LUTs: What Is It In color Grading?

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Look-up Tables (LUTs) are a powerful tool in color grading and video post-production. They let you craft unique and beautiful visuals quickly and easily, so you can amaze your audience with a stunningly professional-looking end result.

In this article, we will explore the basics of LUTs, how they work, what they can do for you, and how you can make the most of them in your own projects.

  • Basics of LUTs
  • How LUTs work
  • What LUTs can do for you
  • Making the most of LUTs in your projects
What is luts

Definition of LUTs

Look-up tables (LUTs) are a vital tool for color grading and image processing. A LUT is essentially a data table that provides specific color instruction for video output or editing systems. The process of using a LUT is called “3D LUT” which stands for three-dimensional lookup table. It allows an image or video to be adjusted in tonality, contrast, saturation, among many other parameters in order to match a certain look or grade.

A 3D LUT is an integral part of the video editing process, especially when professional color adjustment and precision across multiple displays is needed. On top of this, it can make subtle changes to the overall feel of the footage while retaining its original characteristics – making it the perfect tool for creating stylised film looks at high levels of consistency and accuracy. Typically, there are two types of applications in which 3D Luts have been successfully used – post production and broadcast brodacasting.

In post-production, Luts can be used to balance colors as well as fine tune skin tone and ambient lighting on shots quickly and accurately. This way film makers can achieve consistent results across different films sets with one style being applied to each scene regardless of the environment or equipment used. Moreover, film makers can also create unique pencil drawing effects without too much effort by combining pre-constructed 3D lut makeup sets with creative works such as vignettes and hue shifts applied over them.


Broadcast broadcasting uses various forms of not just standard films but commercials too –where having more control over colors would be advantageous from a technical standpoint as well in terms of aesthetic quality. Here 3dLuts makes it possible for producers to ensure accurate base colors on every shot -like skin coloring etc., ensuring that all broadcasted content adheres to industry standards so that viewers see only highly calibrated images on different screens readily available on their devices with software’s like DaVinci Resolve15 etc.:

  • Post Production
  • Broadcast Broadcasting
  • DaVinci Resolve15

How LUTs Work

Look Up Tables (LUTs) are an incredibly helpful tool used in color grading. They help standardize different color values so that the exact input that you’ve put into the system is what comes out the other side. LUTs are used in many different workflows and applications, from virtual production to color grading post-production workflows.

In this section, we’ll explore how LUTs work and how they can be used to ensure consistency in color grading:

  1. How LUTs are used in post-production workflow
  2. How to apply LUTs in color grading
  3. How to create LUTs for specific color grading projects

Understanding the Color Space

In order to understand what a Look Up Table (LUT) is and how it works, it is important to first have a basic understanding of the color space. The three dimensions of the color space are Hue, Saturation and Luminance. Hue refers to the aspect of the color that identifies its hue or shade such as red, blue or green. Saturation refers to how intense or vivid a color is while luminance determines how bright a hue appears on our display.

In digital images, each pixel contains information about its Hue, Saturation and Luminance values. This information is used by video editing programs to display accurate colors on the monitor or television. LUTs are able to modify this information in order to change certain aspects of an image’s overall look – typically by adjusting one or more of the three dimensions in the color space (Hue, Saturation and Luminance).

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A LUT can be used for a variety of purposes – from changing an image’s overall contrast level and saturation to making subtle adjustments or dramatic changes in specific tones within an image in order to create stylized looks. For example, when applied correctly, LUTs make skin tones appear softer while increasing contrast between different hues and saturations – giving the final product an entirely different feel than when you start with just your flat footage.

Understanding the Color Gamut

A color gamut (also known as a parameter space) essentially refers to the range of colors that can be produced within a specific context, like a video or print.

Look Up Tables (LUTs) are used in color grading to allow a user to accurately represent light spectrums and output the same look in other compatible display or projection systems.

In essence, a Look Up Table (LUT) is a mathematical transformation stored as an array of numbers. It is often referred to as ‘colour grading’, ‘3D LUTs’ or ‘cube LUTs’. When color grading with LUTs, editors and professionals accurately store both their input and output values, allowing them to create an image that looks exactly the same regardless of whether they’re working with analog or digital footage, in Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premier or DaVinci Resolve.

LUT-based workflow makes workflows faster, more accurate and more efficient. With traditional color grading workflow, you have to adjust each color value separately without any accuracy. With LUT-based workflow, it’s easy for editors and professionals alike to apply consistent color changes across mulitple shots quickly and efficiently.

In order for this process to take place effectively it requires that all devices use the same colour standard – commonly Rec 709 but also DCI-P3 for some digital camera types – when storing information about colour spaces so that colours from one device can accurately be moved over another without any errors happening in the transfer process.

Types of LUTs

LUTs (Look Up Tables) are used in color grading to manipulate and enhance video footage. To achieve this, LUTs transform specific values of color and luminosity in the image to create a desired result. There are a wide variety of types of LUTs designed for different types of color correction. Let’s look at a few of the different types of LUTs and their uses:

  • Log to Linear – This type of LUT is used to convert logarithmic footage to a linear color space. This is typically used for log footage from digital cameras.
  • Creative – Creative LUTs are used to enhance the look and feel of footage by changing the colors and contrast. It can add a cinematic feel to footage.
  • Rec709 – Rec709 LUTs are used to convert footage to the Rec709 color space. This is used when footage needs to match the color space of a video monitor.
  • Calibration – Calibration LUTs are used to calibrate footage to a specific color space. This is used to achieve a uniform look across different types of footage.

Log LUTs

Log LUTs are color-lookup tables that allow video and image editors to match footage from different cameras. This ensures color accuracy and consistency between cameras with different color gamuts or processors. Log LUTs are also used to create stylized toning, often with a cinematic look.

When using log LUTs, it’s important to properly apply them, since they will not “fix” the issues of a poorly shot footage. Log-LUTs are typically applied at the end of the editing process in order to ensure the most accurate results.

Types of Log LUTs:

  • Standard Log: A standard log LUT is used to match select camera type/profiles and transformor exposures into one common format. This allows for multiple camera footage to appear uniform in support of a unified final look. The goal is achieving ‘one look’ across footage, regardless of its origin camera or processor type (i.e., Blackmagic vs RED).
  • Creative Log: Creative log LUTS focus on providing specific effects when applied to video/image footages such as flatter image contrast and removing gradient looks created by a particular field recorder/camera. It can even create extraordinary looks used for art direction or change of overall feel for certain clips that stand out from the rest of your project based on mood or feel — such as creating a ‘glowy’ look popular from series like Stranger Things, Westworld and other science fiction/fantasy shows.

Creative LUTs

Creative LUTs are used to add tonal changes and stylized looks to images. They can manipulate color perception in a number of ways, such as exaggerating certain tones or saturating specific ranges of the image. Creative LUT’s can be used to achieve vintage styles, analog film effects or black & white conversions. Common types of Creative LUTs include:

  • Cross Processing LUTs: These LUTs replicate the darkroom technique of cross processing film in which the wrong chemistry is used to develop the film which results in unnatural colors and unusual contrast.
  • Fashion/Beauty LUTs: These LUTs are designed specifically for skin tones and fashion shots, softening harsh skin tones ensuring a consistent look across all media platforms, from print to web & motion picture formats.
  • Split Tone & Duotone LUTs: These creative grading tools allow you to apply two distinct color treatments across different luminance levels in an image for maximum depth and detail control.
  • Darkroom Emulation LUTs: With these, you can emulate popular film stocks emulsions like Black & White by split toning images and enhancing details with midtone curves or diffused looks.
  • Vintage Lookup Tables (LUT): Recreating that classic icon look with an authentic vintage feel has never been easier using one of these retro inspired Vintage Lookup Tables (LUT).

Technical LUTs

Technical LUTs go beyond color grading and normalization. These types of LUTs are specifically designed to have a certain and specific impact on either Blacks, Whites, Sharpeness or Gamma. These LUTs can also be used to fix any problems during the production process, such as color mismatches between different cameras or sources of light.

For example, a technical LUT could be used to unify blacks and whites across two different cameras so when watched on the same monitor, they look consistent and similar in terms of tone.

Technical LUTs can also be used for special effects such as:

  • Thermal imaging by changing hues across shadows that create an almost surreal effect.

Benefits of Using LUTs

LUTs (Look up Tables) are an essential tool for color grading in the professional and amateur film and video production industries. They provide a quick, efficient, and straightforward way to apply and control color corrections to your project, helping you achieve the desired look and feel quickly.

In this section, we’ll look at the benefits of using LUTs and why they are so important in the color grading process:

  • Quick and efficient color correction
  • Consistent color across multiple shots
  • Easy to adjust and customize
  • Simple to apply to large projects


Lookup tables (LUTs) provide creative colorists with efficient, precise and reliable ways to grade a scene or shot. They are very useful in helping to maintain consistent color between two shots or scenes, even if they were shot on different cameras. By using a pre-generated LUT, you can quickly get started with your overall grade and then tweak it further as necessary.

LUTs also help reduce the amount of time spent on a project without compromising any of its quality by allowing the colorist to process several shots at once instead of individually. They give maximum control over the final look and tone of an entire sequence so that each frame appears consistent and aesthetically pleasing. Furthermore, LUTs can provide subtle enhancements throughout shots by adding small amounts of contrast, saturation, or brightness where necessary, which might not be possible when adjusting individual frames manually.

  • Advantages of using LUTs:
    • Quickly get started with your overall grade
    • Reduce time spent on a project
    • Maximum control over the final look and tone of an entire sequence
    • Subtle enhancements throughout shots
    • Look natural due to the colour grading being based upon complex mathematics
    • Help fix problems such as colour casts without having to adjust multiple parameters at once


When using Look Up Tables (LUTs) for color grading, the amount of time necessary for making changes to entire projects is drastically reduced. This will result in a much faster workflow, without any loss of quality.

In addition, when you grade an image or a sequence of images consistently with LUTs, you will be able to ensure that any changes you made across an entire project remain consistent. This allows you to guarantee a high-level of consistency and accuracy between each individual shot and helps to maintain the overall look and feel across all images, instead of having it all over the place. Consistency when color grading is key in conveying the right message and telling your story properly.


One of the greatest benefits of using Look Up Tables (LUTs) when color grading is the improved quality of images. To begin with, LUTs are more accurate compared to some other methods because they simplify the entire process by focusing on pre-programmed science and mathematics. With computer algorithms and automatic functions based on specific patterns and color standards, users can benefit from efficient color grading that produce consistent results. This helps to ensure a high level of quality throughout all projects—especially since there is less room for errors such as mismatching skin tones or inaccurate color matching in certain scenes.

Another aspect of quality relates to the speed and efficiency associated with LUTs. Compared to manual methods such as curves or sliders which require a lot of time determining points, levels, benchmarks and other aspects related to each shot (taking up valuable resources), using LUTs gives users an edge in speed which helps to cut costs by cutting down on labor time required across projects. Furthermore, automated functions like these provide users with accurate results in much less time—great for shooting on a tight schedule or simply ensuring that deadlines are met quickly and efficiently.


In conclusion, LUTs are a valuable tool for colorists for creating consistent color grading across projects and cameras. With the ability to match colors through gamut mapping and HDR, LUTs provide reliable results quickly. By leveraging their powerful and efficient technology, any kind of workflow is enabled with rich colors and accurate color Spaces. With the right knowledge, colorists’ visual expression can be more robust than ever before.

Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.