Darktable: Modules to Avoid

category: darktable • 2 min read

With the Darktable 3.x serie, the developers have introduced a whole bunch of new concepts, including:

  • scene referred processing
  • display referred processing
  • LAB space vs Linear RGB processing

All these things have implications about which module to use or not.

Darktable 3.x is compatible with Darktable 2.x. All the Darktable 2.x modules are still there. This doesn’t mean that you should be using them. The older modules are there for compatibility purposes. If you open an image already processed in Darktable 2.x, you can still open it in Darktable 3.x and get the same output again.

If you are processing new images in Darktable 3.x, you should use the new modules:

  1. They will do a better job
  2. The new modules will continue to be improved in future versions
  3. The old modules will not be improved in future versions
  4. The Darktable development team has said:

A number of modules are not recommended due to fundamental errors in design (based on my personal opinion, which is based on my practical and theoretical experience in image retouching), and in the spirit of streamlining the workflow with a minimum number of steps. There is nothing stopping you from continuing to use them.

Aurelien Pierre

Here’s a list of the Darktable 2.x modules that you shouldn’t use for processing new images.

Darktable 2.x module Darktable 3.x preferred module
base curve color balance
bloom exposure module with masks
bloom tone equalizer
brightness color balance
color correction color balance
contrast color balance
fill light exposure module with masks
fill light tone equalizer
global tone mapping filmic rgb
high-pass filter contrast equalizer (for fine sharpness)
high-pass filter local contrast (for the general sharpness)
levels color balance
local tone mapping tone equalizer
low-pass filter contrast equalizer (for blur)
low-pass filter tone equalizer (for local dynamic range compression)
monochrome channel mixer (for a silver approach)
monochrome color balance (for a perceptual approach)
monochrome input or output saturation to 0%
rgb curve color balance
rgb levels color balance
saturation color balance
shadows and highlights tone equalizer
sharpen contrast equalizer
sharpen local contrast (for general sharpness)
velvia color balance
zone system exposure module with masks
zone system tone equalizer

Notice that there are many ways of doing things depending on what you want.

For example, the channel mixer, the color balance and the input saturation will give a different monochrome look.

But both, the exposure module with masks and the tone equalizer will give very similar fill light results.