Developing Black and White film at Home

An overview of the method I use to develop Ilford black and white film.

Before the recent Coronavirus lock-down began I started to shoot film using my Dad's old Pentax Super ME SLR camera, and I started to learn how to develop the film myself.

With the lock-down looming, I decided to purchase a starter kit to develop film at home. And as part of that, I've decided to share my method, findings and extra information on doing it here.

Table of contents

Equipment required

  • Paterson Universal Developing Tank - 2 Reels (loaded with film)
  • 3 x 600ml Measuring Cylinders, labelled for the chemical they will contain
  • 25ml and 50ml Measuring Cylinders
  • Stirring rod
  • Thermometer (0–30°C)
  • Water bath (also known as a sink)
  • Set of film clips (or bulldog clips)
  • Film squeegee

Additional equipment:

  • Scissors
  • Negative storage sleeve
  • Sharpie

Chemicals required

Chemical Purpose Dilution Links
Ilfosol 3 Developer 1+9 (30 mL) Technical data
Ilfostop Stop bath 1+19 (15mL) Technical data
Ilford Rapid Fixer Rapid fixer 1+4 (60mL) Technical data
Ilfotol Wetting agent 1+200 (1–2ml) Technical data

Each made to up 300 mL for one roll of film. When processing two films, double the amounts used.


This article assumes you've managed to safely load the film(s) onto a reel and it is light-sealed in a development tank.

Preparing for developing

  1. Make up the chemical at the above dilutions using tap water
  2. Stir your diluted chemicals before using them
  3. Make sure it's at the right temperature. Use the water bath to heat or cool the solution to 20°C (or 25°C if it's a warm day)

General procedure

For developer, stop and fixer (in that order):

  1. Add the pre-diluted chemical to the processing tank
  2. Invert the tank 4 times over 10 seconds
  3. Repeat every minute, on the minute
  4. Empty the contents of the tank back into the measuring cylinder
  5. Move onto the next chemical

Chemical times

I know there are apps that can tell you this and can help - I prefer the old fashioned way of working it out yourself and experimenting!

Film Ilfosol 3 Ilfostop Ilford Rapid Fixer
Ilford HP5+ 400 6:30 (5:30) 0:10 2:00–5:00*
Ilford FP4+ 125 4:15 (4:00) 0:10 2:00–5:00*

Times are given for 20°C (25°C) at the above dilutions.

*See Determining fixer strength.

Washing the film

  1. Fill the tank with water at the right temperature
  2. Invert the tank 5 times
  3. Empty the water
  4. Repeat, inverting 10 times
  5. Repeat, inverting 20 times

Finishing up

  1. Add the wetting agent and agitate the film
  2. Remove the reel and hang. A shower curtain rail is useful for this
  3. Wipe off any excess water using the film squeegee
  4. Leave to dry!
  5. Cut the film into strips of 6
  6. Load into a negative storage sleeve

Then you'll be ready to scan or print your negatives.

Other information

Reusing chemicals

  • Ilfosol 3 cannot be reused
  • Ilfostop can be reused until the indicator changes colour from yellow to purple
  • Ilford rapid fixer can be used until it becomes too weak to fix the film in a reasonable time

I store my diluted chemicals in a sealed glass chemical jar, in a cool, dark place.

Determining fixer strength

The time used for the fixer is dependent on how fresh the fixer is. A fresh batch will only need the shorter time, but a used batch may require longer.

Steps to determine the strength of the fixer:

  1. Take a small amount of undeveloped film (you can use some cut-offs from when loading your film onto the reel)
  2. Drop it into the fixer
  3. Time how long it takes the film to go see-through
  4. Double it to get your fixing time
  5. Get the film out of the fixer!

If the fixer takes longer than 2½ minutes, make up some new fixer.