Using LUTs in Adobe After Effects CS5+

Adobe After Effects is a compositing, motion graphics and visual effects program used in the post-production process. It's range of controls and effects make it one of the most versatile digital visual effects programs in the industry.

Version CS5, CS6 and CC support the use of LUTs, allowing users to quickly color grade their elements inside the program.


Here's a short video on how to apply LUTs to your elements inside Adobe After Effects:

1. Start with a clip in a new composition, and make sure the clip is selected.

Using LUTs in Adobe After Effects CS5+


2. Next go to Effects, then go to “Utility”, and apply the “Apply Color LUT” effect to the clip.

Using LUTs in Adobe After Effects CS5+


3. This will open explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS). Navigate to the folder on your computer where your desired LUT is stored. Select the LUT file (.cube) you wish to apply and click Open. This will apply the LUT to your footage.


4. Add additional effects from the Effect > Color Correction menu to adjust the clips properties for color correction e.g. Exposure, Hue/Saturation.

Using LUTs in Adobe After Effects CS5+




Which LUT should I apply to my footage?

LUTs usually come in two formats – “Rec 709” and “LOG”. Depending on the picture profile you shot the footage in will depend on which version you use. If you shot in a standard picture profile, you should start with a “Rec 709” version LUT. If you shot in a flat of LOG profile, you should start with a “LOG” version LUT.


When I add the “Apply Color LUT” effect, I can’t see the LUT files in the explorer/browser window.

If the LUTs are stored in a .zip file that you have downloaded, ensure that it has been unzipped to a folder on your computer. Some operating systems will not recognize files if they are still inside a .zip file.


After I apply the LUT, everything looks too dark/bright or warm/cold.

Both versions of the LUTs are generic, meaning the LUTs are not specific to any camera’s picture profile. This means you need to correct you footage’s tone and white balance to match the LUT. After you apply your LUT, try adding additional effects to color correct your clip such as the Exposure effect, the Hue/Saturation effect, or the Curves effect. LUTs should always be used as a starting point in your color correction workflow, and are not a “one-click done” solution.


How do I apply a LUT to my entire sequence instead of individual clips?

If you wish to apply a LUT to an entire composition or to multiple clips on a composition, you can add an “Adjustment Layer” above the clips you wish to correct, then add the “Apply Color LUT” effect onto the Adjustment Layer. However you will still need to color correct each clip individually under the Adjustment Layer. Applying the LUT to an Adjustment Layer will also allow you to change the “Opacity” of the layer in the Effect Controls panel, which essentially changes the amount that the LUT affects the clip.