Video: How to make your own paper developer at home

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Historic Process Specialist Nick Brandreth of the George Eastman Museum is back with another episode of ‘Darkroom Magic’. The ongoing video series teaches photographers how to safely complete analog photography projects. In the latest video, Brandreth shows us how to make paper develop from scratch in the comfort of your own home.

Brandreth says, ‘Making a paper print is one of the most rewarding parts of the darkroom experience.’ However, when he recently purchased his favorite paper developer, Brandreth realized that something about it had changed. After confirming his suspicions with fellow film photographers, he decided to try his hand at making paper developer.

Nick Brandreth with the required ingredients to make your own D-72 developer

The raw materials you need are as follows:

  • Water
  • Reducing agents: Hydroquinone and Metol
  • Preservative: Sodium sulfite
  • Accelerator: Sodium carbonate
  • Restrainer: Potassium bromide

As seen in the video above, Brandreth shares the specific weights of each ingredient we need to make one liter of D-72 developer. First, measure out 3g of Metol. Next, weigh 45g of sodium sulfite. Up next is hydroquinone, of which you’ll need 12g. For dry ingredients, you need the most sodium carbonate, 80g in total. The final dry ingredient is potassium bromide, and you need only 2g.

With your dry chemistry weighed out, measure 750 ml of water. The water needs to be 125° F (52° C). Then add each dry chemical one at a time, mixing until it is completely dissolved before adding the next chemical. Brandreth notes that some chemicals take longer to dissolve and that when making a large batch of developer, he likes to keep his mixing container in a hot water bath or use a hot plate to ensure that the mixture stays at the desired temperature.

You want to ensure that the liquid mixture stays at the desired temperature of 125° F (52° C) when dissolving the dry ingredients.

After all the chemicals have been mixed in, pour your 750 ml of developer into its storage vessel. Ensure the vessel can hold a liter of liquid, as you will be adding 250 ml of water at the end of the process. You have now made a liter of D-72 developer at home.

Brandreth likes to use this developer at 68° F (20° C). He uses a dilution ratio of 1:2 and a development time of 1-3 minutes, ‘depending on the look and feel you want for your print.’ If you do decide to make your own developer, be sure to wear proper safety equipment, including gloves.

If you liked this episode of ‘Darkroom Magic,’ we have previously covered a pair of other episodes. Click here to learn how to make prints using table salt. If you’d like to learn how to safely make a 35mm daguerreotype, click here. To see other episodes of ‘Darkroom Magic’ with Nick Brandreth, check out the playlist on YouTube. To watch other videos from the George Eastman Museum, visit its YouTube channel.



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