Darktable: Modules to Avoid

With the Darktable 3.x serie and continued with the Darktable 4.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 and 4.x are 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 only there for compatibility purposes. If you open an image already processed in Darktable 2.x, you can still open it in Darktable 3.x or 4.x and get the same output again.

If you are processing new images in Darktable 3.x or 4.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 moduleDarktable 3.x/4.x preferred module
base curvecolor balance
bloomexposure module with masks
bloomtone equalizer
brightnesscolor balance
color correctioncolor balance
contrastcolor balance
fill lightexposure module with masks
fill lighttone equalizer
global tone mappingfilmic rgb
high-pass filtercontrast equalizer (for fine sharpness)
high-pass filterlocal contrast (for the general sharpness)
levelscolor balance
local tone mappingtone equalizer
low-pass filtercontrast equalizer (for blur)
low-pass filtertone equalizer (for local dynamic range compression)
monochromechannel mixer (for a silver approach)
monochromecolor balance (for a perceptual approach)
monochromeinput or output saturation to 0%
rgb curvecolor balance
rgb levelscolor balance
saturationcolor balance
shadows and highlightstone equalizer
sharpencontrast equalizer
sharpenlocal contrast (for general sharpness)
velviacolor balance
zone systemexposure module with masks
zone systemtone 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.