call for support: Darktable 3.6 changes colors of RAW files significantly

when i open a picture in RAW format in darktable the colors do siginficantly change. See here the difference of the same picture in two different RAW converters (darktable vs NX Studio)
RAW_NX Studio


Please provide your darktable version and operating system, the type of camera you use, your settings (modern or legacy chroma adaptation, scene- or display-referred workflow); tell us if you use OpenCL and if yes, what video card and driver version. The best would be if you could also attach an affected raw file and the XMP sidecar; you can simply upload them to the forum.


the default processing steps in darktable and NX Studio are different.
In lighttable by default the embedded ooc jpg is displayed; darkroom is operating on the raw data.
darktables history lists the steps executed by default (you can select each step to see, what exactly happened there)


If you haven’t chamged any settings in darktable, then this is fine, you are ready to start editing.

However, if you provide more information about what you have or haven’t done, we can give you a more specific answer.

I don’t understand the answers from @paperdigits, @MStraeten or @kofa. I interpret @Chris2205 question as him wondering why the same raw file looks different in NX Studio and darktable before he even “starts editing”.

@Chris2205, each raw converter interprets the image differently. If you open the file in RawTherapee, Lightroom and Capture One you will se yet three other results.

However, you will be able to edit your image in darktable to closely resemble the baseline in NX, if that is what you desire. You will have to learn some of the modules in darktable to get started. The “filmic rgb” module, the “color calibration” module and the “color balance rgb” module are all somewhat complicated but will get you a long way.


That is the gist of it, very well put.

Sorry to be so blunt, but that is the worst advice to give.
If one likes the output of NX (or whatever) then they should use that exact software and never look at anything else.

Trying to match different raw converters is

a) a recipe for disappointment
b) ignoring the strenghts that each raw converter can provide

Embrace the difference.



The color calibration is used (turned on by default) if in the settings chromatic adaptation is set to modern. By default, it is set to legacy:

color calibration also requires that the white balance module be set to camera reference, which is done automatically using the modern setting for chromatic adaptation.

filmic requires the scene-referred workflow (which is enabled by default, but is worth a check).
Hence my question regarding settings.

I think the question regarding darktable version and operating system should be self-explanatory, and the file uploads (problematic raw file + processing settings) are pretty standard here on

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As others have pointed it out, darktable does much less ‘up-front’ (automatic) processing than most other tools. Please check out some of the videos from @Bruce_Williams, probably starting here:

I can’t be sure without seeing the actual raw file, but I suspect you have it the wrong way round, and that actually NX Studio changes the colours more than darktable.


It’s also worth mentioning that some other open-source tools may give you a look more closely matching that of the camera (and Capture NX). For example RawTherapee tries to match the camera look by using an auto-matched tone curve. See:

This is not to turn you away from darktable (which is my tool of choice), just to make sure you’re aware of the other great options out there.

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Respectfully, I don’t agree. My point is that a good raw converter can make your pictures look pretty much any way you want without too much hassle as long as you take the time to fine tune your “recipe”. I would recommend considering other factors should decide when you chose a raw converter, such as:

  • The ability create the look you envision
  • The time it takes to create the look you envision (if you are time constrained)
  • The software that interprets your edit metadata should not require you to pay a monthly fee (it might be $10 this month and $30 the next month) for the rest of your life to view your edits

Also, I would recommend anyone to stay away from their camera brands own raw converter. If you ever buy a camera from another brand (which is not that unlikely) you will have two parallel workflows and it will be much harder to create new series of images from your different cameras.

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Opening the raw file in RawTherapee and chosing “None” as “Method” under “Demosaicing” will probably show that both any raw converter changes the colors pretty drastically :slight_smile:

Thanks for pointing that out. :slight_smile:

@mikae1 the points you make are very valid and I agree with you on pretty much everything, except for the point of trying to replicate the look of one converter with another. You can get close, but matching is - while theoretically possible - a futile effort. All you can learn from that exercise is that one thing simple is hard when done the other way.

darktable is an awesome example here, because you have two completely different approaches to editing RAW files inside … the legacy display referred and the modern scene referred toolchain. Even inside darktable it is nigh impossible to match those two toolchains to look the same. Mind, I am not talking about “some green is also green somehow” matching but pixel by pixel, output value by output value. The devil is in the details.

In my experience even one owns edits from one or two years back should be thrown away when revisiting images and rather start fresh with all the things one has learned in the meantime.

@Chris2205, welcome to the party.
My short answer to your original question is:
What you see is expected and it is a good thing.
Enjoy the journey. :slight_smile:

Now I see that I pretty much agree with you too. :slight_smile: For a baseline though, I think you can get pretty darn close with DCP profiles in RawTherapee or possibly LUTs and color calibration in darktable, but once you start pulling sliders and adjusting the curves you will of course get very different results depending on what software you’re using. Did I mention I want dual-illuminant DCP support in darktable (RawTherapee has it)? I’ll make a habit of saying that every time I can. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

@Chris2205, as @grubernd says, welcome! I can recommend both darktable and the RawTherapee nightlies with the local adjustment feature.

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thx for your very fast reply:
here the answers:
version: 3.6.0
OS: Windows 10 Home
camera: Nikon Z6
Settings: Modern, scene referred workflow
I do not know what OpenCL is, therefore I think i do not utilize it
attached the files
NZ6_1711.NEF (32.9 MB)
NZ6_1711.NEF.xmp (985 Bytes)

thx again for your valuable support

when I select “original” in the history stack (which is on the very bottom of the stack) the picture looks bad

‘original’ is the ‘unprocessed’ image. You can check in your camera’s raw development features that there are a number of ‘looks’ (e.g. landscape, portrait etc.) that can be applied. What your camera and Capture NX show is already a processed version.

OpenCL: darktable 3.6 user manual - opencl

NZ6_1711_01.NEF.xmp (6.1 KB)

  • raised exposure (step #10 in history)
  • auto-tuned filmic (#11)
  • enabled color balance rgb with the preset add basic colorfulness (#12)
  • enabled local contrast with the default settings (#13)

You can load the XMP file using the load sidecar file command (darktable 3.6 user manual - history stackload sidecar file).

BTW, your XMP showed some weird setting for color calibration; I just reset it to as-shot.