darktable presets and styles – How to import, create and use them [+free styles to download]
The darktable presets and the darktable styles are some of the most powerful tools to use and in this guide, you will discover all you need to know, including a few little tricks.
I absolutely love them. Why so?
Because they allow me to edit my photos quickly and speed up my workflow immensely
Without further ado let’s start
Table of Contents
More reading on Darktable
- Darktable Tutorials Hub [from beginner to advanced]
- Quick Darktable Tutorial to get started for travel photographers
- Darktable vs Lightroom: is Darktable a good free Lightroom alternative
- How to import the Lightroom catalogue in Darktable [with the same workspace]
- darktable workflow – from organizing to editing [the quick and effective way]
darktable presets and styles – in a nutshell
Here below a quick few points that may help straight away to answer a few questions:
- What are the darktable styles? They work as filters or looks that you may be already familiar with Instagram or other socials. They include a combination of adjustments that in darktable you usually do in the Editing Modules (local contrast, color zones, etc..) and are stored in the History stack (left side of the darkroom view).
- What are the darktable presets? The darktable presets work as filters or looks, however, only on one single Editing Module, this could be the local contrast only or colour zone only or any other. For example, there is a preset to emulate the Kodak Ektar film output that you can find in the Color Balance module and it changes the colours accordingly. Or you can select the “black & white film” preset in the Color Zones Module.
- Can’t we use only styles? Yes, you can, however, it’s just easier and quicker to use presets as well. It comes with practice
- Can I use Lightroom presets in darktable? Not that I am aware of. I have seen in a few forums talks about building a tool. The point is that darktable and Lightroom work in different ways and I see it highly improbable that you can ever do software to do an exact conversion, with the same look. I have personally re-created most of my usual Lightroom presets into darktable styles. And I created new ones which I could not really organise that easily in Lightroom. Later in my post, you will find links to download them for free.
- How do you use the presets in darktable? Very easy, once you activate the module, for example, Color Balance, you need to click on that hamburger icon ☰ on the rightmost side of the module. A menu will open with all the predefined available presets that you can apply (single click) to your photo. You can also create your own preset and save it with a new name.
- How to import darktable styles? Very easy. Go in the lighttable view (where you usually organise your photos) and from there click on the Styles Module , on the right side of the window. Open the module and click on the “import …” button. Once you finish importing, you will see the new styles in the available styles list. You should watch my video below (Vintage Style Package) to have a practical example.
- How can I export a darktable style? The process is very similar to the import, however, you need to click to the “export…” button instead.
- Can I import and export presets in darktable? Unfortunately, you cannot up to version 3.2.1. The workaround is however very simple, just save the preset as a style (with just one unique editing module). When you import the style (maybe on another PC) you need to save that edited module into your preset. UPDATE for version 3.4.0 and above, you can now import and export presets very easily in the Global Preferences > Preview window. You should watch my video below (RGB Curves Presets Package) to have a practical example.
- How can I organise the styles in folders and sub-folders? You need to specify the whole path separating the folders and sub-folders with the pipe key “|”. For example, “Stef Styles|Vintage|The_name_of_the_Style”. Just pay attention that lowercase and uppercase letters are different and create therefore a different folder organisation.
How to install and use darktable Presets and Styles
The quickest way to see how to install, import and use the style and presets is to watch this video below.
You will learn more on:
- Lightroom Presets Vs Darktable Styles
- Darktable Styles
- How to import a Darktable Style
- How to create a Style
- How to use Darktable Presets
How to organise and import presets and styles in darktable
In this video you will learn:
- How to organise Styles in folders
- How to import/export a Darktable Style
- Differences in darktable Presets and Styles
- All about Presets (create, import/export)
Free darktable styles and presets to download
Here below you can freely download the styles and presets.
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I have organised three packages:
- Traveller Package that applies very well to travel photos
- Vintage Package to re-create that nice vintage style in 8 possible ways that do work for landscape, city photography and portraits as well (see before/after in the video below)
- Dark Tones Package to give that nice dark tone/moody look to the photos. I use it a lot for street and city photography (see before/after in the video below)
I have developed these styles to work for the Sony A7 family.
You may need to tweak them slightly if you use other cameras.
In saying that, I use them also for the photos I take with my Samsung S9+ (JPG) and they work well
In this video below, you will see the darktable before and after of all the styles in the Vintage Package, besides all the instructions on how to import and even customize the styles to your liking.
In this other video, I show the before/after of the Dark Tones Package with a few tips that are very useful once you apply the styles.
I have organised three packages:
- Dodge & Burn to bright up or dark down areas in the photo. The technique is very similar to what Ansel Adams used to do in his darkroom. I use the Exposure Module for these presets. I developed 6 of them (3 for dodge and 3 for burn) based on the intensity of brightness/darkness.
- RGB Curve Presets Package to improve colour, contrast, highlights and shadows for both landscape and street/night photography. They can be imported only with darktable version 3.4.0 and above
- URBAN Style Colour Balance Presets Package to give that nice Urban look to your photos (see video below for before/after). These presets are imported as styles and saved as presets (see how to do it below). They work with any darktable version
You can watch how I used the Dodge & Burn presets in my black and white conversion.
In this video I used my old Dodge & Burn presets I had in the Basic Adjustments Module, deprecated from Darktable Rel. 3.6.
Use instead the Dodge & Burn Presets in the Exposure Module in the same way as in the video I use the Basic Adjustments ones.
You can watch the before/after of the RGB Curve Presets Package in the video below, including how to work with presets, saving, importing and exporting them (version 3.4.0 and above).
The Urban Style Presets are actually saved as styles, however, once imported they can be saved as presets for the Color Balance Module (workaround used till version 3.2.0)
To save it as a Preset follow these steps:
- in the lighttable view: import the Style “URBAN Style Colour Balance” you just downloaded
- apply the style to the photo
- go to the darkroom view
- open the Color Balance module (modify it as you prefer)
- click on the hamburger icon ☰
- click on “store new preset” and give the name you prefer (I called it “Urban Photo 2021”)
You can watch below the video on how I tuned the image for the Urban Style.
How to edit a darktable style
In the previous video, I explained all you need to know to edit and customize a darktable style
However, there is so much more, so many more modules you can potentially add to improve your photos and create styles or presets that you can apply to other images
I have been building a playlist of darktable tutorials that will help you just with that
And remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel for the weekly darktable tutorials.