Color film home developing

As you've probably already understood I've been developing my B&W films at home for a long time now with great result, but color, hell no, that's really difficult and impossible without processors, 12 different chemicals etc right?  

At least that was my idea about developing color film at home until I accidentally landed on a Youtube movie showing the process. It didn't seem that difficult so I ordered a Tetenal Press Kit for C-41. 

I also ordered some glass bottles for my chemicals, I've used plastic bottles for my B&W chemicals, but I just like the feeling of glass better, and they are easier to clean between refreshing your chemicals. 

For color processing you need three chemicals. Developer, Blix and Stabilizer. Kind of like the B&W Developer, fix and final rinse+wetting agent for B&W film. Mixing of the chemicals was very easy and impossible to fail on. My glass bottles is 1 liter and for the developer the instructions says that you should start with 400ml of water, add 200ml of Part 1, stir, add 200ml of Part 2, stir, add 200ml of Part 3, stir, done! Similar-ish instructions for the blix and stabilizer. I just used my measurement jug and poured it with a funnel directly into the glass jug. Instead of stir I just swirled the chemicals together. One thing to think about when mixing the stabilizer is that it creates a lot of bubbles, so pour it in gentle.

When all the chemicals are mixed the developer lasts for 6 weeks and the rest for 24 weeks. 
As a concentrate the developer lasts for 12 weeks and the rest for 24 weeks.

So, now when the chemicals are mixed, lets do some developing! 

One important thing to remember is that there are some nasty chemicals you are using, for this first test I was using my kitchen sink, but in the future I will move to the bathroom, away from dishes, food etc, where I also can place a square plastic bucket in the bathtub, place my shower handle in it, and let the water overflow into the bathtub to get an even better control over temperature.

Anyhow, I shot a roll of Ektar 100 at home, just at random stuff, out through the window, the kids, a flower etc, so no epic shots really but I didn't know what I could expect from the development. 

The most important part when it comes to developing color film is the temperature of your developer. The instructions says 38 degrees C +/- 0.3 degrees, that's really a pin point value, and probably pretty much impossible to hit each time. Although I don't think the outcome will be THAT bad if you miss it, it will result in less color saturation, but it wont ruin your film, so don't be afraid regarding the +/- 0.3 degrees. 

What I did was filling up my sink with around 40 degrees hot water and I placed my three bottles there, together with my Paterson tank as well as the plastic jug I'm using for measuring my chemicals. If I add 38 degrees hot developer into a cold Paterson tank the temperature will for sure drop, and we don't want that. Make sure that also the Paterson tank stays in the water for at least 5 minutes, make sure that the plastic is heated. 

My water tap in the kitchen happens to have two positions when it comes to hot water, to make sure that the kids doesn't hurt themselves, position one actually gives me spot on 39 degrees hot water, and you need to push the tap even further to get higher temperatures on the water, perfect!

When the developer starts to get closer to 39-40 degrees (i'm adding 1-2 degrees to compensate for the temperature decrease that will happen when I'm pouring the developer into the tank etc.) I removed the Paterson tank from the water, and with a towel drying it off as much as possible, I don't want a soaking wet tank in my dark bag when I'm trying to load my film onto the spool. Load the film onto the spool as usual, and do a pre-rinse, to get rid of coatings and stuff on the film. The water gets colored green, and I rinsed 3-4 times until the color was almost gone.

Always check your developer temperature, mine had passed 40 degrees so I removed it from the bath and put it in some cold water to get it down to 39 degrees.

Pour in your developer and start your timer! The instructions coming with the Tetenal Press Kit says 3min 15sec. I never agitate following a very thought out plan, but I agitated for 10 seconds in the start and then a few rotations every 30 seconds. When the time is up pour back the developer into your bottle using the funnel and as quick as possible add the Blix/Bleach instead. The temperature for the Blix isn't as important, the instructions says 38 +/- 3 degrees, so I just let the bottle stay in that 39-40 degrees warm water in my sink while using the developer. I used the same agitation plan for 4 minutes in total before pouring it back into the glass bottle. Next step is a 3 minute rinse at 30-40 degrees, pretty large span, so I just used my first position on the tap, that I know are 38 degrees, for the rinse. Changed the water 3-4 times, and then added the stabilizer (20-40 degrees) for one minute. Pour that back and then you are done! 

One difference between B&W and the C-41 process is that you should not do a rinse after the stabilizer, so after you just poured back the stabilizer, take your Paterson tank into your bathroom or where you've planned to hang-dry your film and take it out from the tank. My film had some bubbles and foam on it, but I didn't care about that and I cant see that it ended up on my scan either, so it probably just vaporizes.

The hang-dry process is a chapter for itself and I've done a lot of experimenting with that. 
What you really want is to use moisture in the room to make all the dust in the air to be heavy and fall, otherwise it will stick onto your film and you'll spend hours cloning away dust after scanning. At first I used the shower, let it shower very hot water for 10-15 minutes, if you have an ventilation outlet, close that or cover it up, it will moist up your bathroom pretty quick. 

One problem with this is that a hot shower also raises the temperature in the room a lot, and if you developed B&W film at around 20 degrees, and then hang it to dry in a 31-34 degrees hot room, I've experienced that the film curls a lot. I've not really understood if the curling of film occurs because of differences in humidity or temperature, or both maybe? And different film types curls more than others of course.

One thing that really has helped me though is the use of a humidifier instead of using the shower. The humidifier doesn't raise the temperature in the room, it just blows out cold moist air. It can also control the humidity level in the room, so I set it to 65% and after roughly 15-20 min with closed ventilation outlet that's what I have, and still around 24-25 degrees in the bathroom. It has totally minimized my problems with curling film.

After round 30-60 minutes (depending on how excited I am to scan) I open the ventilation outlet about 20% and let the film hang for 30-60 min more (depending on how excited I am to scan) before I shut off the humidifier and open the ventilation outlet to 100%. That's often enough to be able to scan the film. If I've got an important film I let it hang during the night or during the day, at least 4-5 hours, just to let it slowly dry from the inside out.

I hope that was helpul! Please leave comments if you like this blogpost! I'll add some scans of the Ektar100/Portra160 below. (taken with my Hasselblad 202FA + Planar 110/2.0

Patrik RosénComment