Most Common Modules To Use (and Learn)

Hi everyone,

I wanted to ask what are the most general modules you use in your workflow. I am trying to learn darktable better but have been confused in what modules to use (and dig in deeper). I have been going through videos by Bruce (honestly one of the best teaching darktable videos) but a lot of the modules fall into RGB/LAB article by Aurelien and then it becomes if I should try learning those modules at all.

I understand that the question here sounds a bit dumb and I do hope that you ignore the potential stupidity of the question and help me. Thank you.


Maybe this article is helpful (it’s basically a condensed version of Aurélien’s LAB/RGB article):


Thank you for this. This makes sense :slight_smile:

Most I use:

  • basic adjustments
  • local contrast
  • contrast equalizer (for sharpening and clarity)
  • crop

You also need to understand masking. Mask are very powerful.

My work flow seems to differ from most others.
Turn off base curve
Adjust white balance iff needed
haze removal (I have a subtle preset)
high pass (I have a subtle preset)
levels iff needed
local contrast rarely – I usually do not like what it does
filmic rgb – almost always
tone equalizer iff a tricky high contrast subject
color zones
denoise – I always turn it on, but sometimes off again too – is this a noisey subject?)

basic adjustments (with masking iff needed)
black level
exposure etc

Export as tif
Finish up in Gimp

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Currently, my main editing goal has been to get close to an ooc jpeg but a bit beyond. Just that, no artistic stuff. By beyond I mean to get a bit more dynamic range than I would have in the ooc jpeg.
To that, I use darktable with scene referred setting turned on (settings -> processing -> auto-apply pixel workflow defaults).
So, at start, I already get exposure and filmic enabled.
Then I tweak exposure, to get the right middle grey value.
Usually, I enable tone equalizer to reduce the highlights and increase shadows.
Then I enable local contrast (reduce the default setting a bit), contrast equalizer (preset deblur, large blur, strength 2 or 3), sometimes sharpening (1 for radius), then noise-profiled (usually wavelets auto works well)

Bruce Williams’ videos are very well done and informative. Another Youtube channel that is worth looking into is Harry Durgin’s. Granted, they are a bit outdated, but he is the force that really got me to learn Darktable. Here is a link that addresses the Highpass and Lowpass filters as well as a raw edit.

Don’t worry about what’s LAB and what’s not. LAB is not bad, neither is it evil. Under certain conditions, it works well. The darktable developers have done their best to put modules where they usually work best, but you can rearrange them. If a given module does not work (pushed too far, or it just can’t do what you tried to use it for), you’ll see it clearly. In that case, adjust it or try another. Read the filmic FAQ (darktable's filmic FAQ). A quote:

(from @aurelienpierre ) What if I like to use the display-referred Lab tools ?

Remember filmic is your conversion from scene pipeline to display pipeline. All the Lab modules can still be used in conjunction with filmic, even though they are not optimal.

Sharpening, contrast equalizer, high-pass and low-pass filters work in Lab but perform local operations, so they don’t rely on any definition of grey or white. As such, they should go before filmic (where they are by default in the 3.0 pipe order).

Levels, tone curve, zone system, etc. have a display-referred GUI (in the 0-100% range). These modules rely on a fixed assumption about the values of grey and white. These should better go after filmic, where the pipe is dislay-referred.

Local contrast is a local operation that rely on an hard-set definition of grey and white. For some reason, I sometimes find it works better before filmic, and sometimes really not, while it always works ok after filmic (where it is by default in the 3.0 pipe).

Check out @s7habo’s youtube channel and take his advice:

Just to reassure you: Since you don’t mix dangerous chemicals, but only harmless modules, you don’t have to worry that when you make a mistake, the whole neighborhood needs to be evacuated.

And B&W Processing with darktable - module choice & ordering

The modular structure of darktable is the ideal playground for this. I wish people wouldn’t be so scared and dare to experiment with modules much more.


While you will certainly find comfort and use some modules more than others the really value of DT is that you have complete control and options. The best thing is to get a feel for all the modules…I can go a long time and not use low pass fhen an image comes along and it’s just the right touch. Sometimes I do a full run through with the color balance module and as powerful as it is I think no maybe just boost the blue in color contrast to fix the yellow cast…because it’s quick and easy and works for that image but I could use color zones or a lab tone curve etc etc The real power is to understand color theory and to experiment how you can impact that with each of the DT tools or combination of tools to move the image in a controlled way. Often you just stumble on something…be sure to save lots of presets when you create a look or effect you like

Thank you everyone for sharing these awesome advices. This really has been clarifying and has given me better understanding on picking modules. I totally understand that learning how to work with raw files is a marathon, not a sprint :slight_smile:

these are the modules I couldn’t live without:

crop and rotate
tone equaliser
colour balance
colour zones
contrast equaliser
denoise profiled

local contrast, the tone curve and the graduated density filter are also nice, but a bit more situational for me.

like mentioned, the masking is ridiculously powerful too.

filmic is amazing too, and much more powerful than what I do instead with LUTs, but I favour that approach for its speed and consistency.

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First of all you can choose in darktable to use a scene referred or display referred workflow. Aurelien Pierre has a couple of videos about this on his YouTube channel. I go with the Filmic workflow, which disables the base curve by default.

I mostly use following modules in this order

  1. Exposure
  2. Lens correction
  3. Crop rotate
  4. Filmic rgb
  5. Local contrast
  6. Color balance
  7. Color lookup table
  8. Tone equalizer
  9. Denoise (but very gently)
  10. Multiple instances of exposure module combined with masks to dodge / burn
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Hi’ @Matt_Maguire
Thank you for a link to an interesting document named “darktable user manual”. It’s more updated than the manual I downloaded from As an example this “new” manual includes a description of the tone equalizer.
Is it a work-progress-document to be released as the next official user manual?

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It’s a work in progress that we hope will get adopted to replace the official manual once it’s finished.

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