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How to Use LUTs to Colour Grade Pictures in Affinity Photo

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More photographers are turning to Affinity Photo for their image editing. Did you know that you can use LUTs in Affinity too? LUTS – Look Up Tables – are a great way to change the look of images and video without directly affecting your original. You can make changes at any point after adding your LUT as it won’t have touched your editing sliders, which is a lot more flexible than a simple Affinity photo preset or Affinity photo filter, for example.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to load LUTs into Affinity Photo and how to apply them to colour grade your photographs.

First though, if you need a set of LUTS to try, you can find plenty over on Envato Elements, where everything's included in a monthly subscription. In this tutorial I'm using this newly added set: 50 Paradise LUTs Pack

50 Paradise LUTs Pack - from Envato Elements50 Paradise LUTs Pack - from Envato Elements50 Paradise LUTs Pack - from Envato Elements
50 Paradise LUTs Pack - from Envato Elements

How to Use LUTs to Colour Grade Pictures in Affinity Photo

Make Your Basic Corrections

Make all the basic corrections to your raw image as you usually would, things like applying profile corrections, adjusting highlights and shadows...  generally bringing your photograph up to a technically acceptable standard, ready to colour grade.

make basic editsmake basic editsmake basic edits
Make basic edits

When you've done that, click develop which will essentially convert your RAW data into a pixel-based raster image.

How to Load LUTs into Affinity Photo

Now we'll load up a LUT.

Adjustment panelAdjustment panelAdjustment panel
Adjustment panel

Click on the Adjustment panel and near the bottom you'll see LUT. Click on it for a drop down menu.

Import Lut(s)Import Lut(s)Import Lut(s)
Import Lut(s)

To the right of LUT there’s a cog icon for further options. Click and choose Import.

Select LUTs to importSelect LUTs to importSelect LUTs to import
Select LUTs to import

If your download is in a zip file, unlike with Adobe Camera Raw where you can upload the zip, you’ll need to unzip the file first. You can then batch select – by highlighting – all 50 LUTs and import them.

Your LUTs will appear in a list under Adjustments > LUTsYour LUTs will appear in a list under Adjustments > LUTsYour LUTs will appear in a list under Adjustments > LUTs
Your LUTs will appear in a list under Adjustments > LUTs

You’ll see the LUTs appear in your Adjustment panel as a list. You can then click down each one to see its effect.

Select a LUT to applySelect a LUT to applySelect a LUT to apply
Select a LUT to apply

Applying Your Affinity Photo LUTS

When you click on a LUT, a box appears with some further options. As well as the usual Opacity to reduce the effect, and Blend Mode which lets you choose from a number of options like darken, multiply, overlay etc, there are some extra things too. Here’s what they mean:

Next to Load LUT you’ll see the one you’ve already selected from the Adjustment list. If you want to, you can load an individual LUT into here instead of going through the Adjustment panel.

Merge is to merge your LUT effect down onto the layers below as part of the photo. Delete will remove the LUT and close the panel, and Reset will remove the LUT’s effect without closing the panel.

Infer LUT. Affinity explain this much better than I could, so here’s how they describe it:

‘ Applies a LUT adjustment without the need of a separate LUT file by comparing a 'source' image and its adjusted exported image. With a new 'target' image loaded, click Infer LUT, then in the pop-up dialog, navigate to and select both source and adjusted files in turn, and click Open.’

This is a really clever tool. Essentially, what it means is that you can emulate the look a filter or edit, as long as you have the original. For example, if I uploaded an image to Instagram, applied a filter and wanted to replicate that look on my own, I could put both the original image and the filtered image into Affinity and it would replicate that filter’s colours and tones, with the option to export as a LUT that you can use across other images. The only caveat here is the image dimensions and colour space need to be the same for the Infer LUT tool to work.

Adjustments After Applying Your LUT

After you’ve applied your LUT you can make more edits in the Adjustments panel.

After LUT has been appliedAfter LUT has been appliedAfter LUT has been applied
After LUT has been applied

Above shows shadows and highlights as an example. You can see that the options give you a small preview of how your image would look if that option was applied, but then if you do click on it, you’ll get the sliders shown in the image, so that you can fine tune them.

Layers panelLayers panelLayers panel
Layers panel

Each Adjustment you make will appear in the Layers panel, as has your LUT adjustment. So you can go to that panel any time to edit, remove the layer or flip it off and on to see its effect.

Before and After

Here's our sample image before and after grading with a LUT:

Before and AfterBefore and AfterBefore and After
Before and After

LUTs make image editing so versatile, and make a real difference when using them in Affinity for your photography. Unlike presets, LUTs in Affinity Photo will make changes based on colour values, rather than directly editing your photograph, so you can apply a LUT at any stage of your editing and still tweak your images without affecting the changes the LUT has made. You can also remove or re-apply them at any stage without adjusting your core edits. LUTs are available both to colour correct and to colour grade, so it's worth adding them to your workflow and playing around to see what you can create.

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