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
- Chemicals required
- Finishing up
- Other information
- 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
- Negative storage sleeve
|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
- Make up the chemical at the above dilutions using tap water
- Stir your diluted chemicals before using them
- 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)
For developer, stop and fixer (in that order):
- Add the pre-diluted chemical to the processing tank
- Invert the tank 4 times over 10 seconds
- Repeat every minute, on the minute
- Empty the contents of the tank back into the measuring cylinder
- Move onto the next chemical
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.
Washing the film
- Fill the tank with water at the right temperature
- Invert the tank 5 times
- Empty the water
- Repeat, inverting 10 times
- Repeat, inverting 20 times
- Add the wetting agent and agitate the film
- Remove the reel and hang. A shower curtain rail is useful for this
- Wipe off any excess water using the film squeegee
- Leave to dry!
- Cut the film into strips of 6
- Load into a negative storage sleeve
Then you'll be ready to scan or print your negatives.
- 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:
- Take a small amount of undeveloped film (you can use some cut-offs from when loading your film onto the reel)
- Drop it into the fixer
- Time how long it takes the film to go see-through
- Double it to get your fixing time
- Get the film out of the fixer!
If the fixer takes longer than 2½ minutes, make up some new fixer.