How to Fix Washed Out Colors in After Effects

How to Fix Washed Out Colors in After Effects
How to Fix Washed Out Colors in Adobe After Effects (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Ah, the dreaded washed-out colors. You spend hours meticulously crafting your animation or editing your video, only to be met with a dull, lifeless final product. Fear not, fellow After Effects warriors! This common culprit has a few solutions hiding under its hood. Let's dive in and explore how to fix washed-out colors in After Effects.

Understanding the Why

Before wielding the color correction tools, it's crucial to diagnose the cause of the washed-out look. Here are some common culprits:

  • Color Space Mismatch: After Effects and your source footage might be operating in different color spaces (e.g., sRGB vs. Rec.709). This mismatch leads to inaccurate color interpretation.
  • Effects and Adjustments: Overapplying effects like Levels or Curves can unintentionally drain the vibrancy from your project.
  • Rendering Issues: Certain render settings can affect color output. Some codecs compress color information, leading to a washed-out appearance.
  • Display Settings: Your monitor's calibration or incorrect video player settings might display colors inaccurately.

Fixing the Washout

Now that we've identified the potential suspects, let's explore solutions:

  1. Color Space Management:
    • Project Settings: Ensure your project's working space color profile matches your target output (e.g., Rec.709 for broadcast, sRGB for web). Go to Edit > Project Settings > Color and choose the appropriate preset.
    • Interpret Footage: Right-click your footage and select Interpret Footage. Under Color Space, choose the correct profile for your footage.
  2. Color Correction Techniques:
    • Levels: Use the Levels effect to adjust the shadows, midtones, and highlights. Lift shadows and adjust the gamma to add more contrast and vibrancy. However, be careful not to overshoot and lose detail.
    • Curves: For finer control, use the Curves effect. Play with the curves to selectively boost specific color ranges and enhance saturation.
    • Vibrance/Saturation: These adjustments can be helpful, but use them sparingly. Overdoing it can lead to unrealistic or posterized colors.
  3. Rendering Settings:
    • Render Queue: Check your render settings. Avoid codecs known for high compression, which can affect color fidelity. Consider using ProRes or Animation codecs for better color preservation.
    • Output Color Space: Ensure the output color space in the render queue matches your project's working space.
  4. Display Calibration:
    • Calibrate Your Monitor: An uncalibrated monitor can display colors inaccurately. Invest in a calibration tool to ensure you're seeing the true colors of your project.
    • Check Video Player Settings: Some video players have built-in color adjustments that can affect the final look. Make sure they are set to neutral.

Pro Tips

  • Work in a Log Colorspace: Consider using a Log colorspace like Log Gamma for professional editing. It offers a wider dynamic range, allowing for more detailed color correction without clipping highlights or crushing shadows. However, this requires converting back to Rec.709 or sRGB for final output.
  • Use Color Lookup Tables (LUTs): LUTs are presets that can apply specific color grades to your project. They can be a great way to achieve a certain look quickly and efficiently. However, experiment a bit to find one that complements your project's style.
  • Save Color Presets: If you find a color correction setting you love, save it as a preset for future use. This saves time and ensures consistency across your projects.


Fixing washed-out colors is often an iterative process. Experiment with different techniques, use reference images, and don't be afraid to make subtle adjustments. With practice, you'll be a master at color correction and bring your After Effects projects to life with vibrant, stunning visuals!

Read more