If you’re ever thinking of making your own darkroom, you should consider this checklist and make sure that you all the basics covered in order to develop and process your own film rolls at home.
Depending on the enlarger you purchase, you may need to get a 35mm negative carrier and 50mm enlarging lens (with a lens board and jam nut) separately. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to call one of our friendly sales representatives for assistance.
Some enlargers can handle both 35mm and medium format negatives, although you will need a different negative carrier and lens to accommodate this. There are also enlargers that can handle 4×5, medium format, and 35mm film. If you plan to print with 4×5 negatives in the future, you should purchase an enlarger that can accommodate them. Otherwise, a 35mm/medium format enlarger will suit your purposes just fine.
In order to get prints which are correctly exposed, you need to control the amount of light that reaches your paper. The timer, along with the aperture on your enlarger lens, controls the exposure so that your prints are neither too light nor too dark. Timers can either be stand-alone, requiring you to turn off the enlarger manually, or they can connect to the enlarger for automatic shut-off. We recommend a timer that automatically turns the enlarger on and off.
The easel is used to hold the photographic printing paper while you are exposing it. The paper holders on the easel are used to correctly position the unexposed paper and hold it flat during the exposure. There are quick easels in a singe set format like 8×10 or 5×7, and there are bladed easels that allow you to choose your own format.
You might also consider buying a contact printing frame, which has a Plexiglas top to hold your negatives flush on the paper for contact printing.
Safelight filters come in a few different varieties. The most commonly used are OC (amber) and Red (A1). Always check the manufacturer’s instruction sheet to determine the appropriate type of safelight for your particular paper.
Red (1A) safelight filters are typically used for orthochromatic materials like litho film, certain liquid emulsions and some B&W photo papers. Never mix OC and red safelights in the darkroom — even if a paper can be used with either safelight, the combination will usually cause fogging.
The safelight should be positioned to provide the best illumination of the work area, but should be kept at least four feet from the photographic paper. See our How Safe is Your Safelight? article for more tips on safelight set-up.
These are used for moving the photographic paper through the processing solutions. You should have a set of four: one for developer, one for stop bath, one for fixer, and one for the final rinse. Label each one to avoid contaminating the chemicals.
The trays hold the processing solutions. The first tray is for the developer, the second for the stop bath, the third is for the fixer and the fourth is for the wash. Label the trays and always use the same tray for each solution. It is a good idea to get trays at least one size larger than the paper you are using.
Use it to measure the temperature when mixing and using chemicals. Photographic thermometers are stainless steel or glass, and will not be damaged by the photographic chemicals.
These are used to mix and measure the processing solutions. It is best to have a variety of sizes with at least one with markings at 1oz. or 10ml intervals. Some people have one graduate for each chemical type.
These hold the mixed processing solutions. Bottles can be glass or plastic, and should be opaque brown or black. Make sure the lids are airtight. Label the bottles and always use the same bottle for each solution.
This is how you get solutions back into the bottles. Don’t try it without one.
Remove excess water from your prints after they are washed so that they’ll dry faster and more evenly.
That takes care of the equipment. All you need now are:
The three basic chemicals are (1) Developer (2) Stop Bath and (3) Fixer. Mix these with the appropriate amount of water and store them in your bottles.
Photographic paper is sensitive to light and should be handled only in a darkroom with the correct safelight. Black and white paper is exposed under an enlarger and processed in chemicals to create a final image.
Still not sure what you need? At the end of this booklet we have a complete supply list for you that includes all the paper, chemicals and accessories you need to get started.
Extra enlarger bulbs
Household bottle opener to open the film canisters
Developing trays or tanks
(separate trays for developer, fixer, and the stop bath)
Plastic or stainless steel washing tank
Wire or plastic rod for retrieving reels from the water tank
Chemicals (developer, stop bath and fixer)
Storage bottles for mixed chemicals
Plastic or cardboard holders for slide film
Graduated measuring flask
Plastic or stainless steel developing tanks (single reel or multiple reel)
Plastic or stainless steel film reels
Bottled distilled water
Bottled spring water (without salt)
Plastic gloves for mixing chemicals
Goggles or safety glasses for mixing chemicals
plastic hose for wash tank
Optional items for developing:
“Safe bag” for loading and unloading film from the canister
Light box to view negatives and slides (with extra bulbs)
Can of pressurized air
Small sable brushes to clean lenses and equipment
Sharp scissors for cutting the film
Storage boxes (metal, plastic or acid-free cardboard)
Electric extension cords
Computer negative analyzer
Developing color film and prints requires additional items:
Small refrigerator for chemicals and developer
Color chemicals for film and paper
Enlarger with base for enlarger
Lens (multiple for various size developing)
Slide carriers (35 mm, 4 X 6, passport size)
12 X 12 piece of glass plate for contact printing
Plastic or wooden “safe box” for the photographic paper
Separate safe boxes for each type of photographic paper
Tongs (either bamboo, plastic or stainless steel)
Pressurized can of air
Lens cleaner with soft cloths
Photographic papers (boxes or envelope)
Goggles and safety glasses (face shield)
Optional Printing Accessories:
Antique-style cabinet cards
Silver, wet plate, platinum or palladium developing chemicals
1950s-style ruffled edge trimmer
Pens and pencils for retouching negatives
Watercolors or oil paints for hand tinting
Storage boxes (acid-free paper or plastic)
Photo albums (acid-free paper or plastic)
Large bed paper cutter
Plastic or cotton-coated apron or lab coat
Equipment for Drying Film and Prints:
Tongs (stainless steel, plastic or bamboo)
Small tabletop print dryer (optional)
Film coater (foam or fabric)
Plastic or steel line for hanging film or prints
Hang clips (stainless, bamboo or plastic)