Best Way to do Colour Correction in 3D Animation

how to do colour correction for 3d animation

Are you an aspiring 3D animator looking to enhance the visual appeal of your creations? Colour correction plays a pivotal role in refining the aesthetic quality of 3D animations. It can elevate the overall mood, tone, and atmosphere of your scenes. In this article, we’ll delve into the best practices for colour correction in 3D animation, providing you with a step-by-step guide to achieving stunning visuals that captivate your audience.

What is Colour Correction in 3D Animation?

Colour correction in 3D animation is the process of adjusting the colours of a rendered animation to achieve a desired visual style or to correct any inconsistencies or issues in the colour representation. 

It involves manipulating various aspects of colour, such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue, to enhance the overall look and feel of the animation.

Colour correction in 3D animation is a multifaceted process that demands a thorough understanding of colour theory, artistic vision, and technical proficiency. Before diving into the nitty-gritty of colour correction, it’s crucial to lay a solid foundation through pre-production preparation.

Pre-Production Preparation

The journey to impeccable colour correction begins with meticulous planning. Start by choosing the appropriate colour palette that aligns with the mood and emotion you intend to convey in your animation. 

Analyze the specific requirements of each scene – consider the time of day, indoor or outdoor settings, and the emotional context.

After the pre-production is completed you can take the following steps for the colour correction of your 3d animation. 

1. Adjusting Brightness, Contrast, and Exposure

a editor showing the adjustment of brightness, contrast and exposure, in the process of colour correction in 3d animation

Start with adjusting the overall brightness, contrast, and exposure levels of your animation. This step lays the foundation for a well-balanced colour correction process.

In case you are wondering what brightness, contrast and exposure are, here is a short description of each for you. 

1. Brightness

Brightness refers to the overall intensity of light in an image. It determines how light or dark an image appears. Increasing brightness makes an image appear lighter while decreasing it makes the image appear darker.

2. Contrast

Contrast is the difference between the light and dark areas of an image. It adds depth and visual interest to a picture by enhancing the distinction between the brightest and darkest parts.

3. Exposure

Exposure refers to the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor or film. It determines how light or dark an entire image will be. Proper exposure ensures that the image captures the right amount of detail without being too dark or too bright.

By adjusting these basic settings you can make an animation look much better than its original version. 

2. Fine-Tuning Color Balance and Temperature

Achieve natural-looking colours by fine-tuning the colour balance and temperature settings. This step ensures that whites appear neutral and all other colours are harmonious.

When you’re working on a 3D animation, you might encounter scenes where the colours appear slightly off or are not as visually appealing as you’d like. This is where fine-tuning comes into play. 

Let’s say you’re working on a scene set in a forest during sunset. The initial colours in the animation might have a slightly bluish or cool tint due to the lighting conditions. 

However, to convey the warmth and cosiness of a sunset, you’ll want to fine-tune the colours to achieve a more balanced and natural look.

3. Managing Saturation and Vibrancy

Control the intensity of colours by adjusting saturation and vibrancy. Be cautious not to over-saturate, as it can lead to unrealistic visuals.

how vibrancy and saturatioin can change the outlook of the picture when done correctly

To make things easier for you let’s understand the concept of saturation and vibrancy with proper examples. 

1. Saturation

Saturation refers to the intensity or purity of a colour. A highly saturated colour is vivid and vibrant, while a desaturated colour is more muted and greyish. 

In the context of 3D animation, adjusting saturation allows you to control how rich and bold the colours in your scene appear.


Imagine you’re working on an animated scene set in a lush forest. You might want to enhance the saturation of the green hues in the vegetation to create a vibrant and lively atmosphere. 

On the other hand, if you’re portraying a moody and sombre scene, desaturating the colours can contribute to the desired emotional tone.

2. Vibrancy

Vibrancy goes hand in hand with saturation but focuses on the visual impact and vividness of colours. A vibrant colour is not only saturated but also exudes energy and brightness, making it stand out more prominently.


Suppose you’re animating a magical spell-casting scene where the protagonist’s magic emits bright, vibrant bursts of light. 

By increasing the vibrancy of these magical effects, you can make them appear more enchanting and attention-grabbing. Vibrant colours can also be used to highlight important elements within a scene, guiding the viewer’s focus.

4. Utilizing Color Grading Techniques

Colour grading adds depth and mood to your animation. Experiment with different colour grading techniques to find the one that best suits the tone of your project.

Think of colour grading as adding a unique “filter” or “visual signature” to your animation. It’s like applying a particular colour palette or mood to the entire project to evoke certain emotions or enhance the storytelling.

5. Working with Shadows and Highlights

working with shadows and highlights in colour correction in 3d animation

Shadows are the darker areas in an image where light is blocked or absorbed by objects. Highlights, on the other hand, are the brightest areas that receive direct light. These elements play a vital role in creating the illusion of three-dimensionality and form in your animation.

Enhance the details in the shadows and highlights of your animation. This step adds dimensionality and depth to the visuals.

Imagine a scene where a character is standing under the sun. The character’s face is partially shadowed due to the angle of the light source. 

By adjusting the shadow intensity and position, you can create a more accurate representation of how light interacts with the character’s features. This adjustment adds depth and realism to the character’s appearance.

6. Applying Filters for Creative Effects

Filters and creative effects are powerful tools that can dramatically alter the visual style and mood of your 3D animation. They allow you to apply artistic touches, simulate different lighting conditions, and create unique atmospheres that enhance the storytelling. 

While the primary focus of colour correction is to achieve natural and balanced colours, filters and creative effects enable you to inject creativity and artistry into your work.

Apply filters and effects strategically to achieve specific visual styles or evoke emotions. Experiment with filters to create unique looks.

7. Considering the Emotional Impact of Colors

difference in colour can appeal to different emotions

Different colours evoke varying emotions. Consider the emotional impact you want to convey and adjust colours accordingly. For example, warm tones can evoke comfort and happiness, while cool tones can create a sense of calmness

Take the example of horror movies for instance. You might have noticed that these movies usually use darker tones to make the movie look frightening and the characters also look realistic in this way. 

Such things always have an emotional impact on the viewer. In the same manner comedy or action movies also utilise different colouring techniques to the emotions of the audience. 

8. Performing Iterative Reviews and Refinements

Colour correction is an iterative process. Regularly review your work, gather feedback, and make refinements to achieve the desired outcome.

Colour correction may seem easy on the eye but it has a huge impact on the overall aesthetics of the animation. To make sure that you are doing a good job try to gather as much feedback as possible and make changes accordingly. 

9. Exporting and Rendering the Color-Corrected Animation

Once satisfied with the colour correction, prepare your animation for export. Choose appropriate file formats and settings to maintain the quality of your work.

It normally happens that when you have done all the hard work and exported the final product it turns out to be not what you had expected. This is because of exporting with the wrong format. So, in order to make sure that your animation is not affected export it in the right format. 

10. Comparing Before-and-After Results

compare before and after results after you have done colour correction

Before sharing your colour-corrected animation, create a side-by-side comparison of the original and corrected versions. This showcases the impact of your colour correction efforts.

This way you can make sure that what are the main areas you have improved and what remains to be improved. 

Best Software Tools for Color Correction in 3D Animation 

There are a number of software tools that can help you with colour correction of your video. Some of the best software tools used by editors are. 

  1. Red Giant Colorista Free
  2. Adobe Premiere CC
  3. Wondershare Filmora
  4. Final Cut Pro X
  5. VEGAS Pro
  6. Lightworks
  7. Magix Video Pro X
  8. DaVinci Resolve

By mastering any of these software you can make your animation more realistic and appealing. 

Artistic Freedom vs. Realism

Striking a balance between artistic expression and realism is a perpetual challenge. While colour correction offers artistic freedom, it’s essential to remain true to the animation’s narrative and emotional context.

A lot of people do colour grading and they make their videos too unrealistic. They either increase the saturation or brightness to high or they decrease the brightness to a level where it looks awful.

So, it is always important to keep in mind that there is a balance between the real world and the animation you are creating. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As you embark on your colour correction journey, be wary of common pitfalls. The mistakes may look minor but they have a great impact on the overall results of the animation. Some of the most common mistakes that people make are: 

  1. Over-saturation and Vibrancy
  2. Inconsistent Color Grading
  3. Ignoring Color Harmony
  4. Overlooking Shadows and Highlights
  5. Excessive Use of Filters

1. Over-saturation and Vibrancy

Applying excessive saturation and vibrancy to your animation can make it look unnatural and overly vibrant, detracting from the realism you’re aiming for.

Example: Imagine an outdoor scene with grass and trees. If you oversaturate the greens, they might appear neon and unrealistic, taking away from the natural look of the environment.

2. Inconsistent Color Grading

Using inconsistent colour grading throughout your animation can lead to jarring shifts in mood and style, disrupting the viewer’s immersion.

Example: In a narrative that spans different settings and emotions, abruptly shifting the colour grading from warm and inviting to cool and sombre can confuse the audience and disconnect them from the story.

3. Ignoring Color Harmony

Neglecting colour harmony can result in clashes between different elements within your animation, creating a visually discordant experience.

Example: If you have a character wearing a bright red outfit in a predominantly blue-toned environment, the colour contrast might be too intense, drawing attention away from the character’s actions or emotions.

4. Overlooking Shadows and Highlights

Neglecting the shadows and highlights can lead to a lack of depth and realism in your animation, making it appear flat and two-dimensional.

Example: In a scene with strong directional lighting, failing to properly accentuate the shadows and highlights on the characters’ faces can make them look less three-dimensional and lifelike.

5. Excessive Use of Filters

Applying too many filters and effects can result in a cluttered and distracting visual style, diminishing the focus on the animation’s narrative.

Example: Using multiple filters, such as grain, vignette, and lens flares, in a single scene can make it difficult for the audience to concentrate on the characters and their interactions.

By avoiding these common mistakes you can make a much better and realistic animation. 


In the realm of 3D animation, colour correction wields transformative power. It enhances visual storytelling by invoking emotions, directing attention, and establishing ambience. By mastering the intricate techniques of colour correction, you can elevate your animations to new heights of visual excellence.


What is colour correction in 3D animation?

Colour correction in 3D animation is the process of adjusting colours, tones, and hues to achieve visual balance, realism, and storytelling impact.

What are the top 5 animation companies in order?

The top 5 animation companies in order are: 

  1. Movingstone Digital 
  2. CXR Agency
  3. Clay
  4. Wanted for Nothing
  5. Baunfire

How to do good colour correction?

Achieve good colour correction by analyzing original footage, adjusting brightness, contrast, balance, and temperature, considering emotional impact, and iteratively reviewing and refining.

What is a colour correction in VFX?

Colour correction in VFX involves adjusting colours and tones in visual effects sequences to enhance realism, match scenes, and create cohesive visuals.

Should you colour-correct before or after editing?

It’s recommended to colour correct after editing, as editing shapes the narrative, and colour correction ensures visual consistency and storytelling enhancement.