Before We Begin

Getting Started

The Process

The Process II


Print Drums

Temperature Control

Tips / Miscellaneous



The process outlined above is intended for processing a full sheet of 8x10" paper.  Chemical quantities vary based  on the surface area of the prospective print, as well as the  total volume of the drum being used. For more information, consult the Print Drums section of this guide.

The reason I suggest dumping 25% of your chemistry is to give you an indication of how exhausted your working solution is becoming. In my experience with this technique, by the time you are down to 100ml of working solution, you are close to exhaustion, and it should serve as your last shot of the batch.

Because your test prints are usually not full sized 8x10’s, but cut down sheets covering about 1/4th the total surface area, you need not dump/use as much chemistry as you would a full sheet of paper. Alternatively, do not discard a fraction of your chemistry, but simply keep track of how many prints you’ve made with the batch, and dump when the batch is exhausted. (my experience is that 8 or 9 8x10’s from 300ml of soup is possible.) 


You have your first fully processed test strip. What does it tell you? Notice the gradation. If instructions were followed, there should be 5 steps, going from lightest to darkest.

 Graduated Test Strip

Since we were working with increments of 3 seconds, the lightest exposure would correspond to 3 seconds of exposure, the second lightest, 6 seconds, and so on, until you get to 15 seconds at the darkest. If all is well, one of these steps will obviate the correct exposure time: eg, you will think to yourself: “6 seconds is a bit too light, whereas 12 seconds is a bit too dark, but 9 seconds feels just right.”

So you’ve determined exposure. What about the colour balance? That’s probably off too. You’d have to be exceedingly lucky to get it right the first time, especially at the standard starting point of 60M/60Y. Chances are, you’re too yellow, too magenta, etc. It’s important to view your test print under good light so you can make an objective decision. In an ideal world, you would have a calibrated 5200K light source. Chances are, you don’t. Fortunately, our planet is orbiting a powerful, colour calibrated, and most importantly, FREE light source, so if you are printing at a sensible hour, seize the opportunity and scrutinize your print using daylight. From here, determine what filtration is needed, and then make the necessary change in the darkroom.

 Once you are satisfied with the colour balance, it's time to try your hand at a full size print! Be extra careful when handling the paper at this stage, as you are now aiming for a finished, fine print, as opposed to throwaway test strips. If all goes well, you will be looking at a well exposed, properly balanced print! Hopefully you kept your negative dust free, as this guide, like me, is staying away from spot toning.

NOTE: The example pictures shown here are of a 20x24" print being made. All the same principles apply! The cyan was added in for neutral density (to extend print time), as I felt some dodging was necessary. I could have achieved this by closing down the lens past f/16, but  likely at the cost of sharpness due to lens performance issues at extreme apertures (in this case, diffraction.)


Omar Elkharadly, 2010