Achieving David Fincher’s Color Palette

Neo-noir 7I’ve always been drawn to the look of David Fincher’s films. Not just the cinematography, which is great, but the color of them as well. Further investigating I’ve noticed a common theme within his work.

Fincher often uses greens and blues. This can be seen in basically every one of his films although, there may be slight adjustments from film to film. For example, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he heavily de-saturates when we see Lisbeth, creating more of a greyish image. Still the overall look is still there. (click on the images to see full size or right click and open in new tab)

I’ve come to the conclusion that this palette is my favorite. It simply grabs my attention and looks simply beautiful to my eye. One of my favorite films, Dark City directed by Alex Proyas, also uses this style.

Fincher usually sticks to this template and then further warms up or cools off the image based on the story or the characters emotions. Again the basic template is almost always there. So here I’m going to show you how I achieved my own take on this palette. My version may be a bit more extreme but the basic idea is there. Also if you use Magic Bullet Looks I made my presets available to you. Remember you can always adjust it to your liking.

First like always you’re going to color correct your image before grading. Adjust the contrast, curves, and levels of the images to get them to the proper exposure and to match all of your footage up. This is critical. Often people start grading immediately (I’m guilty of this) before correcting their images first. It’s best to match all of your footage up before diving into the grading process. This also makes grading easier because you can then simply copy and paste the look then just make small tweaks to get the grade right. Ok so after color correcting it’s time to start grading. The main idea of this look is fairly simple. When in the grading process your goal is to push the shadows to a blueish/teal. Then push your midtones and highlights to green. This is the basic idea.

You can then add diffusion, another set of curves, or whatever it is you want to use to further tweak the image. Here is the look I achieved. Again these presets are made downloadable for you if you use Magic Bullet Looks. You can tweak them to your liking. My main suggestion is to use the warm/cool tool in the post section to make those adjustments Fincher usually does.

These two presets are available as well in the download:

[High saturation]

[Cinema de-saturated]

Download closed due to high traffic. Contact me on twitter for info on how to get the presets.

28 Replies to “Achieving David Fincher’s Color Palette”

  1. Hey There!

    Love the site, was wondering where I could get the Cinema de-saturated and the High saturation looks? Don’t think they’re on the Magic Bullet Looks Preset pack blog post are they?


  2. Have you created these as LUTs? I would love to see what you could do with a pro grading tool like Resolve.

    1. Unfortunately I have only been able to create them as magic bullet looks files. I plan to eventually dive into resolve to do some color work. When I do, I hope to create a preset pack for that.

    1. Glad you like it and thanks for downloading it. I’ll be make a looks pack next for premiere pro since now it has the lut feature built in. When I complete that hopefully you check it out. Thanks again.

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