Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Guide - Develop Colour film at home

Developing colour film at home is just as easy as developing black and white film.  Whilst it's true that more care is required, most of the steps are the same and you should be able to enjoy good results for a small cost.

Most colour films require a process called C-41.  This process has to be controlled much more carefully than b&w processing.  For the kit mentioned here you need to do the whole development at 30degC (+/- 0.5) and time the development step exactly.

If you've never developed a negative film, you should read my guide to developing black and white film first because I'll refer to it throughout this guide.  Don't feel you have to be experienced at b&w first, by all means jump into doing colour straight away if that's what you're interested in.

You'll need the following items in addition to what you may already have for the b&w processing

  • Tetenal Colortec C-41 developing kit (1lt version)
  • Chemical containers (see below) 
  • Thermometer which covers 20-40 degC 
  • Bucket
  • Aquarium heater (as used for tropical fish tanks)
  • Stopwatch (the one on your phone is fine)

Maybe budget around 40 pounds for the lot.

As you'd expect, getting you film out of it's canister and into the developing tank is just the same as before.  The only difference is how it's processed.   

There are several C-41 developing kits available, most having five or more steps (often called 'baths').  However the Tetenal one has just four even though it's advertised asa two bath kit.  It costs about 17 pounds and will do maybe 16 films.
  • step 1 - develop
  • step 2 - bleach+fix
  • step 3 - rinse
  • step 4 - stabilize
Firstly you need to mix the chemicals.   In the box you will find six small bottles which need careful dilution with tap water.

Like I mentioned in my b&w guide, it's a good idea to buy some cheap cleaning products from Tescos' for the bottles alone.  Wash them out really well with lots of hot water, leaving them to stand for a while whilst full.  This also makes it easier to get the labels off.  You may not get all the smell out, but that's ok.  

For this kit I tried to choose smaller containers which would fit easily in the bucket and narrowed towards the neck of the bottle to minimize the chemicals oxidizing during storage.

You can divide the six Tetenal bottles into three groups.

CD - Colour Developer  - three bottles

BX - Bleach+fiX - two bottles

STAB - STABilizer - one bottle

REMEMBER - Although not highly toxic, you should avoid contact of the chemicals with your skin. I always wear latex gloves though out the whole process. This will also help keep the smell of the chemicals off your skin, and your finger prints off the film.

  • To make the developer solution, add the three CD bottles to 700ml of water
  • To make the bleach+fix solution, add the two bottles to 600ml of water
  • To make the stabilizer, add the one bottle to 900ml of water

Label the separate containers and get them into the bucket with just enough water so that they don't float about.  Also place the developing tank, with your colour film inside, into the bucket so that the water covers it.  You may need to place something heavy on it to keep it in place.

I used a laundry detergent bottle for a weight
Place the Aquarium heater into the bucket and set it to 30degC.  Leave it all to warm up and come to temperature.  You can cheat at this step by using warm water to fill the bucket.

Use the thermometer to check the temperature, don't trust the setting on the heater.  You may find you have to set it a little higher than 30 degC to get the water warm enough.  Once you're sure it's all the same temp, you can start.  Remember, 29.5degC to 30.5degC is ok.

  1. Take the developing tank and the developer bottle out of the water.  
  2. Add the developer to the tank and start the stopwatch.  
  3. Then get the development tank back into the water immediately.   
  4. It needs to be in there for 8 minuets.  
  5. At two minute intervals, remove the tank and invert it four times and then get it back into the water. 
  6. At the end of the 8 mins, pour the developer back into its container! (don't throw it away as it will develop up to 16 films until it's finished) 
  7. Add the bleach+fix solution in the same manner, this time leave it in for 6 mins.
  8. Pour the bleach+fix back into its container, again you can reuse it.
  9. Rinse the tank with several flushes of water.  I follow the same procedure as for b&w development.
  10. Add the stabliser solution for 1min, and again keep it for future re-use.
That's it.  

Don't be tempted to wash the stablizer solution out, it has a 'rinse-aid' type agent in it to help remove the water from the film.  You can now remove the film and hang it to dry.

Hopefully you have some images you can scan. 

Common problems

Rainbow lines on image

This is almost certainly left over stablilser which has dried on the film.  You can fix this easily by washing and drying the film again.  Remember to wipe the film down before you leave it to dry.

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