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Here's a tutorial for developing colour film (C41) in your own kitchen, for those who are interested. It may not be the way that everyone else does it, but it works for me...


The guide below is based on the 1litre Tetenal Kit.


The great thing about the C41 process (compared to black and white) is that it's universal - whichever film you use, the developing time and method stays the same - 3:15 mins at 100 degrees (F). Most guides say that you need to keep the temperature to within +/- 0.5 degrees of this to avoid colour shifts, and this is what puts a lot of people off (including me for a long time). But there's no need to worry. Anyway, here we go:


You will need:



Kitchen sink or washing-up bowl


C41 chemicals - developer, bleach/fix (blix) and stabiliser

3 bottles for storing the chemicals (ideally the accordion type)

a jug/jugs for pouring the chemicals cleanly

a developing tank and reel(s)

a thermometer

a timer / phone with a stopwatch


Mixing the chemicals: You only need to do this once, when you fist get the kit. Presumably to increase shelf life, the C41 chemicals come packed into component parts (e.g. the developer comes in 3 different bottles, in the case of Tetenal). The first step is to mix these components together, with water, to make the 'working solution'. This is very straightforward - takes about 5 mins. After this you will have the working solutions of the developer, the blix, and the stabiliser ready to go in the accordion bottles.


Developing (overview):


Basically, processing C41 film consists of the following steps:


1) Load the film

2) Heat the chemicals and the developing tank to the right temperature

3) DEVELOPER - 3:15mins, then pour back into the accordion

4) BLIX - 4mins, then pour back

5) Rinse (i'll describe the method below)


7) Hang, dry, cut and scan!


Developing (method)


1) Load the film: If you're anything like me, this will be the most difficult part of the whole process. I use a Patterson tank which has the capacity to fit two 35mm reels or one 120 reel.


2) Heating the chemicals: This is the part that I was most worried about. I thought that, to maintain a highish temperature for the whole of the developing time, to a precise degree, would be too tricky to achieve without expensive thermostats and rotary developers. In actual fact, during the 3:15 of developing time, the temperature will hardly change at all - water is very good at storing heat.


Here's the method I use:

a) Fill a kettle and put it on the boil.

b) put the developer and blix accordions in the washing-up bowl / sink, along with the developing tank.

c) once the kettle has boiled, pour into the bowl/sink, so that the chemical bottles are sitting in a pool of hot water.

d) open the lid of the developer, stick in the thermometer, and wait until the temperature reads about 101 - 102 degrees F - this will take a few mins, depending on how much hot water it is paddling in. While this is happening, hold the developing tank down in the sink (it will want to float as it's currently full of air)


3) Developer (3:15) : Once the temperature hits 101 - 102, take the developer, the developing tank, and the Blix out of the sink / bowl (don't worry about the blix cooling too much - the temperature doesn't need to be as precise for this step) Pour the required amount of developer (enough to cover the film in the tank) into the jug, and then into the tank, as you start the timer. AGITATION: for me, I use the same agitation method as for black and white: 4 inversions followed by a couple of taps, every 30 seconds. After 3:15 pour the developer back into the jug, then back into it's accordion, and seal it up.


4) Blix (4:00) : Blix looks like blackcurrant juice, but please don't drink it. Rinse out the jug, pour in the blix, then pour into the tank as you start the timer for 4mins. Agitate as above. When the time runs out, pour back into the jug, and then back into the accordion, and seal.


5) Rinsing: You can use whichever method you are used to from BW developing to rinse. As usual, everyone has an opinion as to the best method. Here's mine: Remember the paddling pool of hot water that you poured into the sink, to heat up the chemicals? Return to this and add lots of cold water. You want this pool to drop to minimum of 86 degrees F (you don't need to be precise - anywhere from 86 - 104 degrees will be fine). This is your rinsing 'reservoir'. Using a clean jug, fill up the developing tank, and do 5 inversions, then pour the contents away (not back into the reservoir). Fill up again, and do 10 inversions, then pour away. Repeat for 15 and then 20 inversions. Rinsed.


6) Stabiliser (1:00) : As far as I know, stabiliser helps to prevent any further changes to the film after developing, and is also mixed with a washing-up liquid type substance which helps the water run off, minimising any stains on the film after drying. Simply pour enough stabiliser into the developing tank to cover the film, agitate as in step (3), and after 1 minute, pour the stabiliser (using a jug) back into it's accordion and seal it. You're all done.


7) The moment you've been waiting for (or dreading?): crack open the developing tank and admire your handywork. Hopefully you will have some nice negatives staring back at you. Unwind from the reel, remove any excess liquid with a squeegee, then hang up (preferably in a dust free area) to dry. I use weighted film clips to make sure the film dries straight. If, like me, you are very inpatient, you can use a hair dryer on a low setting to speed up the drying time. If you are doing this, remember to dry both sides of the film, to prevent it from curling up, which makes it tricky to scan. Once dry, cut up and scan.


Sorry I realise this is quite a long post! It looks long winded when written out like this, but I can say that it really is very straightforward when you try it yourself. I hope this is useful in some way, and please let me know what you think. I'd also like to know about the methods you use, or any tips or tricks you've picked up.


Oh, here's the details for the image above:


Minolta SRT - 101

Rokkor 50 / 1.7

Fuji Superia 200

Developed in Tetenal (3:15 @ 100 F)


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Taken on May 14, 2012