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Colour Correction in Darktable (Shadows / Highlights)

Last updated: 05 August 2018

  1. Introduction
  2. Tips for using Color Correction module
  3. Color Balance module
  4. Original video


In his recent video Ted Forbes describes levels adjustments in Capture One, which allows to adjust levels for individual colour channels. He used this feature to shift colours separately in shadows and highlights and to approximate specific film looks.

The way he did it wasn't very intuitive. Looking around currently available modules in Darktable (my current version is 2.4.4), similar results can be obtained with Color Correction module. Using this module is easier and more intuitive compared to Ted's demonstration.

Note: This topic was covered on Darktable user mailing list in this thread. Thanks to Guillermo for the tip about Color Balance module.

Tips for using Color Correction module

Darktable ships with a few presets. They can provide a useful starting point:

Click and drag the black point to adjust shadows colour and white point to adjust highlights. The effect is stronger when you drag them further away from the centre.

You can adjust overall colour saturation by mouse wheel. When you place mouse pointer over the colour chart, the saturation goes up or down by bigger steps. If you want to fine tune it, place mouse pointer over the saturation slider itself. Or you can drag the slider, or right-click it and drag or type a value, as you would with any other slider. Refer to the official documentation for details.

Color Balance module

As an alternative to Color Correction module, one can also use Color Balance. This actually works just like the controls that Ted Forbes demonstrates in Capture One, but using sliders instead of a histogram handles. This is more flexible tool than Color Correction module but requires more experience to use effectively. There are three sections of sliders in this module:

  1. Lift – These sliders affect shadows.
  2. Gamma – These sliders affect mid-tones.
  3. Gain – These sliders affect highlights.

You will find a detailed description how this module works in the official documentation.

Original video

This video describes a feature not available in Darktable in this exact form and shape. To achieve the exactly same effects one can use Color Balance module, but the function is controlled with a set of sliders. However to set different colour temperatures and tint separately for shadows and highlights, it is easier to use Color Correction module.

Please let me know if you notice any issues in this article.

Creative Commons Licence
Colour Correction in Darktable (Shadows / Highlights) by Tomas Sobek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.