darktable Washed-out and golden skintones effect in darktable

A fellow darktable contributor asked about the washed-out effect he discovered in one of my pictures. Here is how I do it.

First, the photo in question:

Final image

Normally, when you want to adjust skintones in studio environment, there always are golden and silver reflectors around. That’s the right way to do it. But if you really mean the global washed-out effect, you could make use of darktable.

The trick is basically a two-step operation: raising color temperature while lowering saturation. So here is the original image:

Original image

First of all, let’s raise the exposure by 1.5EV:

Raising exposure

The next thing to do in this particular case is fixing composition for which the photo needs a ca. 10° clockwise rotation. You can do it in the crop and rotate plug-in which is in the correct tab.

Rotating the image

And now comes the actual trick part. Switch back to the basic tab and in the white balance plug-in drag the temperature in slider all the way to 12K:

Raising color temperature

The effect is eye-watering, but that’s not for long, because the next thing you need to do is going to the color tab and lowering saturation in the color correct plug-in. If you go for 0.40, you get nice goldish skintones:

Golden skintones

If you go for 0.20, you get the exact washed-out look of the final image:

Washed-out colors

The last recommended part here is to bump clarity by applying a highpass filter in overlay blending mode.

Applying highpass filter in overlay blending mode

As you can see, it’s really fairly simple. However the effect can be rather harsh depending on scene, and while it works on girls and babies, it doesn’t exactly work on flowers and squirrels. Puppies and kittens? Mmmaybe. Use it wisely.

What are your favourite darktable tricks?