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How to Print:. Making an Enlargement from a Negative in the Darkroom. The Steps … . Prepare and gather all the materials and resources needed for you to work in the darkroom: Negative Storage Folder or Box

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how to print

How to Print:

Making an Enlargement from a Negative in the Darkroom

the steps
The Steps …
  • Prepare and gather all the materials and resources needed for you to work in the darkroom:
      • Negative Storage Folder or Box
      • Darkroom Kit (towel, fine liner, masking tape, dust brush, negative cleaning cloth, card for dodging/burning, loop, scissors)
      • Black card for masking
  • Organize your work station before starting
  • Ensure all the chemistry is mixed – this should be completed by the technician
  • however it is important to note that, like film development , temperature should be 20 C. If not you will have to adjust process timings to compensate. Also, as with film development, avoid cross contamination of chemical solutions. Arrange your trays in order; developer, stop, fixer.
evaluating y our negatives
Evaluating Your Negatives

Things That Can Go Wrong

My film is completely black.Indicates gross overexposure. If the film is all black including the rebates then the film has been exposed to light and completely fogged.

My film is completely clear.Indicates gross underexposure. If there really is nothing there at all apart from edge numbers, you probably didn’t expose the film at all , either through incorrect loading where the film hasn’t wound on or by developing an unused film by accident. If the film is completely clear including the rebate and the leader then you have fixed the film before developing .

Negatives are very thin ( faint ).Assuming correct exposure in the first place. Underdevelopment. Developer too cold, too short development time, developer too dilute or insufficient agitation.

Negatives are very dense ( dark ).Assuming correct exposure in the first place. Overdevelopment. Developer too hot, too long development time, developer too concentrated or over agitation.

Film is cloudy or milky.Insufficient fixing. Too short fixing time, fixer exhausted or fixer too dilute. Return to fixer solution or if necessary re-fix in a fresh solution.


Uneven development1) Film is lighter or underdeveloped along one side . Not enough developer to cover the film in the tank.2) Negatives have denser areas mirroring the shape of the sprocket holes. Surge marks caused by vigorous agitation causing developer to surge through sprocket holes.3) Undeveloped patches or patches of film which have been unaffected by any processing solutions. Film incorrectly loaded onto spiral allowing film surfaces to come in contact with each other inhibiting or preventing chemicals from acting on surfaces.Surface damage1) Dust embedded in surface. Dirty water or ,more likely, dust settling on film while it is hanging up to dry.2) Scuff marks or scratches. Caused by rough handling. Although physically quite strong film is easily scratched, particularly the emulsion side when wet.3) Straight scratches extending the length of the film. Tramlines. Caused by dirt or grit either on the felt light trap on the film cassette or on the film plate in the camera. Tramlines can also occur if you squeege or run wet film through your fingers to remove excess water before drying. Wet emulsion is very delicate and even a small piece of dirt or grit will leave a scratch the length of your film.4) Roughly circular marks on film surface. Drying marks. Droplets of water form on the film as it is drying. As they dry out they leave residue on the film surface. If marks are on the non-emulsion (shiny) side it may be possible to very gently polish them off, though I am not actually recommending this.5) Clear crescent shaped marks. Caused by kinking or buckling the film during loading. Forcing the film onto the spiral or cross threading the film in the grooves.

step 1 making a contact sheet
Step 1: Making a Contact Sheet

A contact sheet is your negatives reproduced as positives. It is a contact sheet because your negatives come into direct contact with your photographic paper to reproduce the 35mm frame without changing the size or enlarging it.


Produce a contact sheet before you begin printing so that you can making editing choices from the positives, rather than the negatives.

how to make a contact sheet
How to Make a Contact Sheet

There will be a few contact sheet frames around the darkroom.

Make sure your enlarger is at the right height so that the light being projected more than covers the 8”x10” area of your paper – TURN YOUR LIGHT OFF!

Set your aperture to f5.6, set your timer to

3 seconds.

We need to now determine the exposure time by making a test strip – our f-stop won’t change.

Cut a test strip approximately 2in x 10in

Place your test strip shiny side up, under the glass, on the foam part of your contact sheet frame.

Place your negatives, shiny side up on top of your test strip.

Lock down the glass.

test strip for contact sheet
Test Strip for Contact Sheet

Get your black card, cover all except 1/2in of the test strip (which is under your negatives) with the card.

Hit your exposure button – 3 sec exposure

Move the black card down approx. 1/2in - Hit your exposure button – 3 sec exposure

Repeat until you have exposed your entire test strip in 3 second segments

Process the test strip through the entire chemical process, wash and dry.

Review in white light with your tutor.

Determine the first segment which gives you a deep black.

Set your timer for that time. Ensure the light is off.

Place a whole piece of paper in your negative frame with your negatives on top of the paper. Lock down the glass.

Exposure your contact sheet.

Process through the chemicals as normal.

step 2 choosing a negative
Step 2: Choosing a Negative

Look through your set of negatives and your contact sheet and avoid choosing a negative which has any of the faults that we just discussed.

Chose a negative that looks like it has a good range of tone and contrast.

Tone is a range of deep blacks, clean whites, and shadows or mid-tones.

Place your negative in your negative carrier shiny side up, with the image upside down.

Place the negative carrier back in the enlarger.

Turn your focusing light on.

Set your easel to the size of the print you want to make; 5x7 or 8x10

You need to make the projection of your image fit into that space.

Raise/lower your enlarger to get your image to project to the chosen size.

Focus and adjust your height as necessary until the size of your enlargement is correct and your focus is sharp – check it with the fine focuser.

step 3 make a test strip
Step 3: Make a Test Strip

You need to make a test strip for EVERY NEGATIVE THAT YOU WANT TO MAKE A PRINT OF!

Determine your aperture:

Much like taking photographs with the camera, an aperture opened too large will results in a darker print while an aperture closed too much will result in a lighter print. Ultimately, the aperture setting of the enlarger will depend on the density of the negative being printed (or how light or dark the negative is). Light negatives allow more light to expose the photographic paper while dark negatives allow less light, meaning you will have to close or open the aperture as needed.

making a test strip
Making a Test Strip

As a general rule of thumb, if you have a correctly exposed negative, close your aperture all the way so that your light on the enlarger is at the darkest setting – f22

Then, open up your aperture 2 stops – this should be f11 on most lenses.

However, if you are printing a negative which is over or under exposed, this rule may not apply, and judgements need to be made per each negative.

Open the aperture more on a dark negative

Open the aperture less on a lighter negative

making a test strip1
Making a Test Strip

You should now have set your height set and your image sharply focused.

You should have your aperture set.

Your timer should be set to 3 seconds.

You are now ready to make a test strip!


Follow the same steps to make a test strip as before

Place your test strip in an area of your image where there is a tonal range … not the sky or the dark shadow areas – but where the mid-tones are.

Cover all but a segment of your test strip with the black card – expose.

Move the card down – expose.



making a test strip2
Making a Test Strip

Process through all the chemical stages!

Wash briefly and take it outside into white light to evaluate.

You want to chose the FIRST segment on your test strip that gives you a DEEP, DARK, RICH BLACK!!

What is the exposure?

Don’t worry about your whites for now!

You now have your exposure time! Set your timer for the amount of time you determined from your test strip!

step 3 making your print
Step 3: Making your Print


Your aperture, time, height and focus are already set perfectly from your test strip.

Turn your focusing light off.

Place a fresh piece of paper in your easel.

Start your exposure.

Develop your print through the entire chemical stage.

Review your print in white light after the fix so that you can determine if any adjustments need to be made!



This will need to be done for every image you print.

Each negative may have different aperture settings, different exposure times, and different editing (dodging and burning) needs.

It is important to get your test strip as accurate as you can so that you don’t waste paper.

It is better to test out your print on small strips of paper, many times, than on full sheets of paper because ….



Present each topic in a DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD in your sketchbook:

How to make a contact sheet How to make a print from a test strip

How to make a test strip

Your contact sheet

Your prints and related test strip


Write and illustrate with pictures or drawings here


Write and illustrate with pictures or drawings here

Your test strip


Write and illustrate with pictures or drawings here