Developing film at home. Part one.

I get asked fairly regularly about how it is possible to develop film at home without a darkroom so I'm putting together a handy series of articles that detail how I develop film at home.  In part one below, I will detail what items you will need to acquire in order to develop in the way that I am used to developing.  There are lots of alternatives and substitutions that could be made for each item but in an effort to keep you from a lot of unnecessary and expensive trial and error, I've narrowed down the choices and provided links to those items I know work and are most commonly in stock.  I do not get a kickback from any of these companies.  You could find many of the same items on or, all companies that I deal with regularly. 

In part two of the series, I will go through what you can expect from the developing experience in terms of time invested, cost of materials versus sending it all out for lab development and how safe it is to do home developing.   Part three will go through the black and white development process with Rodinal.  In part four we will go through the C-41 color negative film development process with the Tetenal color press kit.  In part five we will revisit the black and white development process with Rodinal but this time we will explore stand development, what it is, how to do it and why is it beneficial in certain scenarios.  In part six, we'll again revisit black and white development but this time using my current favorite developer, Kodak Xtol,  as the developer of choice.   We'll discuss the difference between Xtol and Rodinal, the unique characteristics of each one and why you might choose one over the other.  In part seven, I'll go into three methods for developing 4x5 sheet film shot with a large format view camera or 4x5 pinhole camera. 

Items you will need for both B&W and C-41 Color film developing:

Patterson Universal Tank.  These come in various sizes from two reels all the way up to eight reels.  When listed, the reel size is assumed to be sized for 35mm film.  So a two reel tank is for two 35mm films or one 120 film.  The three reel tank is for three 35mm films or two 120 films.  A five reel tank is for five 35mm films or three 120 films.   An eight reel tank is for eight 35mm films or five 120 films.  You want to pick the size that will be most economical since they will need to be filled with an appropriate amount of developer.  For instance, you don't want a five reel tank if you are only ever going to develop two reels at a time.  Also remember, you will want to do all the same type and ISO of film together at the same time.  So all your Ilford HP5+ 400 ISO at the same time and not one roll of HP5+ and one roll of Deltaa 100 which would have two different ISO ratings and therefore different development times. 

Two reel version (Handles 2 35mm films or 1 120 film.  Includes two reels):

Three reel version (Handles 3 35mm films or 2 120 films.  No reels included):

Patterson reels.  You wind the film around these reels using a ratcheting motion.  This is done in the complete darkness inside either a changing bag or in a light tight room like a bathroom with no windows and a towel under the door to block outside light from entering.

Changing bag.  This is a double layered light tight black bag with holes where your arms enter through at the bottom and Double zippers at the top.  It sort of resembles an upside down T-Shirt.  You will place the Patterson tank, reels, film rolls and scissors into the bag where you will roll the film onto the Patterson and reels and then stick those loaded reels into the Patterson tank and close the lid before opening the changing bag.   These are sold in different sizes.  Don't EVER get anything less than a large size or you will get very frustrated trying to spool the film onto the Patterson reels.

Scissors.  You will need to cut the end of the film closest to the reel it comes spooled on in order to remove it from that reel in preparation for re-rolling it onto the Patterson reel.   Just use a standard pair of scissors but make sure the opening is wide enough to cut across the entire width of the roll of film in one cut. 

35mm film cassette opener.  This is used to pop the top off a 35mm cassette to get at the roll of film.   If you are only developing 120 medium format roll film, you don't need this.

Rubber gloves, latex, box of 100.  You will be indirectly handling chemicals that could cause skin irritations in some people who are sensitive so it's best to wear gloves.

Plastic graduated pitcher.  You will mix your chemicals in this and pour them into the Patterson tank.  You can work with just one and rinse it thoroughly between steps.

Kodak Photo-Flo wetting agent:  This is the final step in the development process.  Soaking the film in Photo-Flo decreases the chance of water streaks and droplet marks developing on your film while it is hanging up to dry.

Drying hanger.  You need a way to hang up your film to dry.  I've been using a plastic clothes drying "octopus" hanger that has 16 nicely spaced clips to hang film on and occupies a small space.  You can hang this up in a dust free closet while the film is drying.

Printfile archival sleeves for 35mm (100 pack).

Printfile archival sleeves for 120 (100 pack).

Items specific to black and white film developing:

Plastic Transfer Pipettes 3ml, Graduated, Pack of 100.  You will use these to measure specific milliliter amounts when mixing your developer.  You will also use these when mixing stop bath. Each one is single use and are thrown out afterwards.

65oz dark brown plastic storage jug.  You will need two of these.  One for storing pre-mixed Kodak Indicator Stop Bath and the other for pre-mixed Ilford Rapid Fixer.

Delta 1 heavy duty filter funnel.  You will use this when pouring the Ilford Rapid Fixer back in its jug.  The filter helps remove any clumps of Silver that may have formed.

Regular household kitchen funnel.  You will use one of these to pour the Kodak Indicator stop bath back in its jug.  Any funnel from the dollar store can be used for this but don't EVER use this again for food. 

Adox Adonol (Rodinal) B&W Film developer.  This is a highly dilute B&W film developer with long shelf life and the ability to stand development when necessary.   This is a one-shot developer meaning you use it once then pour it down the drain.

Kodak Indicator Stop Bath.  Stop bath ends the development process on the film.  You can also use tap water for this step but it will take about 3-4 minutes of constant running water to accomplish this which is a waste of water and can add up over time.  You mix this up ahead of time, in a 16ml to 1 liter dilution with distilled water.  This will have a very vinegar kind of smell to it.  Kodak indicator stop bath can be re-used again and again until it "indicates" that it is exhausted by turning a violet color.   Then you can dump it down the drain and mix up a fresh batch.

Ilford Rapid Fixer.  Fixer removes the silver from the film rendering the film light safe.  Fixer can be re-used up to about 20 rolls.  You mix it up ahead of time, diluted in a 1:4 solution with distilled water.  Because the fixer draws out the silver from the film emulsion and silver is a heavy metal and dangerous to the environment, you will need to dispose of used up fixer in accordance with your local hazardous chemicals regulations that your community enforces.  Often times communities have a set of days where you can drop off hazardous materials for disposal.

Items specific to C-41 color developing:

Tetenal C-41 Press Kit for Color Negative Film.  This comes as a three powder solution.  One is color developer.  Another is BLIX (Bleach + Fixer).  The third is stabilizer. Each is mixed with distilled water, per the printed instructions, ahead of time and stored in separate bottles, properly labeled.  You will re-use each of these for up to about 16-20 rolls.  It doesn't have great shelf life so you should batch up all your color negatives and do larger batches over a shorter period of time.  It will last usually no longer than two months. 

950ml black plastic bottles.  You will need three of these, one each for color developer, BLIX and stabilizer.

Regular household kitchen funnel.  You will use three of these to pour each of the three chemicals back into their respective bottles.  Any funnels from the dollar store can be used for this but don't EVER use this again for food.  Have three different ones, each dedicated and labeled for developer, BLIX and stabilizer.  Because of the time and temperature critical nature of color developing you will not have the time to rinse a single funnel to re-use it. 

12" thermometer 60-150 degree range in 1/2 degree increments.  Temperature is super critical in color developing so a 1/2 degree increment thermometer is also critical.