These affordable color grading control panels are some of the most widely used by professional colorists on a budget. Which one is right for you?

Top Image: the Tangent Ripple. Photo by Martin Luan Handlykken via Erik Naso

A color grading control panel is the heart of any professional colorist’s suite. While there may not be any substitute for a good eye and a strong working knowledge of color science, there’s no doubt that a proper color grading control panel will maximize the efficiency and potential of most colorists. If you’re a colorist that’s been working primarily with a tablet, or even just a mouse, then read on. These panels will without a doubt help to streamline your process.

Although some of the world’s best control panels can cost more than a car, there are a number of really solid, affordable options. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few cost-effective options, listed by price:

1. Tangent Ripple — $350 (Estimated)

oosing the Right Affordable Color Grading Control Panel - The Tangent Ripple

This extremely cost-effective solution from Tangent won’t hit the market until next year, but it’s destined to be one of the most popular panels out there based on price point alone. When it’s released it’ll be by far the least-expensive panel you can get your hands on — but as you might have guessed, that means it comes with a limited feature set:

  • 3 trackerballs with dials for masters.
  • High resolution optical pick-ups for the balls and dials.
  • Independent reset buttons for the balls and dials.
  • Programmable A and B buttons.
  • USB powered with integral cable.
  • Light-weight compact size.

I don’t doubt that this will be a high-quality panel, despite its low price… But for power users that need more programmable buttons and additional features, this might not be the best choice.

2. Avid Artist Color — $1299.99

oosing the Right Affordable Color Grading Control Panel - Avid Artist Color

This panel from Avid is another affordable solution, although it’s still almost $1000 more expensive than the Ripple. The extra money will be well-spent however, seeing as the Artist Color has a slew of additional features such as track wheels (in addition to track balls), four color correction buttons, and more:

  •  Three Optical Trackballs
  •  Three Optical Trackwheels
  •  Six Touch Sensitive Rotary Encodersa
  •  Store Four Color Correction Settings
  •  Nine Programmable Soft Keys
  •  EUCON, HUI and Mackie Control Protocols
  •  Integrated OLED Display
  •  Ethernet Connectivity
  •  Combines with Artist Series Controllers
  •  Windows and Mac Compatible

3. Tangent Wave — $1515.25

oosing the Right Affordable Color Grading Control Panel - Tangent Wave

If you prefer the look and feel of Tangent products over Avid, but need something more robust than a Ripple, the Wave is a fantastic color grading control panel alternative that offers a far more extensive feature set:

  • 3 Trackerballs
  • 9 soft label buttons
  • Controls Knobs
  • Label Buttons
  • Function Buttons
  • Master Dials
  • Transport Controls
  • OLED Display

I personally prefer the Tangent Wave over the Avid Artist Color, and think the extra couple hundred dollars is money well spent, considering the added functionality of this panel.

Regardless of which option you choose, there’s no turning back once you start working with a color grading control panel. Any of the panels on this list will be a huge step up from a mouse or tablet and will increase your speed as a colorist dramatically.

Do you have any experience working with color grading control panels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!