Color Grading Tutorial: Creating A Day For Night Look

Night shots can be incredibly expensive due to additional lighting and logistics requirements, but the "day for night" technique offers an alternative solution.

The idea is simple: record all of your footage during the day and just color-code it so it looks like it was taken at night.

While the look is never quite the same as actually shooting at night, you can get pretty close by following a few basic color correction steps.

It is important to note that creating a realistic day for night look is about both production and post.

I wrote a whole article about thinking about Day For Night production that you can read here as a starting point.

In short, you want to frame and illuminate your pictures very carefully so as not to reveal the effect. Everything from a hard shadow on your actor's face (thrown by the sun) to a glimpse of a bright blue sky in the background can make the final image appear completely synthetic.

Assuming you've followed the right protocol in production, getting a day for night look in the post is actually quite easy.

In fact, I even released a free Day For Night LUT that you can download from mine Color correction website to automate this process.

For those of you who want to create your look from scratch and want additional control over the image, you should follow the steps outlined in my video tutorial below.

The video provides a brief breakdown of all 6 main steps that I've included in my post pipeline every time I need to do a day-for-night recording. I also added a small written cheat sheet to the video so you can easily look it up.

Note that this video is demonstrated in DaVinci Resolve, but the techniques are completely universal. You can use the same workflow no matter what software you use. Only the tools change – not the process.

Let's go!


Step 1 – Neutralize the picture

As with any color workflow, you always want to start your process by neutralizing the image. Resolve any obvious balance, contrast, or color temperature issues before proceeding with stylistic changes.

In some cases (like the following example), the adjustments at this stage can be quite minor.

In front


Step 2 – Reduce luminance and contrast

Next, we will create the conditions for the more dramatic changes by reducing the luminance (brightness) and contrast. I like to start by pulling the midtones down, followed by the highlights. In the end, I often bring the shadows to bear. This helps to restore some details in the darker areas while reducing the contrast.

Step 3 – Cool the color balance

Again, I want to start this step by focusing on the midtones and pushing them into a cool, slightly magenta arena. Once the mids have done much of the heavy lifting, I will adjust the highlights and shadows slightly to further cool the image. If the shadows at this point appear too color-intensive, I will only reduce the saturation in the shadow areas so that it feels more natural.

Step 4 – Readjust the level

At this point the picture already looks very different from the original. In order to improve the finesse and mix some of the changes made so far, I would like to shift my contrast and luminance levels again and optimize them this time for the new color palette created in the previous step. In this particular example, the visible change in this step is quite small.

Step 5 – Custom masks

In some cases, this step is not necessary. However, if you are working on a recording that has a specific problem area (e.g., the recording in this tutorial with bright white clouds), you will need to adjust those areas separately. This is often best accomplished using a mask or electrical window to isolate the area in question.

Step 6 – last changes

After all the heavy lifting is done, I recommend a final color adjustment so that everything fits together more seamlessly. If you slightly adjust the contrast and color balance, any minor visual differences that we have created throughout the pipeline will disappear. And we have a final picture.

In front


Be sure to download my free Day For Night LUT to automate this process at

I also just launched 100 brand new color correction LUTs that you can see here!

And for those of you who are looking for more advanced color techniques, be sure to check out mine Master class for color corrections.

Have fun coloring!

And don't forget to follow me Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter. Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here