Developing Colour C-41 Film At Home

March 28, 2019

developing colour C-41 film at home - the hanging proof!

I was apprehensive about developing rolls of film by myself, for fear that I’d make mistakes and ruin shoots. This is especially when I’m collaborating with others or getting paid. But I’ve come to love developing colour C-41 film at home, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

Turns out, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. But it’s been helpful and necessary for me to improve my skills and troubleshoot problems. The last 20-odd rolls I’ve processed have been perfect and I’ve refined the system to a place where I’m very confident.

The top image* shows my current hanging strategy which works great, despite not being the ideal setup. The ideal would be an expensive and space-consuming drying unit like this.

*This image is dirty and not a good example of processing!

developing colour C-41 film at home produces a lot of empty 120 spools

Technical & Chemicals

I’m currently using Tetenal Colortec C41 (2.5l Kit) for developing colour C-41 film at home. I’ll exhaust what I have (I’m on my second box of it) and move onto Fuji Press 5l kit. The Tetenal has done me well, but I’d like to separate the BLIX into bleach and fix stages, as I’ve been given a lot of advice that this is a better method, with less chance of issues.

Getting the film rolls loaded onto reels in a dark-bag took me some practice. At first it could work quickly or could take me up to 40 minutes to load one reel. Now it takes me a couple of minutes to do it properly. I did try double-loading reels with 120 film but that caused some of my biggest problems, with films overlapping (overlapped areas didn’t come out at all).

I use my JOBO CPE-2 – that I bought last year with all the darkroom gear – to process. I’ve worked out the niggles of broken bits, lids popping off and spilling chemicals during rotation and getting a good temperature.

I’ll probably blog more about developing colour C-41 film at home in the future – especially the one big issue that almost put me off altogether. I’ve also started to look forward to making my own prints at home using RA-4 and the enlarger kit I got. I tested all the equipment over the past week so watch this space on that too.

Examples

In the meantime, here are some examples of images I’ve developed at home recently: