7 Things to Watch Out for to Avoid 'Bad' Color Grading

How do you know when you've made a bad color grade?

No one wakes up in the morning saying, "I want to make a bad grade today," but many colorists unfortunately make bad grades. There are reasons for this—maybe they're crushing their blacks too much, or grading it too much, or maybe the anonymous internet mob has just deemed it "totally shit, bro." Though we can't help you with the trolls, we can talk about several technical things to look out for when color grading, and in this video, editor Casey Faris names a bunch of them, as well as some advice for how to balance technique and style.

Here are the things Faris mentions in the video that could negatively affect your color grade:

  • Grading so much you lose detail (crushing the blacks)
  • Having to grade an image that wasn't (or poorly) white balanced
  • Failing to match the grade between shots
  • Bad keys/tracking
  • Obvious/overdone grades
  • Your grade doesn't fit your project
  • Your client doesn't like it

Now, there are a lot of mistakes you can make when color grading and if you're wondering if you've made any, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What is a "bad" or "good" grade?
  • Are my mistakes "technical" or "stylistic"
  • Were the technical mistakes made on purpose to serve the style of the project?

Whether you're a professional colorist or not, the sweet spot, at least in my opinion, is finding the balance where both technique and style are done well. All projects have a style—even if it's not super apparent, it still has one—and part of your job is understanding how to execute that style with proper technique.     

You Might Also Like

Your Comment


Thanks for posting this-- And I haven't even watched the video yet, but I think your text synopsis is teh bomb! Cheers from Minneapolis Minnesota! ~Will

December 4, 2016 at 8:51AM


I clicked on the video ready to hate it, but there are some good viewpoints in here. I kinda feel like the title is clickbait, but if the title had been, "grade how you like it (or how the person is paying you likes it) and make sure you don't see any technical mistakes." I probably wouldn't have clicked on it, and the title would have been too long. Thanks for sharing.

December 5, 2016 at 3:51AM


I just learned something good and useful from Casey Faris. Thank you. Every lesson regardless of subject and opinion should be structured like Shut Up And Play, guitar tutorials. Get straight to the demo and performance. No intros, or theme music, or zany visual trademark gags...until the explanation starts later on. Everybody is searching for knowledge and inspiration, but frustration is always just beneath the surface, hence the angry critiques. This guy knocks the ball straight at you. He's good, he's precise, and he asks for donations...at the end. If his creations don't help you, then no hard feelings. Most of his viewers stay, benefit, and come back for more.

December 14, 2016 at 7:43AM, Edited December 14, 7:43AM

James McGee
sapiens, Earth.

Yup. Especially the last two points outlined in the article: Does it fit the job? (not everything is ripe for the Instagram filter look), and Oh, yeah. The client.

December 15, 2016 at 2:56PM

Erik Stenbakken
Videographer & Photographer