How to Change the Background Color in After Effects

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This tutorial teaches you how to change the color of a composition’s background in After Effects with two different, simple methods.

Accessing Composition Settings to Change Background Color in After Effects

To change the background color in After Effects you need to open the Composition Settings, also referred to as “Comp Settings”. To do that, make sure the composition is active and use the keyboard shortcut Command+K (Mac) or Control+K (Windows).

After Effects Composition Settings to change background color
Use Cmd/Ctrl+K to get to the Comp Settings

At the bottom of the Composition Settings find the Background Color option. Click the color box and choose a new color. You can also use the eyedropper to select another color that you can click in the AE program. Click the eyedropper then another place inside of AE, like the Composition window.

Background Color settings in After Effects
Select the new background color for your comp

Click OK in the Composition Settings to set the new background color.

If you are seeing a checkered patten in the Composition panel, it is because the transparency is turned on. Click on the box that looks like a checkers board at the bottom of the Composition panel.

Transparency Background Toggle Button in After Effects
If this button is blue, click it to turn the transparency off so you can see your new background color

Your composition should now have the color background you choose in the Composition Settings.

Composition panel with a color background chosen
Here’s the comp with the new background color chosen

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Using a Solid to Change the BKG Color of a Composition

Traditional video editing programs always use black as the background layer. As someone who has been editing for well over a decade now, this feels natural to me. But I often work on projects where I want a colored background in my After Effects composition so I have to change it.

Instead of using the Composition Settings, I use a Solid layer.

I highly recommend trying this method out. Here’s what you need to do.

Create a new Solid by using the keyboard shortcut Command+Y (Mac) or Control+Y (Windows). The Solid Settings box will appear. Give it a label like “Background” or “BKG”. Click the Make Comp Size button. Then set the color using the color box at the bottom. Then click OK.

Solid Settings in After Effects
Use Cmd/Ctrl+Y to create a new Solid

In your Composition Timeline panel a new layer will appear. Drag this to the bottom of your layer stack if you already have other layers in there. You can adjust the color of the solid by selecting the layer and using the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+Y (Mac) or Control+Shift+Y (Windows).

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If you’ve read this tutorial and you still can’t figure it out, please leave a comment and I’ll do what I can to help troubleshoot it. But if you can now change the background color in After Effects, I hope you stick around and check out some of the other After Effects tutorials on my website or consider signing up to get notified about new blog posts and happenings around EVF.

– Josh

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