How to make a darkroom at home?

When setting up a darkroom, it is crucial to find an adequate space and purchase a good enlarger. Every other tool can be easily found online.

What you need:

  • Dark room
  • Trays
  • Tongs
  • Safe light
  • Graduated Cylinder
  • Timer
  • Grain magnifier
  • Easel
  • Contrast filters

Finding the perfect room can be challenging. The main characteristics needed are darkness and access to water. The second obstacle can be overcome, the first however is a necessity that cannot be compromised. Complete darkness is mandatory. If you have successfully found a room that fits these requirements, you now need to set up a working table on which to position your enlarger. Ideally you will also have designated drawers or boxes to store your paper.

When setting up a working table, your wet area (where you keep your trays) and your dry area (where you have your enlarger) must be separate to avoid contamination. Get a red light so you can work safely when handling the paper. If you don’t have access to running water, get a designated tray to use for a first wash right after fixing. Afterward, it is safe to pass to another area of your home and do a proper wash.

Photo credits: guitarman, and activitesparanormales

Each tray will be dedicated to a step of your process. It is best to have three separate colors to clearly distinguish each step. The size of the trays will also determine how much solution you need to mix, always making sure that there is enough liquid to fully cover the entire paper. The bigger the tray, the more liquid you will need. However, purchasing a set of trays that can fit multiple paper sizes will allow you to try different print sizes. Together with each tray, you will need to get a set of tongs to hold the paper when moving from one basin to the next.

When mixing your chemicals in your graduate cylinder, make sure to follow the ratio given by your supplier for printing and not for developing film. They can be the same chemical but not the same dilution. Always check the temperature is between 18 and 21 degrees celsius.

To complete your work station you need an enlarger. Many options are available on the market. Second hand or new, what matters is that they are in pristine condition. A key element is a control unit with a timer synced to your light, which will turn on and off according to your printing times.

Other accessories you will need are an adjustable easel to frame your paper, a grain magnifier and an air blower to dust away any possible contamination on your print. If you do not use a graded paper, you will need to have contrast filters to adequately correct the contrast on your print.

Anything missing?

Can’t find an answer to your question? Or do you have some useful advice to add to one of our courses? We want to build the world’s largest analogue learning space, so please send any further requests or information to and we’ll take a look!

More Courses

  • What is a test strip?

    What is a test strip?

    A test strip is a piece of paper with which the correct exposure time for an image can be determined by dividing it into sections of different exposures.

  • What is a contact sheet?

    What is a contact sheet?

    A contact sheet is a printed photographic paper that includes on a single page all the photos taken on the roll.

  • What is split grade printing?

    What is split grade printing?

    Split grade printing refers to the use of more than one filter when printing your photos in a darkroom, in order to properly expose the highlights and shadow areas.

  • How and where to find a darkroom to use if you don’t have space at home?

    In many cities you will be able to find darkrooms that you can use. These spaces are often part of a university, college or photography center.

  • What are the different types of photographic paper?

    What are the different types of photographic paper?

    Photographic paper is coated with a light sensitive solution to make it possible to create a darkroom print. Different papers are distinguished by categories such as fixed grade, variable contrast, resin coated, and fiber base.

  • How to make a darkroom print

    How to make a darkroom print

    Work in a fully equipped darkroom. Select a negative, put it in an enlarger and focus the frame. Then expose the image for the correct time on the photographic paper. Finally develop, stop, fix, wash and dry.

  • What is an enlarger?

    What is an enlarger?

    An enlarger is a light projector used to make a print of an image that is larger than the original negative or transparency.

  • What is Dodging and Burning?

    Dodging and burning are darkroom techniques used to make adjustments to different areas of our prints. Dodging lightens an area, while burning darkens an area.