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How to Motion Track Colour Grades in DaVinci Resolve

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Learn to colour correct like a pro with our free course DaVinci Resolve Colour Grading for Beginners. You'll learn how to use each important tool in Resolve, including how to set up your project using scene cut detection, how to get clean skin tones with noise reduction, and how to create cinematic looks.

In this DaVinci Resolve tutorial, we'll show you how to motion track your colour grading.

How to Motion Track on Colour Grades Using the Tracker Window Tool in Resolve

Tracking windowTracking windowTracking window
Tracking window

When you’ve made changes that are specific to something, like skin tones, you’ll want that to move with the subject. Otherwise, you’d have an edit that would just stay in one place and look odd. To do that, you’ll need the Tracker window.

You’ll have isolated your skin in the previous lesson, How to Use Noise Reduction to Clean Up Skin Tones in DaVinci Resolve.

If you’re at the start of the frame, you can hit track forward, but it’s a good habit to track forward and reverse, because if you’re in the middle of your clip, you want it to apply in both directions.

The Tracker in DaVinci Resolve is really good, so it’ll run quite quickly, and now any changes made on the Skin node to the isolated area will track through, only affecting that area.

Tracking the Grade

Making adjustments in PrimariesMaking adjustments in PrimariesMaking adjustments in Primaries
Making adjustments in Primaries

With the mask hidden so you can see better, back in the Primaries – Colour Wheels, we’ve made some micro-adjustments.

The exposure on the knuckles has been brought down in Gain with the jog wheel underneath. The same applies to the mids in Gamma, and in the shadows (Lift) a little blue has been added to the skin, which sounds counterintuitive, but there’s quite a lot of blue in skin.

In the mids, to balance that, there’s a slight push to orange. Then back in Gain, there's a touch more red added. It then looked oversaturated, so that was pulled back with Saturation (under the Gain wheel) and then with the jog wheel under Offset, the Luminance was increased.

Got all that? Your workflow might not be exactly the same, and you'll have new footage with its own demands, but the process went: white balance, adjust Gain (amplification) with the jog wheel, balance contrasts in the mids with Gamma, Lift the shadows, adjust saturation, a few small movements on the colour primaries, and that is often enough for a basic colour adjustment.

Soften any blemishes with Mid/DetailSoften any blemishes with Mid/DetailSoften any blemishes with Mid/Detail
Soften any blemishes with Mid/Detail

One last thing you can do for skin is to use Mid/Detail (above Offset in Primaries Colour Wheels) to soften any blemishes. If you go too far with it, it can look milky and weirdly soft, so you don’t want to push that too far. This is at about -20, so it’s subtle, but it’s there.

You can see the background is really vibrant but the cheese isn’t, so let’s look at that.

Make a New Node

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a layered node above your Skin node and under Ambience, and you can do that by right-clicking and choosing that option.The first thing you’ll need to do is create a layered node above your Skin node and under Ambience, and you can do that by right-clicking and choosing that option.The first thing you’ll need to do is create a layered node above your Skin node and under Ambience, and you can do that by right-clicking and choosing that option.
The first thing you’ll need to do is create a layered node above your Skin node and under Ambience

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a layered node above your Skin node and under Ambience, and you can do that by right-clicking and choosing that option.

grab the colours of whatever you want to separategrab the colours of whatever you want to separategrab the colours of whatever you want to separate
Grab the colours of whatever you want to separate

With the Qualifier tool, grab the colours of whatever you want to separate—in our case, it’s the cheese. Then, with the Pen Tool, draw a rough mask around the object and head to the Tracker window.

Track back and forwardTrack back and forwardTrack back and forward
Track back and forward

Track back and forward.

Then hide the mask (magic wand in the top-left corner) so you can just see the object and the selection.

With some micro adjustments, the cheese is looking much more vibrantWith some micro adjustments, the cheese is looking much more vibrantWith some micro adjustments, the cheese is looking much more vibrant
With some micro-adjustments, the cheese is looking much more vibrant

Here, the Gamma has been pushed towards yellow, and just a touch makes the cheese look a lot more vibrant. A little blue in the shadows works, and then we'll drop the saturation so it doesn’t look overdone.

Adjusting the Bleed

You might have noticed that there’s a little bleed-through of the cheese colours on the skin in the shot above.

You can go back into the Pen tool to refine your selectionYou can go back into the Pen tool to refine your selectionYou can go back into the Pen tool to refine your selection
You can go back into the Pen Tool to refine your selection

If you find that happens with you, just pop the Qualifier tool back on (magic wand) and then head back into Window and use the Pen Tool again to add some more points and refine your selection. Once you’ve done that, you can retrack it in the same way you did before. Then hit the magic wand again to hide the mask, and you’ll be able to see your refined edit.

You can make more changes if you need to, but once you’re happy, you’re ready to move on to colour grading the background of your footage, which we’ll cover in another lesson.

More Lessons From This Colour Grading Course

About the Authors

Tom Graham created the video course that includes this lesson. Tom is a multi-skilled content creator with a background in commercial filmmaking.  

Marie Gardiner wrote the text version of this lesson, and it was edited and published by Jackson Couse.

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