Got It
This website uses cookies. More details


Learn Photography

Photo Tips > How to Develop Film


B&W film developing is easy.

However, the first time you develop your film, it will take you two or more hours.

After you become familiar with the process, it may take only 30 to 40 minutes.

That's probably less time than it would take to go to a lab to drop the film off, and to make another trip to pick it up.

And, you can do a better job than most labs.

Supplies Needed

Non–Chemical Supplies

From the Camera Store

Item Comment
Change bag A change bag enables you to roll the film onto a reel without a darkroom. You'll put your film, developing tank, scissors, and a bottle opener, inside of the change bag. Then, you'll close the two zippers on the change bag. There are two arm holes. You'll put your hands through them to roll the film onto a reel.
Patterson 2-reel tank and two Patterson reels Patterson plastic reels are easier to use than stainless-steel reels.
Digital darkroom thermometer The chemicals for B&W film developing must be at 68°F (20°C).
40ml. and 100 ml. graduates You'll measure small quantities of chemicals with the graduates.
Three 2–quart, brown plastic bottles You'll make dilute solutions of stop bath, fixer, and Heico Perma-Wash, and will store them in the bottles.
Four 1-liter pitchers Make sure the measurement markings are metric. Don't use for food.
Kodak chemical stirring paddle Plastic

Chemicals from the Camera Store

Use liquid concentrates, rather than dry, powder, chemicals.

You won't have to breathe powder when mixing, and you won't have to stir for a long time.

Follow the directions, and observe precautions.

Store chemicals away from children and pets.

See the Safety section.

Chemical What It Does When to Dilute
Ilford Ilfotec HC film developer or Kodak TMax film developer The developer converts silver halides (salts) into metallic silver. At first, use the developer recommended by the film manufacturer. Dilute just before using.
Ilford or Kodak indicator stop bath Don't sniff! It's a strong acid. The acidic stop bath neutralizes the alkaline developer. Dilute ahead of time.
Ilford or Kodak Rapid Fixer Fixer "deactivates" the sensitivity of your film to light. Note: If you're using Kodak Rapid Fixer, do not use the hardener (small bottle). Dilute ahead of time.
Heico Perma-Wash This chemical removes fixer that has soaked into the emulsion of your film. Fixer must be completely removed from your film. Otherwise, the fixer will degrade your negatives over time. Dilute ahead of time.
Kodak Photo-Flo This chemical prevents water spot marks from forming on your film. Mixed in the developing tank just before using

Items from "K-Mart"

Section Item
Automotive Large funnel
You'll use the funnel to pour the stop bath, fixer, and Heico Perma-Wash, back into their bottles.
Housewares Digital timer
Clothesline for in your shower or tub
You'll hang the film to dry from the clothesline.
Look for the type that pulls out from a container mounted on the wall, and clips to a bracket on the other wall.
Bottle opener
Protective gloves
Hardware Goggles

Practice Film

Also, purchase a roll of cheap film.

You'll use this roll to practice rolling the film onto the reel.


Prep 1: Be Sure to . . .

Be sure to . . .

1) Use a stainless-steel sink to prevent staining, or rinse a porcelain sink immediately.

2) Protect kitchen counter tops by using a dish-rack tray.

3) Wear old clothes. The developer creates brown stains, and the stop bath and fixer act like bleach.

4) Wear goggles and protective gloves when developing your film.

Prep 2: Label the Bottles

Label the brown plastic bottles with the names of the chemicals, and number them in the order that they will be used:

2: Stop bath

3: Fixer

4: Heico Perma-Wash

There are no bottles for the first chemical (developer) and the last chemical (Photo-Flo).

There's no bottle for the developer, because it's always diluted just before being used.

Also, developer is always discarded.

Photo-Flo is mixed in the developing tank, and is also discarded.

Prep 3: Label the Pitchers

Label the pitchers with the names of the chemicals, and number them in the order that they will be used:

1: Developer

2: Stop bath

3: Fixer

4: Heico Perma-Wash

Prep 4: Dilute

Dilute the concentrated stop bath, fixer, and Heico Perma-Wash, and pour the diluted chemicals into their bottles.

Dilute according to the instructions on the manufacturer's bottles.

Ratios of a concentrated chemical to water are often used.

For example, a diluted mixture with a 1:4 (1 to 4) ratio contains one part concentrated chemical and four parts water.

Commonly Used Ratios for Chemicals

Ratio Chemical Plus Water Makes
1:3 500 mls. + 1500 mls. 2 liters
1:4 400 mls. + 1600 mls. 2 liters
1:9 200 mls. + 1800 mls. 2 liters
1:15 125 mls. + 1875 mls. 2 liters

Commonly Used Ratios for Developers

Ratio Chemical Plus Water Makes
1:1 300 mls. + 300 mls. 600 mls.
1:2 200 mls. + 400 mls. 600 mls.
1:3 150 mls. + 450 mls. 600 mls.
1:4 120 mls. + 480 mls. 600 mls.
1:9 60 mls. + 540 mls. 600 mls.
1:15 38 mls. + 462 mls. 600 mls.
1:19 30 mls. + 570 mls. 600 mls.
1:31 19 mls. + 581 mls. 600 mls.

Other Ratios

To figure other ratios, divide the total amount of diluted solution desired, by the addition of the dilution ratio numbers.

For example, let's say you need 600 mls. of the diluted (working) solution.

The chemical bottle says you should use a 1:15 ratio.

Do this calculation:

600 mls. / (1 + 15) = 37.5

Round 37.5 to 38.

38 mls. is the amount of concentrate to add.

How much water do you add?

Subtract the amount of concentrate needed from the total amount of the diluted (working) solution: 600 - 38 = 560 (rounded)

Add 562 mls. of water.


38 mls. of concentrated chemical + 562 mls. of water = 600 mls. of diluted (working) solution

Prep 5: Look up the Developing Time

You'll need to look up the length of time your particular film, should be developed in a particular developer, when the developer is at 68°F (20°C).

Massive B&W Film and Developing Chart

Photocritic Film Development Database

Prep 6: Check Previously Used Chemicals

You can reuse the chemicals below.

How long?

Chemical How Long?
Stop bath The stop bath can be reused until it starts to change color from yellow to purple.
Fixer 1) The fixer can be used for a certain number of rolls.
Check the instructions on the bottle, or the manufacturer's website.
Write down how many rolls you have processed.
Or . . .
2) Place the leader, that you cut off the film, into the fixer.
If the leader becomes clear in less than 30 seconds, the fixer is still active.
Note: There is a chemical called Kodak Hypo–Check.
When you squirt a drop of it into the fixer, and the drop changes from clear to white, the fixer is no longer active.
This is a crude test, however.
Heico Perma-Wash The fixer can be used for a certain number of rolls.
Check the instructions on the bottle, or manufacturer's website.
Write down how many rolls you have processed.


Step 1: Roll Your Film

Practice rolling film with a roll of cheap film.

Practice with your eyes open, and then do so with your eyes closed.

When you're ready to develop your actual film, place the practice film far away.

The first roll of film that you develop shouldn't be an important roll, of course.

Place your actual film, tank (tank, reels, tube, funnel, and lid), scissors, and bottle opener, into the change bag.

Close both of the zippers.

Insert your hands.

Open the canister with the bottle opener, by prying on the flat end of the canister (the end where the spindle is not sticking out).

Push the film out of the canister.

Cut the leader off the beginning of the roll.

Roll the film onto the reel, as shown in class.

After the film is wound onto the reel, cut the spindle off the end of the roll.

Push the tube through the centers of the reels.

Place the tube/reels assembly inside the tank, with the flange on the tube at the bottom of the tank.

Insert the funnel, and twist.

The tank is now light tight. Place the lid on the tank.

Note: Be sure to use both reels in your Patterson 2-reel tank, even though you may only be developing one roll of film.

The reel with the film should be at the bottom of the tank, and the empty reel on top.

Step 2: Prepare the Chemicals

If you have a Patterson 2-roll tank, you'll need 600 mls. (20 oz.) of each diluted chemical.


Dilute the developer concentrate according to the instructions on the bottle, using the developer pitcher.

Use the ratio chart above for dilutions.

Note: Do not contaminate the developer with the other chemicals.

Other Chemicals

Pour the other chemicals (diluted stop bath, diluted fixer, and diluted Heico Perma-Wash), from their brown plastic bottles, into their respective pitchers.


The developer should be at 68°F.

The other chemicals should be at or close to 68°F.

If the chemicals are not at the correct temperature, put the pitchers in the sink filled with hot or cold water, and stir them.

Do not contaminate the developer with the other chemicals.

To avoid pouring in the wrong chemical, put the developer pitcher in front of you.

Line up the other pitchers away from the developer pitcher, in the order that they will be used.

Step 3: Pre-Wet

Remove the lid from the tank (not the funnel inside the tank).

Fill the tank with water at or near 68°F, and replace the lid.

Turn the tank upside down, and right side up.

Bang the tank against the edge of the sink a few times.

This will dislodge the air bubbles that are stuck on the film.

If they remain, you'll have small black spots of your prints.

Remove the lid, and pour the water out.

Step 4: Development

Use the development time that you determined above.

Fill the tank with the developer, and start the timer.

Bang the tank against the edge of the sink a few times.

Agitate the film with four gentle back-and-fourth twists using the stirrer, every 30 seconds.

When the development time is finished, pour the developer down the drain.

Developer is always discarded.

Step 5: Stop Bath

Pour the stop bath into the tank.

Put the lid on the tank.

Agitate constantly for thirty seconds,

Remove the lid.

Pour the stop bath back into the stop bath bottle.

Step 6: Fixer

Pour the fixer into the tank, and replace the lid.

Agitate the tank constantly, for three minutes, by turning the tank upside down and then right-side up.

When the fixer time is finished, remove the lid, and pour the fixer back into the fixer bottle.

Your film is no longer light sensitive.

Step 7: Pre-Wash

You can remove the lid of the tank.

Fill the tank with water at or near 68°F.

Dump the water out.

Repeat the above five times.

Step 8: Heico Perma-Wash

Pour the Heico Perma-Wash into the tank.

Replace the lid.

Agitate constantly for one minute.

Remove the lid, and pour the Heico Perma-Wash into it's bottle.

Step 9: Final Wash

Fill the tank with water at or near 68°F., and pour the water out.

Repeat the above ten times.

Step 10: Photo-Flo

Fill the tank with water.

Put three mls. (about one drop) of Photo-Flo into the tank.

Replace the lid, and agitate for five seconds, and then let it sit for thirty seconds.

Pour the Photo-Flo into the sink.

Do not rinse the Photo-Flo off your film.

Step 11: Drying

Twist the funnel in the tank, and remove.

Remove the tube/reels assembly from the tank.

Remove the tube from the reels.

Gently pull your film off of the reel, holding the reel high enough so that the film does not touch the floor.

Handle the film by the edges.

The emulsion is delicate when dry, and even more so when wet.

Hang the film from a clothespin in your shower or tub.

Place a clothespin at the bottom of the film to keep the film from curling up as it dries.

The drying time varies according to the dew point.

Film will dry very quickly in the winter, and more slowly in the summer.

To check for dryness, feel the emulsion side (not the shiny side) of the film, at the bottom of the hanging roll.

Touch the film where it's clear, not where there is an image.

If the film is still wet, the emulsion will feel tacky.