Linux has several photo editing applications that one can use. It all depends on what you what to edit on your image and the consistency and quality of the work you want to produce. There are several tools used to edit images on Linux which include, GIMP, Inkscape, Darktable, Pinta, Krita, ShowFOTO, etc.

Darktable is a free, open-source application for editing and managing raw files. It is cross-platform and is supported on macOS, Linux, Free BSD, and Windows operating systems. It is quite similar to Adobe Lightroom but with more advantages, more features, and more tools to edit the files. You have more control over contrast, lighting, colors, and the look and feel of your photos. The application is subdivided into six functionalities which include;

  • Lighttable: -left panel for importing images from the file system.
    – Right panel for selecting images and editing metadata for selected images.
    – Bottom panel with star ratings and color labels, mode selector, and zoom.
  • Darkroom is the page that allows you to develop your image with the center panel containing the image currently being edited.
  • Tethering allows you to directly capture an image into the darkroom from the camera that is connected.
  • The map view allows you to find images without geotags and tag the ones without.
  • Slideshow view allows you to view a slide show of your current collection of images with filters and sort rules applied.
  • Print view allows you to print your images and may require adjusting printer settings to initiate printing.

Darktable focuses on improving the photographer’s work by allowing editing of multiple files at the same time. Darktable can be controlled by Lua Scripts that are used to define actions for darktable to perform when an event is triggered. Darktable runs Lua scripts automatically on startup.

Darktable Features

  • Non-destructive editing throughout the complete workflow, your original images are never modified.
  • Support Variety of Image formats: (e.g. JPEG, CR2, NEF, HDR, PFM, RAF … ).
  • Zero-latency, zoomable user interface: through multi-level software caches darktable provides a fluid experience.
  • Multiple Languages: Currently supports 21 translations.
  • Automate repetitive tasks: This includes zooming, rotating, and adjusting covers to multiple photos.
  • Flexible database queries to search images using color and tags.
  • Supports mask to be manually applied to specific areas of the photo.
  • Can export images to Flickr and Facebook.
  • Supports a variety of image adjustment plugins.
  • Highly customizable including changing themes and user font size.

This guide will show you how to install Darktable on Windows, Linux, and macOS systems.

Install Darktable on Windows

Minimum System Requirements

  • RAM: 4 GB / 8 GB
  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 / Intel Core i5 4×2.4 GHz
  • GPU: none / Nvidia with 1024 CUDA cores, 4 GB, OpenCL 1.2 compatible
  • free disk space: 250 MB / 1 GB

Download the Darktable executable file for Windows from the official site.

Double click on the file to install it. The setup wizard opens as shown, click Next to continue.

Click Next to accept the License Agreement. Choose the location to store the installation files then choose the name of the folder at the start menu to use to access Darktable. Then select components to install whereby the application and debugging are selected automatically as shown.

Click Install to start the installation then afterward click on finish to exit the setup.

Then you can launch Darktable from the start menu

Install Darktable on Ubuntu

I will install Darktable on Ubuntu 20.04

Update your system packages using the following command.

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

Add the repository using the following command.

echo 'deb /' | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/graphics:darktable.list

Add the official Darktable GPG key.

curl -fsSL | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/graphics_darktable.gpg > /dev/null

Update your system and install the Darktable package.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install darktable

Launch the application from the launcher as shown below.

Install Darktable on macOS

Install Homebrew on your system using the following command.

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Install darktable using homebrew

brew install --cask darktable

Launch Darktable on Linux / macOS

The layout of Darktable is the same across all Operating systems. The lighttable view is the one that appears as shown below with the ratings and panel on the right to assist you in managing your collection of images including tagging.

To import images, click on Import

Then this is how the view is with the images imported.

Clicking on Darkroom on the upper part of the right panel opens the darkroom view with the image selected in view as shown below.

Darkroom view opens only when you have an image selected. Hence ensure you select an image before opening the darkroom view.

On the left panel, there are options to help manage our workflow like snapshots and history that record any type of edit applied to the image and allow you to go back to a specific time in case not satisfied with the latest edit of the image.

On the right panel side, it has tools that help further edit your image, It includes the technical tab that has tools to adjust things like reducing digital noise. The next tab is for color grading which has tools for color correcting your images. The final tab is for effects that enable you to sharpen your images.

Create Preset on Darktable

You can edit the tools and customize them in groups based on your editing workflow of the tools that you frequently use instead of going through all the tools. Click on the menu on the right panel and select Manage Presets

Click on New to create a New Preset

Name the Preset and click OK.

Click on the ‘+’ sign next to module groups to ad a module group

Name the Module group and apply the base icon you want. Then select from the available field the tools you would frequently use under the module.

Do the same on the next groups you want to add.

Close the window. The preset saves automatically. Doing back to the menu will show the new Preset name.

Then selecting it will display only the tools that you want to use for the groups added.

And that is how you ad groups with respect to the type and tools you want to use in your workflow and the frequency of use.

Using the TAB key hides the panels that are visible and pressing it again makes them visible once more.


From this guide, we have gone through what Darktable software is and its features. We have installed Darktable on Windows, Linux, and macOS. We have also seen the basic layout of darktable and how to import the images from your file system and edit them to your liking then print or export them to other applications like Facebook We have also seen how different tools can be grouped together to reduce time in looking among all the editing tools available on the darkroom view.


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