bring the white slider in towards the left to compliment them. Again, the more color editing knowledge you can pull from your regular photo editing skills, the better!

What if you create a global adjustment, but decide you only want it to affect some of your footage? Have no fear!! Notice that the adjustment layers stack on top of the video in the timeline. You are actually able to click and drag those adjustments and make them last as long or as short as you would like them to.

Part IV: Applying Filters to Video

In order to apply any filters onto video in Photoshop, it must first be converted to a smart object. So, select the layer you would like to affect, right click, and choose ‘Convert to Smart Object.’ Next, go to Filter – Filter Gallery. A preview window will load with an array of options. Feel free to play with the intensity and edges of the filters; you can always adjust the filter later as well. When you are happy with the way the filter looks, select OK. Then, you will need to render the clip. This is done by simply playing the clip. It will take a moment, and you will know it’s done rendering by the little green line that appears on top of the clip afterwards,


And that’s all folks! As you can see, there’s no need to relearn much for editing video in Photoshop. Have a blast editing your own clips, or Download Ours for some great practice.


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    Abdullah Azeemi

    hello guys… i wanted to know that can we remove acne or retouch a skin in video editing

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    Love this! Have you by chance converted a clip to smart object then applied camera raw filter? It allows control like you are working with a raw file.

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    Terrell Parker

    Hi Aaron, with regard to local and global adjustments, which would be the proper order, local first then global or global then local for the best result from your workflow?

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    Ramón Franco

    Hi Aaron, thank you very much for your great job, it´s an inspiration. One question: is it possible to apply a photoshop action, like yours, to a clip?

    Thank you again.

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    Jim Shaki


    Can you bring these adjustments to Premiere or After Effects when completed?

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    First of all, wonderful video as always. I really enjoyed these videos. From technique to pace everything gets 5 stars.
    err… Just try to pick less distracting subject matter. I’ve never had a professor that I’d rate a 10, but now I have a good idea what it would be like after watching this set of vids. Would certainly not get an A in that class.

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    Michael Knight

    Question. Can Nik filters (Viveza, etc) be applied to video clips after the clips have been converted to smart objects?