How to use Darktable to acheive stylized image effects

Thank you so much for these insights. This gives me exactly the information I am missing sometimes looking at the videos only:
What do we want to achieve and how can we reach the goal.


This is really awesome. From my perspective what I need to learn is how to analyze the traits of a given style to understand its difference from the starting point, and then know how to apply the module settings to translate the original to the finished product.

An ongoing thread along these lines could be very helpful

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Boris you are generating some great content lately…I am trying to share relevant bits to the fb page as many don’t make it over here…great work here and on the filmic thread…your vision translated to the software tools is an invaluable resource…Thanks…

EDIT one question when you move to use the cc module as a channel mixer why do you enable cat vs bypass. Does this alter how the channel mixer edits are applied…I always assumed the CAT was for WB back to D50 pipeline and otherwise you left it in bypass to do channel mixing…just wondering??


I must admit that I don’t understand why, but through experimentation I have found that with the CAT the channel mixer behaves most like I know it from before. So, the results are the most consistent. But maybe I’m doing something wrong. :wink:

Thanks for your reply…maybe @aurelienpierre can comment when he gets a moment…

AP just wondering when using the CC module in a separate instance as the channel mixer I assumed to set it in bypass mode …Boris through some real world experience feels he gets better results setting it to CAT 16…would you have any comment on this…I am not sure that exact thing came up in your video…excuse me if I missed it…

Yes, but it is not important to know exactly all details but rather basic color mood and that is relatively easy to see.

The second reason not to worry too much is the fact that the styles are very much dependent on the motives.

And the third reason is that if a lot of people use the same or similar style, the photos will quickly become boring.

This is the most difficult part. I recommend to take a good look at a couple of modules and get to know them well. As far as color handling is concerned, color calibration and color balance modules are the most powerful tools for this.

They have fantastic, very well thought-out functionality and are a real " swiss knife" for color grading. Many find these modules very complex, but this “complexity” is very justified.


Now let’s look at the “Moody” style:

This low key style seems to be a kind of imitation of the technique used in analog film known as bleach bypass:

For example, Polish cinematographer Janusz Kamiński used this technique very effectively for the movie “Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg.

Bleach bypass is often reproduced digitally by using of multiply blend mode to combine a monochromatic version of the photo with very low saturated original.

So what are the characteristics of this style and how we can reproduce it in darktable?

As it looks, in shadows and mid-grey area darker greenish-brownish olive tones with low saturation prevail and the highlights look more grayish-bluish, also with a low saturation. The reds, however, seem to stand out both in contrast and saturation.

Let’s start from the point where we put the second instance of the color calibration module above filmic and selected CAT16(CIECAM16) illuminant adaptation in the CIE tab:

Since in the “Moody” style the colder colors are darker than warmer ones, in the “brigthness” tab we will darken green and blue channel and lighten red one:

In the next step we take color balance module above the second instance of color calibration and try to achieve a brownish basic mood, especially in middle gray area. And we also reduce the saturation of the photo with both input saturation and output saturation:

Now we mimic “bleach bypass” by applying multiply blend mode to a monochrome version of the photo using colorize module.

We turn on the colorize module, set it above the color balance module, select a colder color there and apply multiply blend mode. I recommend to select RGB (scene) in “blending options” and then multiply blend mode in the menu:

We are already pretty close to the basic mood of the style, we just need to increase the saturation a bit for warmer colors. For this we use color zones module and with the help of parametric mask we limit the effect of saturation only to darker middle gray area:

More examples:


Omg Boris. This is great!
Would love more posts on this subject with creative work in darktable.

Best regards

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My take on Moody style.
First is SOOC JPG and second my edit. Maybe too much olive green in the shadows?
Glad to receive CC.

DSCF6919.RAF.xmp (21.1 KB)

DSCF6919.RAF (55.0 MB)

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Last, we have “Boho & Brown” style on the list:

This preset actually includes two different styles, each with green and brown tone (and of course countless variations in between). I’ll use this illustration as a template:

All other versions in between you can then consider as an exercise. :upside_down_face:

What are the characteristics?

Green version seems to have some pastel green in foreground. All other colors are more desaturated. Highlights have a kind of pastel off-yellow to them.

Brown version is dominated by brown tone in all brightness areas except highlights and is a little darker/richer in contrast than green version. The saturation is also much stronger especially in the darker middle grays. The colder colors have less saturation here.

Let’s start with green version. As usual, we begin from here:

Because green is the dominant color, let’s move a little from green and blue to green from the red channel:

In the blue channel, let’s move a little red into yellow and thus we will strengthen green even more and red will not be so strong:

Because apart from green, red and blue should have less saturation, we decrease the red and blue channels in the colorfulnes tab:

In the brightness tab we darken the green and blue channels and lighten the red. This will make the warmer colors brighter:

We now need to desaturate the photo a little more to get the pastel colors. It is important that the lighter areas are desaturated more than the darker ones.

We do this with the color balance module, which we place above the second instance of color calibration. For desaturation we use parametric mask to protect darker areas more:

We use one more instance of color balance module to achieve this off-yellow pastel color tone. At the same time we also correct the contrast a bit:

The brown version is relatively simple.

We only need one more instance of color balance to achieve the brown tone of the photo. We amplify the red-orange tones in the shadows (offset) and mid-tones (power) and limit this saturation with parametric mask on shadows and mid-gray:

More examples:


Hi @Toand007,

Nice that you play with the styles!

If you offer us your raw file, please choose a license for it, so we can use your photo. Here is a hint for that:

Thank you,

So, we have now shown with a few examples how to imitate different color styles with darktable.

I would like to make a few comments in this regard:

Dealing with colors in photography has to be learned!

Blindly copying styles and applying them everywhere makes no sense. You don’t put ketchup and mayonnaise on every meal either.

Color mood is always dependent on the subject and must be very wisely considered, otherwise it becomes very quickly arbitrary and boring.

Also, applying or even buying presets from other people will not make your photos better. In fact, you are paying to stay unskilled. The only thing that makes sense is to study these presets and develop your own interpretations.

In this respect, this imitation of presets that I have presented above is only a preview of how to achieve this and in no way a recommendation on how to process your photos. I will never process my photos in this way.

Dealing with colors and countless color moods is a topic on its own and software independent. Even if you have a good mastery of software, that is by no means a guarantee that your photos will look good. This is often the case with beginners, that they attribute dissatisfaction with results to the functionality of the software.

That’s why there are so many “enhancement plugins” in commercial software that exploit this lack of knowledge and promise to enhance your photos with a few sliders.

P.S: I forgot to say that if someone wants to know what color mood might suit a particular photo, they can send their raw file here (or as Play Raw) and people can consider it. I will participate in any case. :wink:


Above files (DSCF6919.RAF and .XMP) are licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution, Share-Alike.

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Moody look definitely makes your photo look pleasantly calm, because the colors are more subdued and they don’t fight with strong contrasts.

However, due to this darker mood coupled with strong contrasts of the scene, the main subject - woman with the child - gets lost in the shadows (due to the shadows of the houses on the right, the balance shifts in this direction).

I tried to make the photo a little brighter and wanted to know how it would have looked if the shadows and mid-gray areas were made warmer:

Besides the warmer atmosphere, the shadows of the houses are no longer so strong and the woman and child come out a little better. And it also looks a little bit like analog film from 70s. :grin:

And this has awakened another association in me:

When I was a child, I had pneumonia and had to spend a few days in a children’s hospital in a city by the sea. I remember taking regular walks along the harbor with my mother. The fresh winter sea air did me a lot of comfort and I also enjoyed the view of the sea and the ships that were lying there. It was a different world for me.

And when I think of childhood, I always remember the photos my parents took and that typical Agfa 200 color film look. :grin:

So I tried to imitate that:

DSCF6919_03.RAF.xmp (9,1 KB)


Thank you a lot for the CC! Really like it brighter and the Agfa 200 color look.
Glad it brought up som good memories :slight_smile:


Here’s my go at the moody effect. Before:

And after:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Very true! If your images tell nothing without filter effects, they will not out of a sudden become great by copying and pasting filter settings from elsewhere.

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The lightoom presets that are of interest to me lately are the black and gold ones such as

Since they give you some patches you could likely read them with an LAB color picker and change the patches to absolute in the color lut module and edit the primary patches and the gray ramp just to see how close you could come…

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This can be done very easily with color zones module.

Let’s take the first example:

We need to move red and yellow towards orange and desaturate the rest.

Example photo:

In the saturation tab we choose monotonic spline as interpolation method. Then we desaturate all colors except red, yellow and a small part of green:

In the hue tab we move the three colors to orange. Here we also use monotonic spline:

As a last step we can increase the contrast with the color balance module:

Now you can try to imitate other styles from the collection with this method.