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How to Create Chromatic Aberration in After Effects

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Read Time: 3 mins


You may have noticed that the chromatic aberration look has exploded in popularity lately. You'll often see this effect used in subtle ways on titles, or in more dramatic ways on video footage. 

Luckily, this effect is easy to create, and there are several ways to go about it. 

I'll look at five different methods for creating chromatic aberration. Three methods you can create in After Effects, without any third-party plug-ins. For the final two methods, I'll showcase two popular plug-ins often used to create chromatic aberration on footage.

1. Traditional Chromatic Aberration 

Traditional Chromatic Aberration 

The first method for creating chromatic aberration in After Effects is what I consider to be the traditional method. 

First, you'll need to duplicate the footage three times and set each layer to the Screen blending mode. Then apply the effect Shift Channels to each layer. 

On the first layer, assign the Red channel to take Red from Red, with the Green and Blue channels set to Full Off

Now that footage should be colored Red from the Red Channel only. Now repeat that process for the Green and Blue channels on the remaining two layers. 

You'll be left with a RedGreen, and Blue layer of the footage. Since the footage has been set to a Screen blending mode, the footage will now look as it did when you first started. 

You've basically split the footage into separate RGB layers. 

Now you can distort each channel separately, which creates the chromatic aberration appearance. Use the Optics Compensation effect and the CC Radial Blur effect to create the chromatic aberration look.

2. Fast Chromatic Aberration (Channel Blur)

Quick chromatic aberrationQuick chromatic aberrationQuick chromatic aberration
Fast Chromatic Aberration (Channel Blur)

If you want to quickly create some chromatic aberration, you can fake the effect by adding an adjustment layer above your footage and applying the Channel Blur effect. 

Blur two of the color channels a little bit, then add a CC Radial Blur on top of that. 

Finally, add a radial mask on the adjustment layer and set the feather around 200px. You'll now have a quick retro aesthetic around your footage, similar to chromatic aberration.

3. VR Chromatic Aberrations (360 Video)

VR Chromatic AberrationsVR Chromatic AberrationsVR Chromatic Aberrations
VR Chromatic Aberrations

After Effects actually includes a built-in chromatic aberration effect for 360 video, VR Chromatic Aberrations

This effect is basically drag-and-drop. It is located under the Immersive Video effects and works with equirectangular 360 footage.

4. Red Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations (Plug-in)

Red Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations Plug-inRed Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations Plug-inRed Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations Plug-in
Red Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations (Plug-in)

One popular third-party plug-in is the Red Giant Universe Chromatic Aberration

This effect is popular because it can easily be applied, renders quickly and includes a ton of user controls. 

It includes some great blur and texture options to accent the footage with. However, you'll need a paid Red Giant Universe subscription in order to use the effect.

5. Separate RGB (Plug-in)

Separate RGB Plug-inSeparate RGB Plug-inSeparate RGB Plug-in
Separate RGB (Plug-in)

Another alternative third-party plug-in is Separate RGB, which can be found on AE Scripts.

This effect is very similar to the Red Giant Universe Chromatic Aberrations. It doesn't have the blur or texture options, but it can be purchased upfront, so you don't have to continue to pay a subscription fee to use it.

After Effects Templates on Envato Elements

Looking for ways to complete your video projects faster? Check out Envato Elements, which offers thousands of motion graphics projects for After Effects, with creative templates for slideshows, titles, logos, lower thirds, intros, and text effects.

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