Learn Final Cut Pro Color Grading for Cinematic Videos (+8 Templates)

Final Cut Pro December 20, 2021 6 min read

Have you ever wondered how to create excellent grades from scratch in Final Cut Pro, or what those strange video scopes are all about? Color grading is a technical and tricky skill and isn’t something you can just pick up in the same way you can edit skills. So we thought we’d lend a hand and put together a complete beginner’s guide to color grading in Final Cut Pro.

Part 1: Learn Color Grading in Final Cut Pro

Color grading is a skill set that requires a lot of patience as it can be a frustrating and time-consuming task. Many editors will do the basics for color correction and grading, and some won’t do any at all. However, learning to create cinematic grades for your footage can help make ordinary-looking footage extraordinary.

There are many steps to creating a cinematic grade and no one size fits all solutions. So, we’re going to show you the steps to making a cinematic color grade in Final Cut Pro, but you may need to add or skip some, depending on your footage.

Step 1: Shooting Your Footage

An excellent grade starts in the camera, as the raw footage is vital for creating a cinematic look. It is essential that when you film your footage, you use the highest quality settings the camera allows; the more detail in your image, the more you’ll be able to do with it in the grading. 

You may think it’s best to get as much color in your shot as possible when you film it, but it’s super essential to film with a flat color profile. Your camera will have color settings, and while the grey, washed-out look might not fill you with confidence, it will give you many more options in the editing.

Step 2: Adding Your Color Profile

Once you’ve imported your footage, you may be a little concerned about the overall greyness of your clips. Don’t worry; this is because you haven’t yet matched your sequence color profile to the one used in your camera.

  1. Place your clip in the timeline and select it; go to the Inspector.
  2. Click on the Information tab for your clip.
  3. Scroll down through the options to find the Color LUT drop-down options.
  4. Select the Color profile that matches your clip based on the camera it was shot with.

Step 3: Viewing Your Scopes

The Scopes are panels available in Final Cut Pro that show you the color information in your shots. They look a little confusing and can be challenging to understand if you’ve never used them before. You can turn on your Video Scopes by going to View > Show in Viewer > Video Scopes.

All grading is divided into 3 elements, your highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. All grading tools and scopes display information the same way, with your highlights represented at the top and your shadows at the bottom.

The scopes tell us the actual color and exposure of your clips, rather than what we see. If, for example, you are grading on a screen that is a little brighter than average, your clips might look different on another screen. While you can’t prevent the difference between monitors, the scopes will allow you to be sure your colors and exposure are within the correct range.

Histogram

The Histogram displays the Luma Value to Pixels ratio; the numbers across the bottom represent the percentage of Luma, while the graph line represents the number of pixels in the clip at that Luma percentage. 

We can see from our example that most of the pixels in our shot fall between 75 and 90% Luma, and very few fall into the shadows. By watching the Histogram, we can ensure that our shot is not too under or overexposed.

Vectorscope

The Vectorscope shows the color distribution in your clips. Like the sample image shows, the shot mainly contains blues and oranges/reds, based on the spread across the center of the vectorscope.

The vectorscope is super handy for comparing shots when you need to create a consistent grade. By watching the vectorscope between images, you can tell how different color distribution is.

Waveform

The Waveform monitor displays the dynamic range between your black and white points. Each dot represents the grayscale of your clip, and in this way, it is not too dissimilar from the Histogram.

Where it differs is that the scope is divided between your Reds, Greens, and Blues, allowing you to see the spread of color across the Luma in your shot. The easiest way to see what the Waveform monitor does is to play around with the color and exposure and see the effects in real-time.

Step 4: Adding Color Wheels

Now you’re set up and ready to start grading your clips. As we’ve already mentioned, grading happens in layers of effects, and it can take several layers to build the look you want. If you’re going to create a cinematic look to your footage, follow the steps below to adjust your settings to suit your clip.

  1. Select your clip and go to the Color Inspector. In the drop-down menu, choose +Color Wheels.
  2. Go to the Shadows wheel and drag the White/Black arrow downwards to crush the blacks. 
  3. Go to the Highlights wheel and drag the White/Black arrow upwards to boost the whites. Keep an eye on your scopes to ensure the shots don’t become too dark/bright.
  4. In the Color Board drop-down menu hit +Color Curves.
  5. Create 3 points along the diagonal line, and adjust them slightly to fine-tune your exposure.
  6. Next, we will create the Orange and Teal look for our cinematic grade – add another Color wheel from the drop-down menu.
  7. At the top of the panel, click and hold on the Mask icon, then choose the picker from the pop-up box.
  8. Click and hold the shadows in your shot, then drag the cursor to select the parts you want to adjust.
  9. In the Color wheel, drag the center of the Shadows wheel to create a teal tone.
  10. Add another Color wheel, and using the Mask picker, choose the Highlights in your shot. Adjust the highlights to an orange tone.
  11. At the top of the Color Board is a drop-down menu where you can switch between your Color wheels to fine-tune your effect.

Part 2: Top 8 Easy-to-Use Final Cut Pro Color Grading Presets

1. Film Color Grading

The Film Color Grading pack is ideal for editors starting their LUT library. The collection includes 23 LUTs ranging from Cinematic styles to full gradients, giving you a versatile and varied selection to choose from.

Download Film Color Grading Now

2. Cyberpunk Color Grades

The Cyberpunk Color Grades pack includes 26 intense LUT effects, ideal for events and music videos. The gradient overlays create a vivid color palette to your shots without adding too much contrast.

Download Cyberpunk Color Grades Now

3. Film Color Grading LUTs

The Film Color Grading LUTs pack is a must-have for filmmakers working with landscapes or establishing shots. The 12 stunning effects brighten and color your dull skies and water tones, creating a colorful, vibrant image.

Download Film Color Grading LUTs Now

4. Dark City Color Grades

Ideal for Horror and Thriller films, the Dark City Color Grades pack offers 20 LUTs with a grungy urban feel. These grading effects work best over city landscapes with sharp angles and shadows, contrasting, saturation, and grain.

Download Dark City Color Grades Now

5. Pastel Color Grades

The Pastel Color Grades pack includes 30 stunning LUT effects soft and ethereal tones. The beautiful looks are ideal for fashion and event videos to create a subtle and friendly style.

Download Pastel Color Grades Now

6. Orange and Teal Grades

This beautiful set of LUTs takes the 80’s Orange and Teal color palette to the extreme. Featuring a range from subtle tonal effects to complete stylistic looks, this pack is ideal for 80’s set narratives, music videos, and action sequences.

Download Orange and Teal Grades Now

7. 450 Color Corrections

This Color Corrections pack is ideal for any editor rapidly expanding their color grading capabilities. Including a massive 450 stunning LUT effects from sci-fi movies to feature documentary styles.

Download 450 Color Corrections Now

8. Color Grading

This Color Grading pack includes several variations for 5 main categories; cinematic, gradients, vintage, Black and White, and Instagram. The varied and versatile effects are ideal for digital content creators working in various styles.

Download Color Grading Now


Color grading isn’t just a skill that you learn, as there is a lot of creativity behind creating cinematic looks for your projects. Now that you understand the basics of video scopes, color profiles and wheels, you can play around and have some fun with this incredible set of FCPX tools.

If you want to learn more about effects you can create in Final Cut Pro, check out our tutorial on creating the double exposure effect, as well as the VHS effects tutorial