Darkroom Tutorials Darkroom Printing Chemicals

I generally use the manufacturer’s recommendations for film and paper processing, except for film development where I find the Ilford recommended development times rather long for my way of working.

I prefer liquid concentrates for convenience.

Film developer

Ilford Ilfotec DDX 1+6, 9 minutes for Ilford FP4+ and SFX 120 (I process 5 rolls at a time and process FP4+ in the same tank with SFX). I was the Ilford Technical Manager responsible for chemical products at the time that DDX was specified and developed. In my opinion it is the best film developer, both in terms of performance and reliability, that Ilford make. The top line of the specification was that it give performance similar to ID11 powder developer but in a convenient liquid concentrate rather than powder. It was optimised for the Ilford Plus films as well as the newer Delta range and is based on a modern, more stable, version of Phenidone and hydroquinone. If you are unsure of what developer to use try Ilfotec DDX (in 1 litre bottles) or Ilfotec DD (identical developer to DDX but in 5 litre bottles).

Where maximum film speed is needed I would always use Ilford Microphen powder, still the best speed enhancing developer.

Paper Developer

Ilford Multigrade 1+4, 1 minute resin coated (RC), 2.5 minutes fibre based (FB). Multigrade developer gives a slightly warm tone compared to Ilford PQU (also at 1+4), which I also occasionally use. Both can be used at 1+9 using longer development times to achieve the same result.


Ilford Multigrade Fibre Based variable contrast papers. They provide a powerful creative tool. Having different levels of contrast in parts of the same print seems to create images with an extra dimension compared to single grade papers.

Stop Bath

Ilford Ilfostop 1+19 (50 mls per litre), 20 seconds. Using a stop bath, preferably a low odour one to reduce the problem of fumes aggravating chest complaints, both extends the life of the fixer and prevents processing streaks. This latter problem is mainly seen with poor agitation and old or cold fixer. Large prints of 20 x 16 inches and above are susceptible to this, probably because of the lower agitation they usually get. It is citric acid (lemon juice) and has a yellow colour from the bromocresol purple indicator used to show when the solution is no longer effective. The colour change to look for is yellow to colourless. The stop bath should be discarded at this point. If you use it for longer the colour changes again to give a purple tint; by the time it reaches this stage it has been useless for a long time! Another way to check is from the feel of the print surface – if it feels slimy it is still alkali and needs longer in the stop bath (or fresh stop bath). Never use a tray of water instead of stop bath; after one print is immersed in it you effectively have dilute developer so the development time is extended not stopped!


Ilford Hypam 1+4 (both film and paper) 4 minutes FP4+, 2 minutes MGFB. Most fixers are similar in terms of ingredients but have different strengths. The Ilford formulae were some of the most concentrated on the market which meant that they could process more prints before they were exhausted. It is based on acetic acid with a few inorganic salts to remove the unexposed silver halide (ammonium thiosulphate) and to stabilise the solution against oxidation (sulphite). Fixer stabilises your final image so don’t cut corners with it or your negatives and prints will degrade quickly.