How To: create an XMP grade using Adobe Camera Raw

Software required: Adobe Bridge CS6+

Creating XMP presets is recommended if you plan to grade in After Effects after editing in Premiere Pro CC. This tutorial assumes you already have experience editing CinemaDNG files in Premiere Pro CC.


If you’ve edited in Premiere Pro CC with native DNG sequences, you might not be getting everything you want out of the simple LUTs available to the D16 through Lumetri Looks.

If you come from a stills background, it might be preferable to you to use the full controls of Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw GUI to create a default look for your footage before final grading. Adobe Camera Raw is a powerful applet accessible within Bridge, Photoshop and AfterEffects that gives you full control of raw footage, including CinemaDNG files, with over 100 adjustment options: you can compensate for lens angle, alter the saturation, luminance, and hue of specific colors, bring up your highlights, contrast, shadows, and whites separately, and select a white balance point.

“Looks” within Adobe Camera Raw can be saved in-applet as .XMP preset files–you are not actually altering the pixels of your image, only the way that your image is being interpreted within Creative Suite. These saved .XMP files live within your system folder, but can easily be accessed, sent, or applied to additional clips when needed. This creates an easy way to apply specific, detailed looks to your footage.

Note: the roundtrip process from Premiere Pro CC to After Effects still contains some quirks when working with raw files that Adobe is trying to address, requiring some extra steps to be taken for this workflow to work properly.

Getting Started

Open Adobe Bridge and navigate to the folder that holds your original DNG files. Find the shot folder for the shot you’d like to create a preset for, and select a DNG file from that sequence. This should be a focused image for best results, rather than a frame in motion.

Open this DNG file in Adobe Camera Raw by right-clicking on the file and selecting “Open in Camera Raw”. For a quicker ability to do this simply by double clicking, navigate to Edit > Preferences > General within the Bridge Menu, and select Double-click edits Camera Raw settings.

Grading in Camera Raw

Use the controls to make changes to your images as you desire; then click on the second-to-last tab to access the Looks panel and save your preset. If you don’t yet know how to use Adobe Camera Raw, this step-by-step tutorial by Digital Camera World is very informative.

Note: There are two helpful tips not addressed by this tutorial that allow you to make specific adjustments for normalizing skin tones within your footage by changing settings in the Color tab:

  • Within the Hue panel, move the Magenta slider all the way towards purple (left) and away from red (right)–this separates your red tones and purple tones and fully removes all magenta coloring from your image, including highlights where it may be noticeable.
  • Within the Saturation panel, slightly desaturate the Red slider to bring a more neutral look to skin tones.

When grading is complete, save an XMP preset under the Preset tab. Use an easy-to-remember file name so you’ll know later which grade goes with which shot. Repeat this process as many times as necessary.

Close Bridge when finished.