I'm a Newbie... Darkroom Qs.


TPF Noob!
Feb 15, 2012
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Hi all,

I am new member of TPF, and currently building my darkroom. It's going slow, but sure, and turning out beautiful and neat. I have had one course, Basic Darkroom, but enjoying learning more now. So here are a couple of questions:

-it's kind of cold here, and no central heating where I live (Egypt) so the developer and fixers are probably a bit below the recommended temp. (below 20c) I wonder if this is why my first prints in the new darkroom here were a bit dull? and how should I heat it up to 20 (it's usually about 17c) shall I just put that little heater thingy in the solution until it reaches the desired temp.?

-Safelights are VERY hard to find here (and so is everything that is darkroom-related) but I found a small bulb (15 watts) that is red, but it seemed a bit too bright (not red enough) to me. So I wonder if spraying it with a couple of coats of red spray paint will do? I know that safe-light can ruin prints if it's not that...safe.

-I have a meopta enlarger with a color head, and wonder what is the best way to get a good contrasty B&W print out of it. I have seen some schedules with numbers of M and Y to get different results on multi-grade paper. But it's either I'm doing something wrong, or these numbers differ from one paper type to another, etc. Also, what if I'm using graded paper? Do I still need to play around wit the CMY, or keep it all on Zero?
From my little research, I have concluded that it's all in the M and Y, but what about the C, or the D (density)? Do they play any role in that?

I think that's all I need at the moment to get started and get decent results as the ones I got during my class, where enlarger and everything was already set up.

Thanks to everyone who is keeping this website such a great source of information :thumbup:
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1. You could put your trays in a large tray surrounded by warmer water.

2. Not a good idea about the red light. not every red bulb is light safe, if you can check out ebay you should be able to find a darkroom red light source cheaply.

3. Don't use Cyan it is for color printing.
4. Just dial in about 35 magenta and see if that helps, that is bascially around a grade 3 paper.
If your using graded paper, null all filters out.
If the water is a little cooler, just increase your development times accordingly, about 10-20% longer then what's stated. As long as the temperature is consistent and not extremely cold you shouldn't have a problem.

As for the safe light, test it out first with some spare photo paper. Cover a portion of the paper and then expose it to the safe light for a couple of minutes and then develop under the safe light. If you can make out a difference between the covered area and the non-covered area your safe light isn't "safe." Also, light falls of quadratically, so brightness can be easily offset by just moving the light further away.
Thanks for the replies. I will do the coin test and examin my light. Also the color head chart should be all I need. Will try it out tomorrow.
I have one more question- sorry if it sounds a bit silly. But I was wondering if a stop bath was really needed! and if so, then what for! I usually lay my paper in the developer, then pnce done with that, I lift it up from one corner, let it drip for a few seconds then put it in the fixer. Later, when done with fixing, I leave the print in fresh water for about 30 min.
Does this make any sense? I don't even have a third tray for water in my darkroom, but I fill my bathtub with water later and do this step in the tub. Am I committing any darkroom crime here?
One can use water instead of stop bath, however you will exhaust the fixer faster.

You need to be agitating the print while in the developer.

If this is RC paper it just needs to be wash for 2-4 minutes, soaking it so long is not good for the brightners . Running water is needed not still water.

Not a crime but you need to be sure the chemistry is being removed from the paper or in the future the print will start to change color.

Again, I am recommending that you review the information on Ilford's website about darkroom processes.
You've already got some great replies and there's not much I can usefully add, so I'll just add my encouragement, and some useless information...

Fixer is denser than clean water, so fixer tends to fall off paper to the bottom of the wash tray or tank. Purpose designed washers hold the print vertical so the fixer streams downwards from the surface of the print - you can see it if the tank is clear. If you are rigging up a print washer that might be something to bear in mind - try to add the clean water to the top and remove it from the bottom, perhaps using a syphon arrangement. You can rig up an arrangement to do that in a normal bath or handbasin, via the plug or even via the overflow.

I have worked in a few darkrooms with no running water, and I simply stacked my prints in a tray until transferring them to the washer. If you are really tight for space you can stack trays - raise the fixer above the holding tray.

The reason that the cyan filter is of no use when printing B&W is that it only stops red light - and paper isn't sensitive to red light so it has no effect whatsoever. With multigrade paper you are manipulating the proportions of blue and green light to get the different contrast blends (there are two emulsions with different contrast and different spectral sensitivity in the paper), so that's why you adjust the magenta (minus green) and yellow (minus blue) filters.

Good luck,
Thanks, Ann and Helen. And to Helen, it wasn't useless.. at this stage where I'm at, every piece of information is useful and even inspiring. It's good to know why things are done this way, rather than: this is how you should do it, period. Being an artist, I'm used to breaking the rules but it's essential to know why those rules exist so I can break them later.

again, I must add that this forum is great. It's wonderful to ask questions at noon, to get elaborate answers by evening.
The safest safelight is the one that isn't on, with a little practice its easy to learn to work without the safelight.
Get everything set up under the safelight then turn it off to make the exposure.
True, the coin test proved my red spray-painted bulb to cause a little fogging. My other 'real' safelight didn't cause any fogging. I also put it quite far from the developers that I hardly see anything. Not very easy when you are clumsy, like myself, but I'm adapting.

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