In this instructable, we will develop slide film that normally uses the E-6 chemical process with a standard black and white film developer and color negative film process (C-41) chemicals. The results will be a positive image that will approach the quality of E-6 developed film. I like to call this "E-6(-)" since there are definite minuses to the process. The example I use is for 35mm film, but the process will work for any size. I certainly didn't invent this technique. The basics have been kicking around the internet for some time, but as E-6 processing seems to be disappearing, an alternate technique may be of some use.

Although this technique has been kicking around the web a while, a Flickr thread that I can't find right now reignited my curiosity. I hope you find it an interesting alternative developing process.

What is slide film?

Slide film is also called positive, chrome or transparency film. The end result is that the film becomes the final positive image and is usually mounted in cardboard slide mounts. These "slides" are then used to bore teenagers in home slide shows of weddings and vacations from years gone by. That use has long been supplanted by online photo slide shows, but the film has been kept around due to its remarkable sharpness and clarity.

How is slide film normally developed?

Slide film is normally sent out to labs where the film is processed by a chemical process that is known as E-6. The process is one of the more complex chemical development regimes now that the K-14 (Kodachrome) process is a thing of the past. Home developers can buy kits that can have as many steps as six; however some of the steps can be combined to make it at least as simple as standard C-41 development.

Why would I want to develop my slide film this E-6(-) way?

A few reasons;

1. C-41 chemicals are usually less expensive than E6 chemicals. For example from Freestyle Photo, the Tetenal Colortec E-6 Kit - 1 Liter is $70 and will develop 12, 36 exposure rolls of film. The Tetenal C-41 Color Negative Processing Kit - 1 Liter costs $50 and will process the same number of rolls.

2. For home developers, the E-6 chemicals have a shorter shelf life than C-41 onced mixed to working dilutions. Although the E-6 chemicals are getting better, they still do not have the staying power of C-41 chemicals when stored.

3. E-6 processing is becoming increasingly difficult to source. C-41 is far more available and can be found in nearly all places around the world.

4. My personal reason for pursuing this technique is that I have a bunch of very out of date slide film that will not perform that well even with proper E-6 processing. I wanted to find a cheap way to produce the funky results I value. This technique meets my very stringent standard of "good enough."

What will be the results of this "special" E-6(-) process?

Well, it won't be perfect. Since this process simulates the E-6 process with less expensive chemicals, the sharpness and saturation of the film will be there, but the image will have a definite cast (a uniform color shift). Although the cast would definitely be noticeable if you were projecting the slides, the image can easily be corrected when scanning the slides. I've found that the "auto color correction" feature fixes 90% of the images. The rest can be tweaked in the image manipulation software of your choice.

Isn't this just "Cross-Processing?"

Yes with an "and" or no with a "but." Full cross processing of slide film is just processing slide film as C-41. This is a popular thing to do in fashion, artistic and hipster communities. It results in garish, oversaturated, high contrast and other worldly negative images. Processing slide film as black and white will yield a black and white negative. This special E-6(-) process will yield a positive image just like E-6 processing.

Slide film + E-6 = Color Slides

Slide film + C-41 = Color negatives + extreme color shifts + extreme contrast

Slide film + Black and White Processing = black and white negatives + poor contrast

Slide film + B&W +C-41 = Color slides + slight color shifts

Step 1: Stuff You Will Need

If you are use to home processing film, you probably already have all the hardware you require for E-6(-). The "software" is any C-41 developing kit and any black and white developer.

  1. Slide film (usually marked E-6 processing).
  2. Changing bag or dark room.
  3. Developing reels (plastic or steel).
  4. Developing tank (plastic or steel).
  5. Thermometer, immersible.
  6. Scissors.
  7. Can or bottle top opener.
  8. C-41 developing kit with solutions mixed as per the instructions.
  9. B&W film developer mixed as per instructions (Xtol used in this case, but any should work).
  10. Distilled (deionized) water.
  11. Rinse aid (e.g. photoflo).
  12. Latex or nitrile gloves.
  13. Adhesive tape.
  14. Spring clothespins.
  15. Access to an area with hot and cold running water.
  16. About an hour of time.
  17. Film scanner.
  18. Negative sleeves.

Note on film: Different film types react differently to this process. The example here is Kodak Elite Chrome which ends up with a blue cast as the final product. Other chrome films can come out nearly normal colors with little to no color correction necessary so your results may vary...in fact they probably will vary! That is half the fun.

Step 2: Heat Up Your Chemicals

If you are like me, your chemicals are stored at room temperature and have to be heated up to operating temperature. For this E-6(-) procedure, the temp of the developers and blix is 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 39 degrees Celsius.

  1. Mix your solutions (both C-41 and Black and White developer) according to the instructions on the packaging to make working strength solutions.
  2. Take your working strength solutions of black and white developer, color developer, and blix and put them in a sink or tub.
  3. Fill the sink with 110 F (43 C) water and let set for about 15~20 minutes. Load your film while you are waiting (next step).
  4. After allowing the solutions to heat up, check the temp of the water bath with your thermometer. Add hot water until the water bath is about 105 F (41 C). Keep an eye on the temperature. The solutions will be at the correct temperature when the water bath reaches 102 F (39 C).

Note on temperature: For you C-41/E-6 purists, the correct temperature is exactly 100 F (~38 C) however, most home development kits recommend 102 F and have the temperature drift by as the solutions inevitably cool while agitating.

Step 3: Load Your Slide Film

No real trick here. Just load the film onto the developing reel of choice and insert into the developing tank. Of course you will need to do this in complete darkness, either in a darkroom or changing bag. It is a nice relaxing activity while your chemicals warm up to operating temperature.

  1. Gather your materials and place in the changing bag in an easily rememberable configuration.
  2. Pry off the cap on the film can with your bottle opener. If you have snap caps from self loaded film cans, you can get those off with just your fingernails.
  3. Extract the film and clip off the leader with scissors. I like to clip off the sharp corners on the end of the film. This makes it easier to insert into the steel or ratchet type reels.
  4. Insert the film into your development spirals.
  5. Put spirals into the developing tank.
  6. Close tank and bring into daylight.

Step 4: Prewet/Preheat

The purpose of this step is to get the film ready for developing by bringing the temperature of the tank, spirals and film up to operating temperature (102 degrees F (39 C)) and to get the emulsion saturated and ready for developer.

  1. Adjust the water out of the tap to 102 degrees F (39 C)and fill the development tank.
  2. Add a drop of photoflo to the tank. Optional really, but I like to do this to break the water tension that can keep the entire film from getting wet.
  3. Agitate for 30 seconds.
  4. Place the tank in the tub of water until you are ready to develop the film. Try to arrange your process so the film does not spend more than five minutes with this presoak. Ideally, you just want it to warm up for a minute or so everything is wet and the temperature to the same as your solutions.
  5. When you pour out the prewetting water, it may have a color (pink, purple, red, etc). Don't worry too much about this...it is usually just some antihalation dye that comes out of the emulsion.

Step 5: First Developer - Black and White

The first developer is the most important step in E-6 processing and is no different here! If the developer is too active, the final image will be too thin (too faint) and if the activity is too slight, you will get too much color dye to the extent that you can't see through the slide! The exact opposite of what you would think if you are use to developing black and white....remember this is "reversal" film and a lot of things are backward!

What black and white developer should I use?

Ideally, you would use E-6 first developer, but as noted before, it can be expensive and hard to source. Theoretically, any black and white film developer should be fine. I used Xtol for my experiments as it is what I normally use for developing my black and white film. Xtol is a fine grain, environmentally friendly solvent type developer that seems to work well in this process. HC-110 also has been reported as having acceptable results. It may be interesting to try compensating developers or even staining developers to convert exposed silver halide grains (the latent image) into metallic silver. It may introduce a different look into the final image?

  1. Put on your rubber gloves and safety glasses. None of these chemicals is more dangerous than ones found underneath your sink, but safety is always a priority!
  2. Your Xtol should be at stock strength and heated to the standard development temperature for C-41 and E-6....102 degrees F (39 C).
  3. Pour out your pre-wetting water (don't be alarmed by the color).
  4. Before your tank has time to cool, pour in the Xtol developer and agitate for the first 10 seconds.
  5. Put the tank back into your water bath when not agitating to keep the temp as constant as possible.
  6. Agitate (4 inversions) every 30 seconds for the entire length of development.
  7. Develop for 12 minutes.
  8. Pour out developer.
  9. Fill the tank with hot water (again 102 degrees F (39 C)) [this is your "stop" bath].
  10. Agitate for 30 seconds, empty, refill, agitate for 30 seconds and empty.

Step 6: Fog Your Slide Film

This is a counterintuitive step if you are use to developing black and white. You have to fog the film with light before it is fixed! In normal E-6 processing, this step is usually done chemically, but here we are doing it the old fashioned way...with photons! I used a halogen light source (my bathroom light), but most any light will do, however it has been reported that full sunlight may not be that great. Perhaps UV rich sources should be avoided?

  1. Remove the film spirals from the tank in normal room light. You will notice the negative image on the emulsion side of the film.
  2. Unreel the film, but leave the end still clipped into the steel reels. For the ratchet type system, you have to disassemble the reel to get the film out.
  3. Hold the film emulsion side toward the light source and run the film along to ensure it is all fogged. I fogged my film at 6 inches from a 40 watt halogen bulb (my bathroom light) for 2, 20 second passes (40 seconds altogether).
  4. Once you are satisfied that your film is totally fogged, load it back onto the reel. Plastic ratchet type reels are a little more problematic. The film and the reels must be completely dry before reuniting them. It does not affect the process much, but figure in drying time into your workflow.
  5. Place loaded reels with film back into your processing tank.

An alternate method at this point would be to dry the film, reroll it into a film cartridge and drop off at your friendly C-41 one-hour photo lab. The lab workers will be confused when seeing positive images coming out of the machine instead of negatives. May cause some uncomfortable conversations?

Update: Kelly-ShaneF suggests that you use a full spectrum bulb to fog the film rather than a tungsten bulb. He believes that this would cut down or eliminate the blue cast of the film. I have not tried this, but will and report back if this does work.

Step 7: Second Developer - Color Developer

For the rest of the process, you will more or less be following the instructions on the C-41 kit. This second developer is the color development stage of the process. The color developer for the C-41 kit is a complex chemical known as CD4. Although it will develop the color couplers in the slide film, it will not do it as well as the native E-6 developer that has CD3 developers. This may be one of the reasons that the final slides have a color cast to them.

  1. Refill the development tank with hot water to warm the film and reels as in previous step.
  2. Pour out hot water and pour in color developer from the C-41 kit.
  3. Use the same agitation regime as the black and white developer
  4. Develop as indicated on the kit instructions, 3.5 minutes (3 minutes and 30 seconds).
  5. Pour out developer and fill the tank twice with hot water.

Step 8: Bleach and Fix or Blix

Some C-41 kits have a separate bleach and fix step, but this one has you combine into a "Blix." Functionally, it is all the same unless you are doing bleach bypass or some other process. The bleach converts the metallic silver image back to silver halide then the silver halide is removed in the fixer. Using a Blix saves a step.

  1. Empty your tank of wash water.
  2. Fill with blix and use the same agitation regime as the developers.
  3. Blix for 6.5 minutes (6 minutes and 30 seconds).
  4. After blixing, pour out the blix and refill the tank with hot water. Empty and refill 2 or 3 times.

Step 9: Stabilize

The C-41 kit includes a stabilizer of hexamine (Hexamethylenetetramine to be exact) to stabilize the dyes in C-41 film. This is a substitute for formalin that use to be used in the bad old days. Hexamine is made by reacting formaldehyde and ammonia, but is much less toxic than the reactants. In E-6, the stabilizer is call the "pre-bleach" and is used between the color developer and the bleach step (it use to be called the "conditioner" before the formula was changed). Will the differences in the composition and and place in the workflow affect the longevity of the final product? Not sure...my 1 year old slides seem to be good shape with no deterioration of the image, but longer term stability may be in question... Since this process is primarily for scanning and not projecting, you might as well do this as soon as you can so you have a digital copy.

  1. Pour out any wash water from the tank and pour in stabilizer (this can be done at room temperature).
  2. Agitate for 15 seconds and stabilize for 1 minute.
  3. Pour out stabilizer.
  4. Pour a solution of distilled water and photoflo into the tank (this prevents water spots in hard water areas).
  5. Empty the tank of the distilled water and photoflo.

Step 10: Dry

Your slide film will come out of the process looking a little milky. This will slowly clear as it dries.

  1. Take your film out of the tank and shake each reel sharply to get as much water off the film as possible.
  2. Take the film off the reel and hang in a dust free environment. Place a clip on the bottom of the film strip so it does not curl as it dries.
  3. Once dry, cut into strips and slide into negative saver pages.

Theoretically, you can mount the slides in cardboard or plastic slides for projection. However, the slides are likely to have a color cast that will distract from your slide show. I suggest scanning instead of boring your kids with a slide show.

Step 11: Scan

Due to either the age of the film or more likely the use of a substitute color developer, the Elite Chrome came out with a cyan color cast. It almost looks like tungsten film shot under daylight conditions without a filter. Luckily, the cast seems even across image and easily corrected. If you are good with curves, you can probably get very close to the actual color pallet, but I've found that using the Epson scan software color restoration feature (color autocorrection in other software) will give you a 80-90% solution.

  1. Preview your film using the color positive setting on your scanner.
  2. Select the images you want to scan and turn on the "color restoration" feature in the software.
  3. If the image isn't to your liking, open up the curves feature and try your luck.
  4. Even if the image isn't 100% correct, scan anyway and deal with it later in photoshop or other software of your liking.

Step 12: Examples (Good and Bad)

For these examples I used film that was many years out of date so it is obviously not in its prime already. That was exacerbated some poor exposure in some images. They come from a variety of cameras...some with dubious optics and I may have scratched a roll during the fogging step. Excuses, excuses!

Other than the scanner software auto color correct, I have not altered the images. If you are good with curves, you can probably get much better colors out of these scans. Underexposure fared the worst of the conditions that these were shot with. Slide film has a notoriously narrow latitude so the photographer might be more to blame that the film or processing.

Although not perfect, this technique could be a useful alternative to developing your slide film as E-6 gets less available and more expensive.

Step 13: Way Ahead

This non-standard slide film development technique will probably need some experimentation to get reasonable results. Some variations I might try in the future to improve or at least vary the technique:

  1. Use compensating developer for the first developer.
  2. Use a staining developer as the first developer.
  3. Use RA4 (color paper developer) as the color developer (contains CD3...slide film's native developer).
  4. Use a separate bleach and fix for bleach bypass processing.
  5. Stabilizing between the color developer and the blix.

Anyway, it certainly has been interesting learning about photographic chemistry during the process.

<p>Thanks for sharing this info! Having developed a great many rolls of reversal film in the days before chemical fogging agents were incorporated in the color developer, I have a few recommendations:</p><p>1). Reversal exposure should be to very intense light to ensure high density in shadow areas (D-max). The older processes used reversal exposures of a couple minutes of the unwound film to a photoflood. If you do this, be *very* careful of stray water droplets shattering the bulb, and of course the shock hazards around electricity, especially with nearby water and wet hands.</p><p>2). These processes used an actual stopbath after first development, a good idea given the reversal process. If you do this, probably best to follow with a water rinse to drop the film pH to a level closer to what C-41 bleach 'expects'.</p><p>3). Experiment with your first development times. The first, or B &amp;W developer, is generally regarded as more critical to the appearance of the final image than the color developer.</p>
Ronnie, Thanks for the tips! Always appreciated. It looks like you joined Instructables just to reply...so I know your tips are high quality!<br><br>I've moved recently, so I have not tried this technique in some time, but will as soon as I can burn through a roll of C-41. What is your opinion on sunlight for fogging? Some suggest that it can lead to color shifts, but you seem to say that it is required for d-max? Does UV play a significant role or is tungsten OK??
I've never heard of using sunlight, but of course even brief exposure would be ample. I've never tried it, but be sure to expose both front and back of the film as i mention below.<br><br>Just guessing, but there might be a chance of the equivalent of 'solarization' using the sun, where the latent image is so overexposed that it begins to be destroyed.<br><br>One of my references for an early Ektachrome process recommends 10 seconds exposure to a 250 Watt photoflood at one foot, to *each side* of the film. For safety (bulb shattering from water drops) I'd increase the distance to at least 2' and increase reversal exposure time to at least 30 seconds.<br><br>To avoid the use of photofloods, you might use a standard 100W incandescent, and then a 25W or so compact fluorescent which would be rich in blue light.<br><br>I used to use a slide projector focused on the film, and moved he film strip up and down to expose the full length.<br><br>I don't think UV is needed, but blue is. It's worth noting that photofloods are richer in blue light than standard tungsten lamps. The topmost emulsion layer is blue sensitive only; then the yellow filter layer is beneath that, and finally red and green sensitive below those. Exposure to the back side of the film may be needed for either the antihalation layer or possibly the red and green sensitive layers.<br><br>have fun!
I meant E-6 of course 8-/
<p>The slides are very dark, I will get some new c41 fix see if that works.</p>
<p>No scanner so I put the slides in an old projector, the digital camera is not picking up the colours. </p>
<p>I just tried the method on Agra CT precisa. I used rodinal for first dev then ecn2 chems for the 2nd dev, bleach and fix. Looks like I have good positive images but film looks unfixed, I even tried b&amp;w fix. I'll see how they look when dry, at the moment they are very dark/thick!. </p>
<p>I think the reversal process requires a positive black and white developer ideally. A hypo agent like Sodium Thiosulphate (1 teaspoon for &lt; ISO 100, 2 teaspoon &gt; ISO 100) can be added to the first developer to temper the film development. You'll also need a second development stage after the fogging (reversal) to properly prepare the film for the colour development stage. 1st developer 1:5 concentration ( 12 mins &lt; ISO 100), 2nd Developer 1:9 concentration ( 4 mins &lt; ISO 100, 6 mins ISO 200, 8 mins ISO400).</p>
<p>It is also possible to use flash/studio flash for fogging (3-4 times on each side should be enough). Dont know if it helps on the color cast, though.</p>
<p>This is so cool! Film itself is such a lost art. I needed to develop some B&W film about a year ago and it was more cost effective to have someone else develop it for me. But finding someone that could develop B&W film was an adventure in and of itself. Thanks for sharing! </p>
<p>Caveat: I have not tried this process, however, in a previous life, I was a professional photographer, educated at the Germain School of Photography. I did my share of experimenting, i.e., homebrew reversal processing of &quot;print paper&quot; (as color reversal paper was hard to get/expensive).</p><p>One thing I found to be a universal nuisance (other than when working with Cibachrome) was bleach contamination of developer. The result was a cyan stain that looks exactly like what you have encountered.</p><p>If you have not yet tried it, I would suggest either a rinse, or stop bath (ideally followed by a rinse) between the color developer and the bleach/blix. This will remove/neutralize the color developer, and thus, obviate the possibility of the bleach stain of the developer.</p><p>Going directly from color developer into bleach/blix might be fine when using an automated process, where the machine can ensure that bleaching occurs before residual developer can react with the bleach. I believe that machine agitation is sufficiently violent as to ensure this, whereas tank development is much gentler,</p><p>The reason I suggest a rinse if using a stop bath, is because I am uncertain of the result of residual acetic acid on the bleach/blix. Most likely there won't be a problem, and in any case, some experimenting would determine whether or not there is a problem (which would likely manifest itself in the form of reduced bleach activity. (The fixing would most likely be enhanced by the increased acidity.) It's easy enough to eyeball the film to see if the opalescent silver halide is not removed (insufficient fixing), or, if the black and white negative (and B&amp;W positive, in addition to the color positive) is still present (at worst, a solid-black emulsion'; at best, clean/clear highlights; between, a possibly &quot;solarized-looking&quot; partial B&amp;W negative present. </p><p>(Any of these defects, if present, should be easy enough to remedy after the fact: simply provide sufficient bleaching and fixing. The goal being to completely remove all silver image artifacts -- negative and positive -- a complete bleach and complete fix will do the trick.)</p><p>With the price of silver being well into the nosebleed section, it would be prudent to keep your fixer (and blix) for silver recovery. There are several different methods, some of which are not too difficult to do at home. With silver vacillating between $15 - $20 per troy ounce, and chromogenic color processes releasing 100% of the medium's silver, the rewards can be quite significant. (When I ran a small silver recovery business, mainly buying spent fixer from dentists and chiropractors, we found that a gallon of spent fixer could contain up to one troy ounce of silver. Far better to sell it to a refiner, than to pour it down the drain!)\</p><p>In any case, congratulations on helping to keep E6 film usable! Now, if only there was a nontrivial way to do the same with Kodachrome. My freezer weeps in anguish over the &quot;useless&quot; treasure it protects. (I know that Kodachrome can be processed into perhaps the world's finest B&amp;W slide film -- the yellow filter layer being composed of very finely divided metallic silver (removed by the bleach and fix stage), processing as a negative is problematic. But reversal processing works nicely, from what I've read. I'm still holding out for an &quot;angel&quot; investor to bring K14 back. It would be an ideal target for a government &quot;grant for the arts&quot; project, IMO. The fact that the lab owner in Australia has perfected his &quot;homebrew&quot; K14 process proves that it's not impossible (as an old disabled guy, I can't afford his fee, which I doubt is making him rich, given the complexity of the process), and there's plenty of unexposed Kodachrome sitting in freezers, not to mention that if the money was there, any decent coating operation should be able to produce a Kodachrome analog -- if the demand was there. Classic chicken-and-egg paradox.</p><p>Sorry for rambling!</p>
<p>Interesting comment! I have cyan-grey highlight problem on regular <br>c41, using professional chemistry in small tanks.... It might be related<br> to the problem you describe.</p><p>I presume &quot;stop-clear&quot; - stop mixed with aspoon of sulfite - would be the best way to stop and rinse away the developer.</p>
<p>Thanks for the instructable!<br>I tried the same, using ilford pq-universal as first developer. Also got magenta-purple color cast - strong one. It is correctable in scanning, but I eventually gave it up, waiting to get some proper e6 chemistry. If someone has tips on how to reduce the color cast, it would be nice.</p>
<p>Hey, I'm the guy who originally posted this process on Flickr. Nice to see someone else giving this a shot, looks like you're getting some decent results. I've found I get less of a blue cast if I re-expose with a full spectrum bulb instead of a Tungsten one. </p>
<p>Thanks for the tip. I'll put it in the instructable and also link the Flickr thread. I don't want anyone to think that this way &quot;my idea.&quot; Just a data point for further experiments.</p>
Good to see what I call traditional processing and an understanding of the chemistry of photography. Have you considered mixing your own baths from basic chemicals and published formula?
<p>Really spectacular. Thank you so much for sharing this and your processed shots. &lt;3</p>
<p>This is a great tutorial. Processing your own film is rapidly becoming a lost art.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I don't care about what anything was DESIGNED to do, I care about what it CAN do.
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