I’m sure I’m asking the obvious here ...

I’m sure I’m asking the obvious here … but I just can’t seem to find the answer.

I’ve worked out how to use the Retouch module. If I want to do a single retouch, that’s fine. My problem is, if an image requires a number of retouches … or cloning areas, then the whole workspace becomes very cluttered with loads of lines and sqiggles to the point where it becomes impossible to work out what you’re doing.

Also, having worked on an image, if you want to just carry out just a little more, it’s very easy to screw up what you’ve already done. Is there anyway to say to DarkTable … yes, fine so far, lets just build on that … instead of risking all the work done to that point?

you can use multiple instances of retouch module to do avoid too much corrections in one instance


I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean. If you use multiple instances, you just get multiple instances of 'from-to’s cluttering up the screen. You can’t seem to hide the ones that have already been satisfactorily completed.

I think you automatically don’t see them if you click into a different module or instance. I am not quite sure what you mean. dt has no layers like Gimp or PS.

Yes but, if you return to Retouch, to carry out further edits, then all your previous works reappear. Trying to keep them all separate seems impossible and it’s far too easy to screw up what you’ve already achieved.

I think what @MStraeten was referring to was creating a new instance of the module with the “duplicate” icon next to the module name (the left-most of the three icons you see there). Make sure you select the “new instance” option…

In that case, you only see the “from-to’s” defined in that particular copy of the module.

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No, if you create a new instance of the module, the previous work remains applied.

OK, that works … to a degree. It’s seems rather laborious, opening new instances every time. You could easily end up with 20, 30 or more instances.

Also, I just discovered, the previous retouches don’t form part of the image. For example, I was just playing with a cloudy sky. I can clone a cloud, adding it to another part of the sky. However, if I then try to clone my newly created cloud to another patch of sky, all I get is blank sky … it’s almost as if the cloud, which I can plainly see, is invisible to the retouch tool.

I think each cloning operation (within an instance of the retouch module) starts from the image as it is just before the module. So while you will see the just cloned cloud, a second cloning operation within that instance won’t see it.

So, is there a way of ‘banking’ what you’ve done so far, so that it sees all the changes to date? … or do you have to keep exporting/re-importing?

Thats intended since darktable is nondestructive. You’re also able to revert everything you did while editing independently from other editing steps

In your particular case, a new instance of the retouch module should see the changes from the previous instance. The case you describe is a bit particular, as you want to use the results of an operation within the same module instance (if I understand correctly what you are trying to do).

It’s one of those things that can be reasoned both ways. I think I prefer the current situation, where each cloning operation starts from the original module input.
(And note that that’s the module input, not the original image you started with, so all previous modules are active at that point).

But given your replies so far, perhaps you could describe what you are trying to do, or provide an image you are trying to edit? E.g. you don’t have to create a new module instance for every cloning operation, just when you feel the screen gets too cluttered. But that begs the question why you need that many cloning operations. (20-30 is a lot, I think)

If you hold down the ctrl-key when you choose the retouch tool to use (circle, brush etc) then you won’t see the source/target pairs, and you can also make multiple edits in one go. If you don’t hold ctrl-key, then you will see them and you will also have to choose the tool again for every edit. I have had up to more than 300 retouch edits in one image without problems (dust removal on old negatives). There is no need for new instances of the module until you reach the max number of edits possible. I have reached the limit a couple of times, I think it was around 360 or so. Usually nothing to worry about.

I was just playing generally, trying to get my head around how it all works. 20-30 is not very much when you’re cleaning up old images with lots of dust and other imperfections. Many of my pre-digital pictures, scanned from negatives, have an awful lot of cleaning up to do.

Actually, hpbirkeland’s ctrl-key solution has also solved the problem with the tool not seeing previous clones. I now can clone a clone or even a clone of a cloned clone!

Yes, that worked! I appreciate your help. Thank you.

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Yes, I appreciate that, although there are times you want to save a certain level of edits, for fear of messing it up again.

Then you might export and reimport the image as openexr & rec2020 just after retouch …

Maybe save a temporary preset or work with duplicates…just duplicate and continue and go back and delete the duplicates…or insert a dummy no-op module then go back to your retouch …if you screw up you can just go back to where it was in the history. So currently you are on line 10…add an exposure module with no changes. then go back to retouch…if you edit gets messed you can just go back to line 10 and press on…I think that should work…unless you compress it by accident when you screw up and then you would likely lose it if you were not careful but you try to see if you can use something like one of those as you work?? Just a thought

Are you sure you understand what a new instance means? I just cannot imagine that for Retouch it’d work differently from everything else.


BTW, there’s a detailed description of Retouch at https://www.darktable.org/2018/12/darktable-26/

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DSC_0097.NEF (26.5 MB) Just when I thought I was getting my head around this program, I thought I would download a random image from the internet … just to experiment with. I’ve attached it here. Nothing I learnt about the retouch module (I haven’t tried anything else yet) works with it.

I’m wondering if, maybe, this program might not be what I’m looking for. I’m actually trying to find a suitable replacement for Aperture. My wife uses that all the time and can’t manage without it. Apple have pulled the plug on it so she’s been forced to reset her iMac to an earlier operating system that will allow the program to run. No other program we’ve found offers the features that Aperture has. It’s been suggested that LightRoom is the answer but that doesn’t make financial sense for the modest amount of use it would get. Hence the reason I decided to investigate DarkTable.

I’m a visual learner. Reading through manuals just doesn’t “stick” for me. My wife is even worse. I have to learn a program first then walk her through it. I haven’t found a tutorial video that really explains Darktable 3.4. Those that there are tend to concentrate on the changes from the earlier versions, so expect you to already have prior experience.