How to Build A Darkroom

Printing your own photographs can be a very rewarding experience and a fun hobby. Setting up a darkroom is an easy and surprisingly inexpensive project.


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    Find a place in your house or apartment that can be made totally dark. A bathroom with no windows, or a basement room, is a good place to start. A room with access to running water is a bonus. If an otherwise dark room has the minor problem of light leaking in around the door, affixing a strip of black fabric along the edge of the door can fix that.
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    Buy the necessary supplies, as listed below in the "Things You'll Need" section.
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    Set your darkroom up so there is a "wet" side and a "dry" side. The separation will minimize the possibility of making mistakes that could end up being very damaging to your photos.
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    If you have the space, it helps to have a counter-like table, with everything aligned in the order you will use it in. Also, having a drawer or cubby-hole beneath the enlarger is convenient for storing your photo paper. If, for example, your darkroom doubles as a regular bathroom with light when not in use, be sure your light sensitive supplies have completely dark storage space.
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    Align your trays so the first one is for the developer solution, the second tray is for the stop solution, and the third tray is for the "fix" solution. A fourth tray with running water piped into it, if possible, will be used for the "bath", or a simple tray with just water can serve the same purpose.


  • Try eBay for darkroom supplies. Enlargers are pretty easy to come by on eBay and are often quite cheap. Also, if you live near a college, check campus bulletin boards near the end of semesters for ads from students looking to unload supplies as they leave town.
  • If your perfect room has the one problem of having a window, you could consider assembling a permanent or removable cover for the window out of thin wood or cardboard. Be sure it affixes securely to the window, with foam or fabric around the edges to seal out light.
  • Darkroom lights can be expensive, though photo supply shops often sell bulbs that can be used in any lamp or fixture, and are much cheaper.
  • The only chemical you should need to buy and replace regularly is developer. A simple solution of water and white vinegar can be used for stop bath, and fixer can be re-used and recycled. When fixer develops a build-up of silver and no longer looks clear, it is time to replace it.
  • Make sure there are no fluorescent lights in the darkroom as they give off radiation that will fog paper long after they have been turned off.
  • If you don't have running water into your bath (final rinse), you should be sure you replace the water often, and/or move your final prints to an area where you can rinse them under running water, such as a bathtub. Prints that have not been adequately rinsed will be sticky and possibly smudge.


  • Make sure the dark room is well ventilated.
  • Make sure no light can get in.
  • Color processing is more complicated than black and white. If you wish to try color, be sure your lighting, enlarger, and chemicals are safe and appropriate for color printing.

Things You'll Need

  • enlarger
  • three adequately sized trays
  • three sets of tongs
  • 8" X 10" easel
  • concentrated developer(leave photo in for ONE minute), stop bath(leave photo in for TWO minutes)and fixer(leave photo in for Ten minutes).
  • photo paper (sized appropriately to fit in your trays)
  • enlarger photo timer
  • red light
  • Film Tanks
  • A timer or wall clock
  • Developing Tank with reels and accessories
  • Special light
  • An area that is dark
  • A friend to teach you their ways!

Article Info

Categories: Film Cameras and Film Photography | Photographic DIY