Get more from your LUTs when color grading (Pro Secrets)

In this blog, you'll find out how to Modify a LUT correctly to retain the color characteristics of a stylistic LUT while subtracting the baked-in contrast as each creator's creative preference requires a different contrast.


Hope you all are overflowing with ideas and beaming with imagination. In this blog, we will tell you how to modify a LUT. Even though LUTs or Look Up Tables, have been extensively used by video creators around the world, LUT modification still remains a mystery to many. 

Technically speaking, the concept behind LUTs modification is simple and complicated at the same time; when we apply a LUT to an image or shot, we do not simply apply a color preset, rather, we are applying a mathematical modification to expected RGB values in an image. 

There are creative and stylistic LUTs available on the digital market that typically consist of two components: ‘Contrast’ and ‘Color Shifts’.

Rec 709

Inside the color shift are ‘Split toning’ and ‘Hue Shifts’.

Split Toning gives the image a warmer highlight while creating cooler shadows, and hue shifts alter the gamut of the image, resulting in an eye-pleasing color contrast that you may want to retain on your shot while trying to avoid the baked-in highlight versus shadows contrast that LUT has created. 

Split toning

Hue Shift

In this blog, you’ll find out how to Modify a LUT correctly to retain the color characteristics of a stylistic LUT while subtracting the baked-in contrast as each creator’s creative preference requires a different contrast. You may want to keep your preferred shot contrasts while only bringing the color characteristic of a specific LUT.

So, let’s begin and unravel the mystery surrounding the technique to the right LUT modification.

We already have color-corrected footage on our timeline.  On the final node of the shot, we will apply a LUT from our Ultimate Colorist Toolkit.

Note that the LUT that we have applied on the shot was made to implement a creative contrast and it might work very well if you don’t have predefined contrast for your image. But this goes against our usage right now as we already have a predefined contrast in our image that was creatively set and now, we are just chasing to get the color characteristic of our LUT.  

Moving ahead, after applying our LUT, let’s take a closer look at the footage and you will evidently notice that the shadows are completely crashing. As you can also look down in the graph, the current LUT is suppressing the shadows in the shot more than what is necessary.

Hence, a secret technique is required to modify a LUT correctly.

So, let’s go ahead and reset the node, then right-click on our LUT node and add a mixing node. You will notice that the mixing node has applied a layer on top of our existing node.

Now we will go ahead and apply the same LUT from our ultimate colorist toolkit on the new mixing node, then remove LUT’s effect on the top node and quickly rename the new layer.

Hold on tight now, the LUT has not been modified yet. But as we go ahead and right-click on the layer mixer and choose the composite mode as “color”, you will notice that only LUT’s color characteristics are retained in our shot and it has taken away the contrast element.

To show this LUT modification in a cleaner way, we will quickly grab a still of the current image and then compare it with our older technique in which the LUT was directly applied to the shot node.

As we zoom in on our footage, you will notice that in the earlier method of LUT Modification there was too much baked-in creative contrast from the LUT and because of that, the excess data that was in the shadows got compressed.

With this secret LUT Modification technique, however, you will notice that the contrast we specified during the color correction process was preserved, and only the LUT’s color characteristics were applied to the shot. 

After this, we will quickly shift to the new shot on our timeline to understand the versatility of this secret LUT Modification technique.

  • Firstly, apply the LUT directly to your shot node.
  • Then grab a still for the comparison.
  • Then reset the node.
  • Add a new layer mixer node to the shot node.  
  • Apply the same LUT on the layer mixer node from our colorist factory toolkit.
  • Go into the composite mode and choose the composite mode as color.

Wallah! Consistent results indicate that the riddle of the correct LUT Modification technique has been solved. To prove this, zoom in on the color’s graph and you will notice how the markings on the highlights remain stationed around the same ballpark measurement in the chart as it was before applying the LUT on the mixing node.

If you attempt to reduce the contrast underneath the LUT, the contrast introduced in the LUT modification will mathematically overlap with the contrast baked in the LUT. As a result, it will not produce the same results as the thousands of shots that we use every day to create a visual narrative. This method of modifying a LUT is significantly more nuanced and mathematically superior when we approach these creative LUTs.

We hope our blog helps you to discover your creative inspiration. So, until the next blog, find inspiration, make something great, contribute to the world’s beauty, and don’t forget to subscribe to and follow colorist factory’s YouTube and Instagram pages.

3 Responses

  1. You are the creators.
    This is a super professional method of working with LUT. To be honest, I didn’t know about this work process before you and I missed it. I always used a LUT over a contrast-adjusted image and got a “destructive” effect in the shadows. Damn it, it’s a miracle.
    Please do a lesson on Premiere, if I’m not mistaken, there this method can be obtained through the Track Matte key effect. If it’s not too much trouble, I’m really looking forward

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