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How to Use Color Grading Feature in Adobe Lightroom

How to Use Color Grading Feature in Adobe Lightroom – Split tone was one of the most utilized features for Adobe Lightroom color tweaking prior to October 2020. Any photographer who has used it, however, will tell you that although being handy, the tool had certain drawbacks.

However, Adobe has since adopted color wheels in place of split toning. These function similarly and were available in Adobe Premiere Pro long before they were added to Lightroom.

We will guide you on the step-to-step process on How to Use Adobe Lightroom’s Color Grading Feature.

What is Color Grading?

Let’s first clarify what Color Grading is all about before moving on to how to use it on an image.

Color grading is the process of adjusting colors in a photo or video to improve its appearance. It can be used to make a photo or video look more natural or professional. In Adobe Lightroom, color grading can be done using the sliders in the Basic panel or with tools such as the Graduated Filter and Split Toning panel.

Function of Color Grading in Adobe Lightroom

Color grading lets you change the colors in certain areas of your image, as you might have guessed from the name. These color wheels allow you to change the hue and saturation, and each one also has a brightness slider at the bottom.

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By using color grading, you may enhance the colors in your image. It is different from individual color sliders, which mainly aim to intensify certain specific hues in the image.

Multiple situations call for the usage of color grading. You may, for instance, alter the color of the golden hour to make it appear more orange, yellow, or red than it actually is.

Should You Color Grade Your Work Before Editing It?

Even though you may apply color grading whenever you choose, it’s a good idea to do some fundamental changes first. Why? Because if you don’t, your modification will frequently seem sloppier, which will require more work to fix.

Before color grading, it’s a good idea to specifically use the HSL sliders for each color. Determining whether to change other fundamental settings, such as exposure, texture, and contrast, is a similar process.

Prior to color grading your images in Lightroom, it’s worth doing other corrections besides using the sliders. Consider choosing the appropriate camera profile as an illustration. Similarly, making lens corrections and cropping your photo early on is a good idea.

What Color Wheels Are Available in Lightroom?

Midtones, Shadows, and Highlights are the three primary color wheels in Adobe Lightroom. Without affecting the other sections of the image, each of these changes the colors in that specific region.

A color wheel that modifies the image’s overall hues is also visible. You can locate it on the final circle in the Color Grading part of your Lightroom software, and it’s called Global.

The color grading wheels are accessible regardless of whether you use Lightroom Classic or Creative Cloud. Additionally, you will be able to see them if you use Adobe Lightroom on a tablet or smartphone. This contrasts with the mobile version of Photoshop Express, which continues to employ the split toning option.

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How to use the Color Grading Tool in Lightroom

Don’t worry if the Color Grading Tool initially seems overwhelming and unclear. Using it is quite simpler than you may imagine.

It is a little more sophisticated than the majority of the other tools in Adobe Lightroom, but sophistication also means great potential. Let’s examine the design, the various features, and their functions in more detail.

Before moving forward, lets look at the Tool Layout & Overview

1. Adjust Icons

The initial element consists of five smaller, circular images that together depict a wheel. Depending on the tones you wish to target, these icons act as buttons and modify the arrangement below:

How to Use Color Grading Feature in Adobe Lightroom
  • 3-way: This is the basic layout where you may change the color wheels for the highlights, shadows, and mid tones.
  • Shadows: This wheel targets the shadows of the image
  • Midtones: This wheel targets the mid tones of the image
  • Highlights: This wheel targets the hightlights of the image
  • Global: This wheel adjusts every luminosity of the entire image.

2. Color Wheels

This feature is often described as the most importal feature in Lightroom in terms of color grading. This wheel has a 3-way view where al three of them are visible.

How to Use Color Grading Feature in Adobe Lightroom

You may apply colors of varying saturations and hues to specific portions of your images using the wheels, or circles. Click within the circle and rotate the dial to change the color.

Turning the knob around the circle changes the color’s hue, but sliding the knob in or out toward the center or edge changes the saturation of the color. The hue intensifies as it moves away from the center.

3. Bleding & Balance Sliders

The third and initially last function is the Blending and Balance sliders, which provide users additional control over how the chosen color is incorporated into the image.

  • Blending: It is used to alter how colors overlap in the highlights and shadows. Instead of diminishing the overlap, moving the slider to the right emphasizes the transition between the shadows and highlights.
  • Balance: It is used to change the relative importance of the shadows and highlights in the final effect. When the slider is set to 0, the effect is balanced. Dragging the slider to the right instead of the left, which amplifies the impact in the shadows, has the opposite effect (and decreases it in the highlights).

4. Hidden Hue & Saturation Sliders

How to Use Color Grading Feature in Adobe Lightroom

The Color Grading Tool’s final features in Lightroom appear to be the Blending and Balance sliders. This is untrue.

Two more sliders that are by default hidden for some reason are the Hue and Saturation sliders. As soon as you can, open them since they are very important and will help you fine-tune the adjustments.

By pressing the little arrow next to the eye icon, you may access these sliders while adjusting the Highlights, Midtones, Shadows, or Global color wheels. It is not perceptible from a three-way angle.

The Hue and Saturation sliders stand in for the actual color wheels. You’ll note that the values of the wheel’s nodes change as you pull them. They are useful if you want to use a color but need to be more specific about it.

How to Use Adobe Lightroom’s Color Grading Feature

After examining the appearance and numerous features of the tool, it’s time to consider how it operates and how you may include it into your processing workflow.

The color wheels are rather small when using the 3-Way mode, therefore I recommend working with the Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows individually. This increases precision and makes it possible for you to use the Hue/Saturation sliders rather than spinning the wheel in the hopes of winning the big prize.

Any adjustments made to the hue, saturation, and brightness using the shadows color wheel will only have an impact on the shadows, as you may have guessed. Some effects go from the shadows or highlights to the midtones or highlights depending on the Blending and balance setting.

More words

Color grading is a fascinating tool to use since it allows you to change each image’s brightness without taking into account the initial grading or correction.

In our opinion, it’s preferable that you try out every tool in this feature because doing so will increase your understanding of and familiarity with the tool.


Ugiankong David Ashipu, mostly known as Alex is a Nigerian content writer and graphic designer from the Cross River State. Instagram: @alexdave0 Whatsapp: 08123190001 Twitter: @Alexdave0

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