Using Brainstorm to Grade Colour in After Effects

Brainstorming with After Effects is a great way to experiment with animated properties on shape layers when you’re looking for ideas for Backgrounds and the like. Have you ever considered using it instead to colour grade your footage?

Its a very simple yet potentially very effective process that allows you the luxury of seeing what your footage will look like before you commit to any property changes. It’s especially useful if you are searching for the right mood and effect, but are not sure which way to go. It also reminds me of the Photoshop Variables adjustment from back in the day.

Here’s what to do.

1. Add your Footage

Ready to go

Import the clip that requires some grading into the Project Window, then add it into/create from it the Composition. Name the Comp “Grading”.

2. Add Levels


Search for “Levels” in the Effects & Presets window and find Levels (Individual Controls). Add the Effect to the Layer in the Comp.

3. Add Colour Balance

Color Balance

Return to the Effects & Presets window and search for “Color Balance” (note the US spelling of color). Add the Effect to the Layer in the Comp.

4. Open up the Properties

Using the Disclosure button next to the Layer in the Time line, open all the Properties available under Effects for both the Levels (Individual Controls) and the Color Balance effects.

Don’t select everything

Using Command/Control select all the available RGB properties (ignore the Red, Green, Blue and Alpha categories) for Levels (Individual Controls) and all of the Shadow, Midtone and Highlight properties for Colour Balance (you could also include Preserve Luminocity as well if you wish).

5. Choose Brainstorm

Keep all the properties selected and click on the “Brainstorm” button located at the top of the Timeline toolbar.

Start the Brainstorm

Brainstorm will open in a new window, with 9 different random variations of both filters applied to the layer.

6. Experiment Further

Set the Randomness value up from 25% to 50%, this will create greater contrast between your results. Then click on the Brainstorm button to cycle through the possible results a second time.

50% results

Keep clicking Brainstorm until you see one of the results hit the sweet spot and give you a look you want to use.

7. Apply the Results

This changes the original Comp This creates a New Comp










There are now 2 options open to you, either change the Original Comp to now look like your Brainstorm result, or save this brainstorm result as a new Comp in your project.

I usually choose the latter, that way I can always go back to the original ant try again if I choose.

This method is so easy to use, and can produce such good results in so little time and with such little efort that it’s got to be worth trying from time to time.

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