First darkroom shopping trip : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I am now ready to make my first purchases for our first B&W darkroom. Any suggestions as to which paper and chemicals to start with? How about the easiest to load and use tank to develop the film? Wendy

-- Wendy Fowlie (, September 01, 2000


Paper: some type of RC paper - easy to wash, dries fast either grades 2 and 3 or Multigrade (i.e. variable contrast - you will need a set of filters for this. They fit in your enlarger either above or below the lens, depending on the kind you buy.) I like Ilford MultiGrade IV RC, but Kodak or Agfa or others are fine, too.

Chemicals: Kodak Dektol, Kodak fixer, Kodak indicator stop bath. Ilford chemicals are fine, too.

Bottles: for the chemicals

Trays: you'll need four, preferably five (two fixer baths make the fixer last longer). Developer, Stop, Fix1, Fix2, Wash.

Safelight: OC color (amber). Avoid the red safelight, some papers are sensitive to red, 'though not all.

Tongs: you can handle the paper with your fingers but some people get allergic to the developer and the chemicals make your hands smell.

Tray washer attachment: a little gizmo to squirt the water around your tray to wash the prints.

Cotton gloves: keeps greasy fingers off the film.

Compressed gas dust gizmo: squirts a jet of air onto the film to blow off dust. Not necessary but I like it.

As for tanks, I prefer the ones with the stainless reels. I don't like the plastic reels, they grab the film and I found them harder to load. I use a metal tank with a plastic cover that I can fill with chemicals and invert without leakage.

Have fun.

-- Don Karon (, September 01, 2000.

I make only two comments on Don Karon's excellent suggestions. One, with RC paper, such as Ilford Multigrade IV RC, one stop bath is plenty. And tongs are okay in the stop bath and fix, but lead to stains and streaks if used to grab and lift prints from the developer. I use a little white, plastic kitchen spatula to lift the end of the print from the developer and then lift it completely out by holding the edges between both hands. I found that touching the still-sensitive emulsion with tongs or fingers produces blotches. Once development is stopped by the stop bath, tongs are okay.

-- Keith Nichols (, September 02, 2000.

Any VC RC paper, but I use Ilford. It makes sense to use variable contrast paper and filters rather than trying to stock multiple grades of paper.

With Ilford Multigrade paper, I use Ilfrod Multigrade developer. It is liquid so a little less handling to get started. Kodak Indicator Stop and Kodak or Ilford RAPID Fixer. The stop and fix will be usable for both film and paper.

For film tank, Patterson are good and easy to load. Purists like stainless steel tanks and reels, but plastic works fine and are easier to learn to load. If you do go SS, don't skmip, buy ONLY Hewes reels. They are expensive but well worth it.

For film development, assuming B&W, you can't go wrong with Kodak D-76 or Ilford ID-11 (virtually the same thing), but many people have switched to Kodak Xtol. Just watch out for caked packges of the 1L size. To start with, I suggest either Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP-5+ for film or Plus-X and FP-4+ for slower speed. These films are very good and not as sensitive as the T grain films. So to start out with, you will have more success.

Also many people have had good luck with Sprint chemicals. They are cheaper and lower odor. Their film developer seems to be basically D-76. Rapid Fixer is Rapid Fixer, brand (within reason) is not important. For stop, I prefer indicator for paper so I can see when it is getting used up. For film, it is not as important, since I normally toss it before it gets too far gone.

As for the rest of the stuff, look for used. On eBay you can find lots of the little stuff, also check locally at flea markets/tag sales or Penny Saver type papers. You may be able to pick up an entire darkroom setup for $100-$400 depending on what is included.

-- Terry Carraway (, September 02, 2000.

I agree with all previous posts about using rc/vc paper. As to brand use what is readily available locally. Some shops will only stock Kodak some have Ilford and Kodak but rarely anything else. Get the appropriate brand of vc filters, If you have a filter drawer above the lens get the gelatin type they are less expensive and dust is not as critical. There is a previous post warning against the use of print tongs in the developer. I've been using cheap plastic (not bamboo) print tongs for years. I have 3 tongs marked for dev, stop & fix. If you GENTLY use the tongs only on the print edge you will not get marks. BTW space permitting try to get a developing tray larger than the maximum print size you plan on usung.Developing reels. SS is worth the practice and the expense.Try to avoid "walk on" reels, I never could get the hang of them. Kinderman is also a good brand some of my reels are over 20 years old and work as well as the day I bought them. Hve fun!

-- Robert Orofino (, September 02, 2000.

If you leave the print in the developer to completion you don't get tong marks... I use plastic tongs and prefer to grab the print well into the paper to ensure it doesn't slip

On the ss/plastic reel argument, what doesn't work for some works for others... My plastic (Paterson) reels are 18+ years old and work fine for me when used for 35mm and 120 roll film. Maybe SS reels would be easier for 120 but for 35mm the film would have to jump out of the canister and load itself to be any easier than the Paterson reels

One thing no ones mentioned is the paper finish... and I'd suggest starting with a semi- matt or pearl sheen level as I find that easiest to print.

-- Nigel Smith (, September 03, 2000.

I find that using liquid (rather than powder) chemicals take much of the drudgery out of darkroom work. Also, using "film strength" rapid fixer for paper will fix RC paper in 30 seconds, making the process that much less tedious.

-- Chris Ellinger (, September 05, 2000.

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