Black and White Film Processing Howto

This page is aimed at people processing film for the first time. You do not need access to a darkroom; all of this can be performed using a kitchen or laundry sink.

Required Kit

You will need the following equipment:

Required Chemicals

The following chemicals are required:


For your first attempts, a liquid concentrate with excellent shelf-life is the easiest option, e.g. Rodinal, LC29 or HC110. Dilute it according to the instructions that it came with, being careful that:

Stop Bath

Stop bath is a dilute acid that kills any developer left on the film after you've poured the developer out of the tank. You can buy concentrated stop bath, or dilute some white vinegar about 1+4 (20%), or just use water.


Buy a Rapid Fixer (Ammonium Thiosulphate) instead of an old-style "Hypo" (Sodium Thiosulphate) fixer. The Kodak and Ilford versions are readily available as liquid concentrates. Ilford also sells Hypam, which is also a Rapid Fixer and a perfectly good choice.


You need to perform the following steps in order:

Mixing Developer

The easiest way to measure out liquid concentrates is with a medical syringe (no needle) obtained from a pharmacy; should be well under $1 each. Squirt the developer into a carefully-measured quantity of water in your measuring jug then use the same water to rinse the developer dregs out of the syringe.

If you decide to use a powder developer like D76, mix up the stock solution according to the directions one day before you plan to use it. Do not mix up a partial batch by dividing the powder. Measure out and dilute the stock using your measuring jug just before you plan to use it because the diluted developer will generally not keep overnight.

Place one drop of Photoflo into your diluted developer; this will help prevent bubbles forming. Any more than a few drops and you will cause foam, which will be worse.

Mixing Fixer

Mix the fixer concentrate at 1+4, i.e. at 20%. You probably want to make up 500mL by mixing 100mL of fixer with 400mL of clean water. That batch of fixer is good for approximately 10 rolls of film.

Temperature Control

Developing is always done at 20C and you need to be accurate to about half a degree. Use your thermometer to measure the developer temperature while you heat or cool the developer until it reaches temperature. Cooling is easily done in the fridge, and heating is best done by placing the jug full of developer in a bath of hot water, making sure not to get any extra water in the developer.

While you can in principle develop at other temperatures, this requires time-compensation which is a little film-dependent so it's very hard to get consistent results. It's much better to just control the temperature, which means time is your primary variable for varying development.

Load Film (35mm)

Place the following items in your dark bag:

It's best to practise this in daylight a few times with a scrap roll of film; try it for real once you can do it with your eyes closed.

Load Film (120)

This is a bit harder than for 35mm because the film is so wide and prone to crinkling/jamming. Get some practise with 35mm first if you can, then sacrifice a roll to practise the winding-on process a few times. Some films like Pan-F are papery-dry and not prone to jamming, while some like Acros are more plasticky and annoying to load into Paterson spirals.

Use a hairdryer to get the spiral bone-dry, even if it was already dry. This step is critical for preventing moisture-related film jams; if you don't do it, you can find yourself with your hands in a dark bag for 45 minutes fighting with the film. The sweat from your hands will make it jam worse, and the crinkling of the film causes little exposed crescents in the pictures.

Place the following items in your dark bag:

Once your hands are in the bag and it's closed:


Once you have the film loaded into the daylight tank and the developer at 20C, you need to look up the development time for your film/developer combination.

Chemical processing steps are:

Pour the developer into the tank as rapidly as possible and begin agitation:

The basic agitation sequence is:

Your timing should start from when most of the developer is in the tank.

Once the time is up, pour the developer down the sink - most are used only once and then discarded. Immediately pour in the stop bath and begin continuously inverting the tank for one minute. If using water for stop bath, you will need to change the water about three times; if using commercial stop bath then just agitate for a minute. Once the stop bath has been in there for a minute, pour it out; water goes down the drain, commercial stop bath goes back in a plastic bottle for reuse.

Next, pour in the fixer at working dilution (1+4). Use the same agitation scheme (1 minute continuous then 10s per minute) for 4-5 minutes for most films or 8 minutes on TMAX. Timing is not critical as long as there is enough time for the fixer to work to completion.

Pour the fixer back out into its storage bottle for reuse.

Hypo Clear

Hypo Clearing Agent (HCA) works chemically to remove the fixer ("hypo") from the film, which reduces the amount of washing required. It's not strictly necessary for film (especially if you wash for about 10 minutes) and is more important for fibre paper when printing.

If you're going to use this step:

The concentration of HCA you use will depend on the brand you buy, so you'll have to follow the instructions it comes with to dilute it correctly. Once mixed up to a working solution it won't keep for more than a few days, so reuse it as much as possible within a developing session and then discard it.


The film must be repeatedly washed in water until all fixer is removed; if you don't wash sufficiently then the fixer will destroy the silver image while the negative is in storage. The most water-efficient method ("The Ilford Method") is:

However, about 6 changes of water over the course of 10 minutes (with agitation for most of that period) is often a better idea and more agitation in the later washes will also help.

The final step in washing is to make up some Photoflo (about 1+200 to 1+500 dilution depending on how hard your water is) and let the film soak in the Photoflo for about 30s. Photoflow is just detergent and not chemically active so it can be reused as much as you like within a session however it should not be kept more than a day or two because slime will grow in it.


Remove the film from the Photoflo and hang it up to dry. It should be in a lint-free place because any lint or dust contacting the negative at this point will become embedded in the surface of the gelatin emulsion and can never be removed.

You may gently squeegee the film between two fingers that have been moistened in Photoflo but beware that any specks of dust or grit on the film or your fingers will scratch the emulsion. Squeegeeing reduces the chances of drying-marks occurring on the film but there is a danger of scratching, particularly with older-style soft emulsions, e.g. from Foma and Efke.

The film must be allowed to completely dry.

Once the film is removed from the spiral and drying, the spiral should be rinsed in very hot (50C) water for a minute in order to remove all traces of Photoflo.


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