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Video Editing Techniques for Color Correcting Skin Tones

Jourdan Aldredge

Looking for some new ways to color correct skin tones in your film or video projects? Check out this roundup of video tutorials to improve your workflow.

Cover image via Shutterstock.

There are many high-end color grading articles, tutorials, and resources available for those looking to give their polished videos a stylized look. This article is not one of those. This is for those videographers and editors working with footage with people whose skin tone looks off, alien, or unbecoming. It’s no small task either. In many ways, the art of color correcting skin is one of the most important elements of an editor’s skill set.

So, let’s explore these five different resources to get your subject’s skin tone looking human again.

Basics Using Premiere Pro Lumetri Panel

This is a great tutorial to start off with as it shows the basics of working in Adobe Premiere Pro CC — specifically in the Lumetri color panel (which is included in all versions of Premiere Pro past 2015). You can do basic corrections with white balance, color temperature, exposure, contrast, etc.

Roberto Blake goes on to give some insights into working with adjustment layers, creative LUTs (or looks), and how to work with some of the curves and color wheels to create different effects and styles. He also shows how to save your own effects for later. These are all great tools to master before diving into more detailed color correction.

Using Scopes to Learn Skin Tones

This video by Larry Jordan and Digital Production BuZZ dives into working with scopes for skin and midtones. Using Adobe Premiere Pro’s Lumetri Scope, Larry explains how you use the vector graph to work with the skin tone line (or flesh tone line) to adjust saturation. He also demonstrates a technique that crops to focus in on just skin tone for better analysis in the scopes. Once you know how to adjust white levels and saturation (and monitor scopes), we can move into more advanced correction.

Advanced Use of Scopes and Curves

In this more in-depth video from Surfaced Studio, we take working with scopes to the next level with the waveform monitor and the RGB parade. Following this process will give you more information on your images’ luma (brightness). You can also focus in on the specific colors to identify which tints and hues are the ones affecting your image the most. If you follow this video, you should be ready to recognize any problems in your skin tone line through the vectorscope — and be much more adept at using the waveform and RGB tabs to correct any imperfections.

Color Correcting in DaVinci Resolve

Now that you have a good understanding of how colors and corrections work in Premiere Pro, let’s look at a couple more advanced options to really dive in and control your correction and grades in DaVinci Resolve. In this tutorial by SonduckFilm, we take a look at how Resolve’s interface lets you add and work with nodes to create complex color grades. For even more focus on skin and correcting tones, we get a look at how to use masks to focus in on your subject’s skin (in this case the face) to get give it the hue and saturations you need.

Retouching Skin in After Effects

Finally, in this video by Jason Boone at PremiumBeat, we take another in-depth route by using Adobe After Effects to color correct and retouch skin tones using mask tracking. This is a great technique for really working on fine details on your subject’s face and skin — like blemishes and facial imperfections. The mask tracking in After Effects requires some frame-by-frame adjustments, but overall it’s one of the most comprehensive ways to make major cosmetic adjustments to your subjects and their skin.

You can read more about this process in this post here.

For more resources on color correcting and color grading, check out some of the links below.

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