How to Develop Film at Home – B&W, Colour Film (C41) & Movie Film!

No need for film labs!  Here is how to develop film at home (without a darkroom), whether black and white film developing, C41 colour film or even Kodak Motion picture film developing! (*Includes film Remjet removal) + YouTube

Fuji GA645 + Vision3!

My Film Developing Essentials List – Do you have what you need?

  • Film changing bag / darkroom bag (daylight loading) – (UK) /(US)
  • Paterson developing tank (3 reel developing tank) – (UK) / (US)
  • 4×5 MOD 54 insert – for Paterson tank (for 4×5 film) – (UK) / (US)
  • Kodak Xtol developer(5L) (B&W film developer) – (UK) only /*D-76 (US)
  • Adox Rodinal developer (alternative B&W film developer) – (UK) only
  • Kodak T-Max fixer (for B&W film) (I can’t find listed, sorry)
  • Tetenal Colortec C-41 kit (C41 colour film developing) – (UK) only/ (US)
  • Epson perfection v800 – film and photo flatbed scanner – (UK) / (US)
  • Seagate External Hard Drive (Save your film scans!) – (UK) / (US)

Cooking pea soup?

How to develop film at home without a dark room

    1. Black and white film developing kit
    2. Film developing tank – Paterson developing tank instructions
    3. How to develop colour film  (C41 process)
    4. Remjet removal (Developing Motion Picture film)
    5. Tetenal C41 Kit (Tetenal Colortec C-41 Kit 2.5L)
    6. C41 Kit Instructions
    7. C41 Film Developing
    8. C41 Developing Instructions
    9. C41 Film Developing – Chemical Shelf Life
    10. Develop film at home – Can I recommend it?
    11. E6 Processing kit

Paris Fashion Week

1. Black and White Film Developing

B&W Film Developing: How to develop film recap – as already covered in a previous article

I got my first film camera in 2010 and as my interest grew I wanted to see how to develop film for myself.  I have developed my own black and white film now since the beginning of 2013 and I am pretty comfortable with the process as I shoot so often.  I have quite a casual approach to black and white film developing and it still seems to work for me every time now I know the basics.  I have a degree in science so I like to apply the common sense approach as to how chemicals work rather than strictly following the film/ developer guidelines.
Rodinal Semi-stand development (B&W film)
When I started out I used the developer Rodinal for semi-stand development.  See my Rodinal Semi-stand development article.
Kodak Xtol developer (B&W film)
Since my early Rodinal days I move to Xtol and have settled with that for the meantime. I am happy with the results Xtol gives me so don’t see a need to change yet.  For fixing black and white film I use Kodak T-Max fixer.
develop film home
Kodak Xtol Developer Kit

Triple Exposure

Triple exposure on home developed 35mm black and white film

2. Film Developing Tank – Paterson developing tank instructions

I develop all my film (colour film and black and white film/ 35mm, 120 and 4×5 film formats) in Paterson style developing tanks (a 2 reel tank plus a 3 reel tank). For readers new to film developing a 2 reel tank can accommodate 2 rolls of 35mm film or 1 roll of 120 film.  A 3 reel tank holds 3 rolls of 35mm film or 2 rolls or 120 film.  Sometimes I wish I had a 5 roll tank but I haven’t got to that stage quite yet! A Paterson developing tank for those that don’t know is a light tight tank so film can be developed in daylight without the need of a dark room.  Film must be loaded into the developing tank in complete darkness using a changing bag or a room with no windows.  (I just wait until it is dark outside and use a part of the house where there is no windows).  I then bring the developing tank into the light and develop the film in my kitchen.
develop film home
Paterson tank developing kit

3. How to Develop Colour Film

C41 process
After avoiding colour film developing for the best part of 18 months I finally took the plunge when my local film lab rejected my first roll of Kodak Vision3 motion picture film that I sent for developing.  I had bought a bulk roll of Kodak Vision3 500T movie film which is ECN-2 colour negative motion picture film and not the standard C41 colour negative film.  In brief, ECN-2 film has an additional rem-jet or remjet anti-static / anti-halation layer, a black carbon layer that needs to be removed prior to film developing.
ECN-2 film (with C41 chemicals)
ECN-2 film cannot be developed in a standard film lab C41 process and doing so would contaminate the C41 chemicals resulting in machine downtime.  I removed the remjet layer from the Kodak Vision3 film at home (see below) and then sent it to the lab for standard C41 developing. Unfortunately some remjet layer residue remained on the film so the film lab returned it back to me undeveloped.  *I would not recommend trying to send ECN-2 film to a lab as C41 film as in hindsight I don’t think it is not fair to risk other peoples C41 film if any remjet residue remains on the ECN-2 film resulting in film not being developed properly and the developing chemicals failing.
develop film home
Kodak Vision 3 Motion Picture Film = Kodak Portra 35mm film
As a result of not being able to develop my Kodak Vision3 ECN-2 film at my local film lab I decided to purchase colour film developing chemicals and try to develop the film at home myself.  I looked at a few different colour film developing chemicals and decided on the Tetenal C41 Kit 2.5L kit.

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 Film

35mm Kodak Motion Picture film – developed with remjet layer removed

4. Remjet removal

For Kodak Motion Picture film developing (used for photos in Leica camera)

Before attempting to develop my own ECN-2 film I did some reading to try to understand how to remove the remjet backing on the film.  Popular choices seem to be to use washing soda or baking soda.  Both make an alkaline solution when dissolved in water.  Personally I tried baking soda as I found that in my local shop first.  My remjet removal method is as follows:
Remjet removal – Step by Step Instructions
  • 4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 litre warm water (40 degrees Celsius) to dissolve the baking soda in
  • Pour solution into Paterson developing tank containing ECN-2 film
  • Soak for 3-5 minutes (nothing exact as all guestimated)
  • Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes (nothing exact as all guestimated)
  • Empty the tank content into a white bowl/sink (Solution should appear coloured yellow-pink at first then towards the end of the emptying start to go black (carbon remjet layer))
  • Refill developing tank with warm water (40 degrees Celsius)
  • Shake vigorously for 1 min
  • Empty the contents into a white bowl/sink (solution should be black)
  • Repeat warm water rinse process until water runs clear
  • Remjet removal process finished.
  • Next see colour film developing process below
film developing at home
remjet removal with baking soda method
*Note – The above remjet removal process has worked for me but there may be better or alternative methods if you search online.  If you search “Rem-jet removal” or “Rem jet removal” on YouTube there is also similar methods shared but with the advantage of the visual aid!

Hasselblad Double Exposure

Damaged 120 Kodak Portra film double exposure

5. Tetenal C41 Kit

Tetenal Colortec C-41 Kit 2.5L
What is in the box – 6x 0.5 litre bottles, including 3 bottles of film developer (Part 1,2,3)(mixed together to make the developer solution), two bottles of bleach fix (“BLIX“)(Part 1&2) and 1 bottle of stabiliser.
film devloping home - c41
Tetenal Colortec C-41 Kit 2.5L
Product description – “The Tetenal Colortec C-41 kit is ideal for the enthusiast, professional or home user looking to process their own colour negative films. This kit will process around 30 35mm or 120 films or equivalent in sheet film. This is a 2 bath kit, a simplified version of the C41 process where the fix and bleach are combined. May be mixed to make 2.5L of working solution in one go, or smaller quantities may be made retaining concentrate for future use”.

6. Tetenal C41 Kit Instructions

To make 1 litre of film developing chemical solutions –
  • Developer: 200ml (Part 1) + 200ml (Part 2) + 200ml (Part 3) + 400ml water
  • Bleach-Fix: 200ml (Part 1) + 200ml (Part 2) + 600ml water
  • Stabiliser: 200ml (stabiliser) + 800ml water

7. C41 Film Developing

My colour film developing is nothing mind blowing.  I simply followed the Tetenal C41 film developing instructions and opted for the 38 degrees Celsius method.  In summary this involves the following stages/times/temperatures (based on developing times recommended to develop the first 1-4 films in fresh chemical dilutions from concentrate):

8. C41 Developing Instructions

Step by Step C41 developing instructions:
  • Pre-Soak Water Bath: 5min @ 40C (+/-5.0)(Not temperature critical)
  • Developer: 3min15 @ 38C (+/-0.3)
  • Water Rinse: 1min @ 40C (+/-5.0)(Not temperature critical)(*extra rinse I like to do)
  • Bleach-Fix: 4min @ 38C (+/-3.0)
  • Water Rinse: 3min @ 30-40C
  • Stabiliser: 1min @ 20-40C
film developing home - time
Developing Time is important! Use a timing device (watch/ iPhone/ stopwatch)

Modern Vintage

Home developed 35mm black and white film – modern classic!

The common term you always hear associated with colour film developing is “very temperature sensitive”.  To give myself the best chance of keeping the film developing chemicals at the required temperature I filled my kitchen sink bowl with warm water at around 40 degrees celsius.  I made up 1 litre of working solution for each of developer, bleach-fixer (BLIX) and stabiliser per the Tetenal C-41 film developing instructions and put the 3 solutions into 3 used plastic pop bottles and labelled accordingly.  My bottles are not as good as the recommended 1 litre collapsible film developing chemical bottles but they function OK to start me off.  I ensure all the air is squeezed out of the bottles after use and store in a dark cupboard out of the light.
film developing home - temperature
You wil need a thermometer for film developing – I use this

9. Tetenal C41 Shelf Life

Recommended shelf life is assuming chemicals kept in full / sealed bottled:

  • Developer: Diluted solution – 6 weeks / Concentrate – 12 weeks
  • Bleach-Fix: Diluted solution – 24 weeks / Concentrate – 24 weeks
  • Stabiliser: Diluted solution – 24 weeks / Concentrate – 24 weeks

Kodak Vision3 200T Portrait

10. Develop film at home – Can I recommend it?

So should you develop film at home?  ..and is colour film developing as impossible and risky as I feared!?  Not at all and absolutely yes you should try developing film at home yourself!  I really wish I had started developing my own colour film 12-18 months ago.  Yes for colour film you need to watch the time and temperature of the developing chemicals more than if developing black and white film but it is merely like following a recipe in a cook book.  If you follow the instructions the results are a success!  I love the fact that I am now self sufficient and can develop and scan all my film in house.  It gives much better control in terms of not having the risk of film being lost in the post, a much much faster lead time (as can develop the film the day it was shot) and a big cost saving if you use the chemicals within their active lifespan (per above).

Planning ahead – film developing
Going forward I will buy bottles of colour film developing chemicals separately rather than as a developer kit as each chemical has it’s different shelf life.  I also read that by doing a 3 bath C41 development (developer + separate bleach and fixer) rather than a 2 bath C41 development (developer + bleach-fix)(above) it gives greater control so win win. I understand you cannot ‘fine tune’ colour film developing like you can with black and white film developing but I will certainly try to modify my process after each film batch developed to try to get ‘better’ and better results.

11. E6 Processing kit

Now I have tried C41 colour film developing I am now interested to look into E6 slide film developing as I love the colours of slide film.  Watch this space!

Fuji Velvia 100 Cross Processed

Cross processed E6 film in C41 chemicals

YouTube Kodak Vision3 Film Developing + Photos

Buy and Develop Film for the Price of a Coffee!

Related Links

You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit  – HERE

11 thoughts on “How to Develop Film at Home – B&W, Colour Film & Movie Film + YouTube”

  1. Pingback: 35mm Bulk Film Loader | – Matthew Osborne Photography

  2. Pingback: – BLOG | – Matthew Osborne Photography

  3. If and when you get to the e-6 developing, I hope you have better luck than I did. I’ve been able to do b/w and c-41 with no problems, but e-6 is another sort of beast. I think rather than risk my remaining exposed rolls with a DIY treatment, I’m going to send them in. No use risking any more than I already have.

    1. Hi Rick, my apologies for the very slow reply. Thanks for your feedback. It’s been a while since I’ve done even C41 so I’m no closer to e6 as yet. I saw a kit recently and it looked quite pricey so I might just keep using the lab for cost and for I higher chance of success! I don’t have a huge amount of E6 to develop but never say never! Cheers Matt

  4. Hi Matt. Big fan of your work. I have tried colour stand development using the Tetanol kit, which works, sort of, but requires a LOT of post processing in lightroom to get the colours right. Tempted to try the proper process. Do you do a lot of PP on the scans? What scanner do you use (I use an Epson Perfection V550).

    1. Hi Richard, My apologies for my very slow reply. 2017 is passing in a blur! I hope to get back on it soon after my Ironman triathlon is out the way. I use an Epson v800 flatbed and the basic settings.. some negatives seems to scan perfectly (colours), others are way off. Sometimes it is due to the white balance the photo was shot in as I find colour film much more sensitive to WB so if shoot on the green lawn the faces are green (etc). I have also read that if you chemistry is a little off (time/temp/age/other) it can affect the colour. Lastly different film stock retain colour differently. I use I lot of ECN2 movie film stocks which have a colour of their own. Initially I tried to ‘fight’ it to try to make everything look as digital and now I embrace the colour casts a lot more and see it as more of a positive. If you search my Flickr and Vision3 films you will see what I mean. In summary yes I can spend hours trying to fix colours but if you get a good scan / PP effort the results can be better than B&W. Cheers Matt

      1. Thanks for the detailed response, Matt. I have since started developing with Tetenal at 30C and frankly find it easier than B&W developing! My experience is exactly the same as yours, the issues are mainly with WB, sometimes irredeemably. And yes – you just need to embrace that timeless quality. You’re far better than it than I. I am still struggling with grain and definition at ISO 400 and up. But loving the results coming from Portra 160. Here’s an example:

  5. Hi Richard, no problem! Yes grain is better if you keep below ISO 400 for colour film I find. I even find 35mm Portra 400 a little grainy on occasion. Your photos looks good. If you are like me the more you do the better / easier it gets. I’ve had the summer off but will get back into colour developing so once I have more time. (The fridge is full of film to develop!)

  6. Remjet can easily be removed before C41 development. I fastened a clip to the wall, then (in the dark, obviously) unwound the roll, emulsion side down, then wiped the back with a sponge dampened with Dektol or sodium carbonate. After wiping with both sides of the sponge, all the Remjet will be gone, and the standard C41 developing chemicals will work just fine, even if commercial labs won’t accept motion picture film.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks Brian, sadly I don’t have access to a dark room currently. Great to hear for when I make one though so thanks!

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