I'm going to teach you the basics of printing in a darkroom, discuss the basic terms and processes, and explain the workings of the the equipment you'll be using.

Developing a picture in a darkroom for the first time is a timeless experience that everyone should experience at least once in their life. The feeling that you get when you first see an image appear on a once blank sheet of paper is almost magical. The first time I printed a photo in a darkroom, I instantly forgot about the horrid smell of the chemicals (For the record, I now enjoy that smell), and just watched as my photograph appeared out of thin air.

For any general photography questions you have (terminology, mostly) that are not covered in this instructable, Check Here first, and if your question is still not answered, feel free to leave a comment here, or PM me with it.

  • Note - Make sure to read the warnings in step 14, as well as all warnings on the supplies that you use before attempting any dark room work.

I hope you enjoy my entry to the Photojojo Photography Contest!

Step 1: Supplies

  • A negative to print
  • 100% Cotton cosmetic pad
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • A light tight room (Must be well ventilated) (Bathrooms with towels shoved under the door can work well)
  • Running water
  • Safe light
  • 4 Trays for chemicals
  • Enlarger with a condenser head (and bulb)
  • Paper easel (holds the paper in place under the enlarger)
  • Timer
  • Squeegee (Technically optional, but highly recommended)
  • Drying rack/clothes line and pins
  • Grain enlarger (optional)
  • Emulsion paper - doesn't matter much what you use. I prefer fiber paper.
  • Gloves and apron are optional.
  • Chemical storage bottles


  • Developer - I use Kodak Dektol
  • Stop bath - I use Kodak Indicator stop bath
  • Fixer - I use Kodak Fixer
  • Hypo clear - I use Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent

Bhphotovideo.com is an excellent source for all photography related supplies, I use them heavily, and they have a pretty complete darkroom kit for new photographers:

You can also get used equipment from Ebay for a lot less.
<p>Thank you so much for your amazing tutorial and recommendations!</p>
<p>How can &quot;darkroom&quot; be turnd into a science/engineer fair project? please help!</p><p>- Thank you</p>
<p>Thanks for posting information how to use the dark room. Very useful as we had to describe how we have to use it and label the equipment before we can use it for A level photography.</p>
<p>Hello Weissensteinburg</p><p>I read your tutorial with glee and nostalgia.</p><p>Are you sure your name is not Lonfeldt, and you worked on a boarding school back in 70-76 ? I still hear my old photo, woodworking and religion teachers voice when I read your tutorial.</p><p>You might also add a warning stating:</p><p>&quot;Warning, darkroom work is a lifelong addiction&quot; :)</p><p>Greetings from Denmark</p><p>Soren Hansen</p>
Totally jealous of your setup. The barrels with spouts for the chemicals....GENIUS. I never thought of having them sitting above the trays and ready to go like that. I'd always mix each time, or have a pre-mixed batch under the sink.
Is there a way to print negative in a darkroom manually without latest equipments??<br><br>My late father used to make photographs appear without modern machines in the 60s and 70s... I was wondering how was that possible.. <br><br>thanks for you reply..
You need some sort of projector if you want them to be any bigger than 35mm.
hey very helpful...but where do you get all that stuff...how much would it cost about
Equipment can vary a lot. Enlargers can be bought used at pawn shops, garage sales, craigslist, etc. Check BHPhoto.com for prices on new equipment or chemicals.
omg i reconized everything in here xDDD im taking a class so im familiar with it alll and wow dude thats a LOT of fixer :O one of my jackets still has a slight smell of fixer xDD
<strong>WARNING: </strong>It is dangerous and illegal to pour fixer down the drain! It contains silver which is dangerous to people and wildlife! If you have well water and a septic tank, this is a definite no-no as it can affect you and your loved ones!<br/><br/><strong>What can I do?!</strong><br/>Pour your used fixer and developer into a container (with a lid) that can be easily transported by automobile. Take the container to a photo lab (or even a pharmacy with a one-hour lab) and ask the lab tech for it to be dumped in the Waste or Silver Recovery unit. Don't ask a cashier! If you can, call ahead and ask for the lab supervisor.<br/><br/><strong>If they ask questions:</strong><br/>Say you do your film at home, that it should be safe to pour in, they can ask their supervisor, and it's more money for them because of the silver it contains.<em> The people aren't giving you a hard time, there is often all sorts of warning signs about mixing chlorine/bleach containing chemicals, with another type of chemical, that is all Greek to them.</em> <strong>Be patient and let them double check, it's worth it for the environment.</strong><br/><br/><strong>Why?</strong><br/>The unit at professional labs zaps the waste with electricity and using magnets collects the silver and the rest goes down the drain. Not only does the silver not make it into the water supply, it is saved in large canisters which are picked up for recycling!<br/><br/><strong>In the United States: </strong>Both Federal and State government agencies regulate the handling and disposal of photographic chemicals. For more info on proper disposal of photographic chemicals, <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.fau.edu/facilities/ehs/info/Photo-Chemicals-Safety.pdf">see here (PDF)</a>.<br/><br/><strong>Additional Notes:</strong> Don't develop film in the kitchen where you eat, as this tutorial states for making prints, don't eat anywhere during the process! Also, don't pour chemicals out at all, and don't let them make contact with older porcelain it WILL stain any porcelain the finish has worn off of. If this does happen you need to find &quot;Farmers Reducer&quot; and scrub it with a brush, it'll take some elbow grease (Powdered cleanser with bleach might work too).<br/>
Great information, just what I was looking for. Thanks IG
amazing. Just what i was looking for,
really helpful.
oh my gosh... your darkroom looks almost identical to the one at our school... timers are on the same side of the enlargers, exact same chemicals, almost exact same trays, same chemical tray holder system thingy. scary... anyways, +1
<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.instructables.com/community/My-new-Minolta-XG-A-and-a-question-about-fixing-ne/">hey w'berg, I was wondering if you could answer my question</a><br/>
Remember what I said on AIM? Looks like NachoMahma did what I wanted to do. :P Anyways... +1 vote. +1 rating. ;-)
. Have y'all been conspiring against me? Shame on y'all!
Alright, Gorillaz, wait till he's asleep and then...
Thanks =]<br/>
Great! Well Done! It really allows me to appreciate the significance of a digital camera. I love playing with my dads Canon Digital Rebel. Its a great camera! It allowed me to do my profile image:)
Yeah, you really notice it after having done digital and then starting film. I really missed being able to peak at the LCD screen, but then again, film images were always more likely to turn out just right than digital. (You especially notice how much more expensive the darkroom is)
you seen the cost of a photo quality printer? makes dark rooms look cheap
Which is why you have them printed somewhere else ; )
something ive noticed in the darkroom, is that with film, the more time you take with it, it just feels better. its too bad so many people will miss out the... so to say... essence of the darkroom. qualitywise, i think film will always be true- black and white film has this contrast quality that you cant completely mimic even in photoshop.
Yeah no Joke. With digital I can snap away at my hearts content then upload on to the interweb and get printed for a cheap price.
well done. I appreciate the thorough explanations and appreciate even more, the simplicity of digital photography!
Good instructable. Will the rubbing alcohol hurt the negative at all? I know in my photography class we just use canned air to blow off any dust and that works really well. Also a tip I find useful (and most of the photography classes at my high school) is use the safe light(s) as dim as you can while still being able to see, it makes focusing a lot easier both with and without a grain focuser.
well, the alchohol generally helps take off some waterspots and dust stuck on from drying, so it should be better. the only downside is if you dont use really good negative wiping cloth you can scratch your neg. using both alchohol, then blowing with canned air helps the most, i figure. the tip you have, i second! :D i even have a completely separate room for my enlarger, which is in complete darkness. it was originally for printing color, but those chemicals are le expensivo.
The alcohol shouldn't do anything to the negative..it's what my teacher's always done, and she's been in the field much longer than I've been alive. I'm sure she would have noticed by now if it did. Good point about the safe light, we actually do that, too. It's a pain that whenever you need to open the light up a bit (to look for something) there are a few students who insist it will ruin their paper.
Nice! I'll have to show this to my photography teacher.<br/><br/>Interesting...the timer in your printing darkroom is the same as the one we use in our developing darkroom. For printing, we recently upgraded to digital timers-time is adjustable by 1/10 sec, and you can adjust the brightness from the timer.<br/><br/>Another slight difference: rather than move the card with the light on for test strips, we just set it to 3.5-4 seconds, and move the card after the light is turned off. Not saying it's <em>better</em>, just noticing a difference.<br/>
its usually better to leave the light on and move the card, or block with a shutter. actually switching the light off will cause it to be ever so slightly different brightness. keeping lamps hot keeps the brightness constant. you wouldn't detect it with your eye, but say you had it stopped down for a long exposure it can make a fair difference.
Thanks, let me know what she says! I've seen digital timers before, but never really used one. I guess I kinda like how non exact traditional timers are...it leaves a little more up to what just feel right.
Wow! This explains why people went digital! Looks like a lot of work. Great job, voted
That's not the half of it..ever developed film? thanks.
Took me over an hour last time. I really need a watch =s. We've only got 3 darkroom weeks left for our As level photography coursework so I gave up with film and bought a dslr. Its awesome although I miss using the enlargers. i guess there are pros and cons to both.<br/>
we used to dev films in about 20 mins, i guess half an hour with the final wash. and you could do up to 8 in a tank at once. this was at uni, in a student house with tinfoil on windows to make it dark. used to buy cheap chemicals off ebay, just out of date usually. film's the way forward. digis great for snaps, but if you want something of quality thats gonna last, film's awesome.
Nope! I would like to try, but honestly I'm happy to just plug it into my computer.
. Great job!

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy photography, horticulture and carpentry, and am almost always doing something relating to of those things.
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