Man in a film photography darkroom examines a roll of film.

Best Film Developing Kit – Everything You Need to Develop Film at Home

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Many analog photographers are looking for ways to save money to account for the massive increase in the cost to shoot film. While the biggest savings come from scanning your own negatives, you can also save some more if you’re willing to develop film at home.

The easiest way to get started is to purchase a film developing kit, which includes everything (well…almost everything) you need. There are two popular options for a home film developing kit – they’re both sold at various retailers and are usually easy to find.

Of course, it’s completely possible to develop film at home without buying one of these kits. Many people would rather purchase all of the necessary components separately. We’ll outline a basic list of everything you need, in case you’d rather build your own film developing kit from scratch.

Each option has its pros and cons – the biggest factors are how much time, effort, and space you want to commit to your DIY darkroom. Full rundown below 👇

Ilford / Paterson film developing kit.

Ilford / Paterson Film Developing Kit

This popular, home film developing kit features products from two of the most prominent brands in the industry. 

Ilford is known for producing some of the most iconic black and white films, as well as chemistry for B&W film processing. Paterson makes high-quality equipment for film developing – in particular, their developing tanks are widely considered to be the best option you can buy.

With the strengths of these two companies combined, you get an affordable, high quality, black and white film developing kit that’s great for beginners.

What’s Included

Here’s everything that’s included in the Ilford / Paterson Film Developing Kit:

  • Chemicals for processing black and white film. They come in pre measured packages that require mixing with water. There are enough chemicals for two (2) rolls of 35mm film or one (1) roll of 120 film.

  • Developing tank with two reels. As we mentioned, the Paterson tank that is included is frequently recommended. There are two reels so you can develop two rolls of 35mm film at once.
  • Film cassette opener. Like a bottle opener for rolls of 35mm film, this makes it quick and easy to retrieve your film from inside its cartridge.
  • Thermometer. One of the most important aspects of film developing is the temperature of your chemicals. A basic thermometer is included to monitor this.
  • Graduated measuring containers. Similar to what you’d find in a lab, these containers have key measurements marked and are made of a material that’s resistant to film developing chemicals.
  • Stir stick. For stirring your chemicals when mixing them with water.
  • Film Clips. Once you’ve finished developing your film, it will be wet and needs to dry. These clips are made specifically for holding film. 


The Ilford / Paterson film developing kit is one of the most popular options available and has exceedingly positive reviews. Here are some benefits to choosing this particular black and white film developing kit:

  • High quality components. While this is definitely a kit for beginners, the equipment included (especially the developing tank) is high quality and can carry over to a more advanced setup.
  • Minimal measuring of chemicals. The Ilford Simplicity chemicals are easier to use than standard chemicals because they are pre measured.
  • Affordable price. If you’re brand new to developing film at home and don’t have any of the supplies/equipment, this is one of the cheapest ways to get started. 


Even with all of the benefits to this particular kit, there are a few things that we’d change. Here’s what we dislike about the Ilford / Paterson film developing kit:

  • Changing bag and squeegee not included. These two additional items will make a significant difference in your at home film developing – we’d recommend purchasing them if you do end up getting this kit.
  • Minimal developing chemicals. While it makes sense to include a small portion of chemicals for beginners, we wish that this kit could develop more than two rolls of 35mm film.
  • Ilford Simplicity Chemicals aren’t cost effective. Beginners may appreciate the simplicity of these chemicals, but if you want to continue using them, they’re very expensive. 

Find the Ilford / Paterson Film Developing Kit at B&H Photo.

Cinestill / Jobo film developing kits.

Cinestill / JOBO Duo Film Developing Kit

Another popular option for beginners looking to develop film at home is the Cinestill / JOBO Duo Film Developing Kit. Similar to the Ilford / Paterson kit, the Duo is a combination of products from two prominent brands.

You probably know Cinestill from their popular, expanding line of 35mm and 120 film, but the company also produces chemicals for developing. JOBO, on the other hand, specializes in darkroom and film processing equipment.

The Cinestill / JOBO film development kit is more expensive than the option from Ilford / Paterson, but it includes quite a bit more. Most importantly, this kit has what you need for developing black and white and C-41 color film.

What’s Included

Here’s everything that’s included in the Cinestill / JOBO Duo Film Developing Kit:

  • Chemicals for developing C-41 color and black and white film. Both are single step solutions, meaning there is only one chemical used for developing each type of film. The kit includes enough chemicals to develop 16 rolls of B&W film and 24 rolls of C-41 color film.
  • JOBO developing tank. This tank has a multi-format reel that can develop two (2) rolls of 35mm or 120 film.
  • Cinestill temp control system. For best results, especially when developing color film, the temperature of your chemicals has to be precise. This device, similar to a sous vide machine, heats, stirs, and circulates chemicals to maintain a consistent temperature.
  • Mixing pitchers. The kit comes with two small containers for mixing chemicals.
  • Storage bottles. Your chemicals can be saved and reused, these bottles are designed specifically for this purpose with a collapsible design.
  • Funnel. To keep things clean while pouring chemicals. 


Even though the cost is significantly more than the Ilford / Paterson film developing kit, we think the upgrades included still make it a fair price.Here’s what we like most about the Cinestill / JOBO Duo:

  • Develop both color and black and white film. B&W has always been relatively easy to process at home, but it’s nice to have a beginner-friendly, color film developing kit. Including both is even better.
  • Temperature control device allows for more precision. It can be intimidating to start developing film at home, so the temperature control can remove a lot of uncertainty you may have.
  • Good amount of chemicals to start. This film developing kit has enough chemicals to develop 40 total rolls of film, which is a great amount to experiment, learn, and get the hang of things before committing to buying a larger quantity of chemicals. 


While there’s a lot to like about the Cinestill / JOBO kit, it does have its flaws. Here’s what we dislike about this particular film developing home kit:

  • Changing bag, squeegee, film cassette opener, and clips not included. Once again, the exclusion of a few small accessories means you’ll probably want to make an additional purchase.
  • Mixed reviews on the quality of the developing tank. A handful of reviews mention that they had issues with the developing tank leaking. It doesn’t seem incredibly common, but more than with the Paterson tank.
  • Temperature control device is large and requires power. While the temp control device is one of the biggest selling points of the Cinestill kit, it may be difficult to actually use if you’re developing in a closet or other tight space without an outlet.

Find the Cinestill / JOBO Film Developing Kit at B&H Photo.

Rolls of film on a spool after being developed.

Other Film Developing Kits

While the options above are the most common and popular, there are other kits available if you want to develop film at home.

Cinestill offers a few variations of their Duo kit – they have cheaper options if you’d rather stick to one type of film (black and white or color). It’s worth noting that the single-film-type kits do not include all of the accessories that you get with the Duo.

There are even more advanced kits that come with a product called the Lab Box – a specialty tank made for developing film when you don’t have access to a darkroom and need to process film in the light.

Cinestill also carries additional accessories you may need for developing – things like film changing bags, storage containers, etc.

Another company that offers a film developing kit is The Film Photography Project. With a selection of developing chemicals and darkroom equipment, it only makes sense to offer a film developing home kit.

The FPP Home Development kit is only for black and white film, but what’s included is pretty similar to the most popular kits above. One bonus is that this option does come with a film changing bag, unlike the others.

Building Your Own Film Development Kit

While it’s quick and convenient to purchase a pre made film developing kit, some people prefer to piece things together themselves.

If you’re committed to developing film at home, it will definitely be more cost-effective to build your own kit. Plus, you’ll get to pick and choose each individual item to ensure it’s exactly what you want.

From looking at the contents of the film developing kits above, you shouldn’t be too surprised by anything on this list.

Some of the components (like developing chemicals) are complex subjects that could warrant an entire article of their own. We won’t go too deep into the different options for each piece – instead, you can use this list as a starting point for setting up your perfect, at home darkroom. 

What Do You Need to Develop Film at Home?

Let’s take a look at a basic list of everything you need to start developing film at home:

  • Developing chemicals. Traditionally, film developing is a multi-step process that requires a number of different chemicals. As mentioned above, Cinestill produces easier, single-step chemicals for developing color or black and white film.
  • Developing tank. Paterson Tanks are frequently recommended. Pay attention to the size/how many rolls of film you can develop at once. 
  • Film changing bag. The biggest thing missing from the developing kits above is a film changing bag. This is an essential accessory unless you have access to a completely dark, light-sealed space.
  • Measuring tools. It’s important to use precise measurements when developing film. Beaker-style measuring tools usually work the best. You should never measure chemicals with a tool that you also use for food. 
  • Storage containers with lids. Keep your leftover chemicals safe with a tight-sealed container. There are photo/lab specific options that are often higher quality, but pretty much anything will work.
  • Funnel(s) for pouring chemicals. Once again, just buy a separate funnel that you only use for developing chemicals.
  • Thermometer. You’ll need a way to monitor the temperature of your chemicals.
  • Film holder clips. To easily hang your negatives up to dry.
  • Film cassette opener. Get your film out of its cartridge quickly and easily.
  • Film squeegee. Not completely necessary, but helpful in the process of drying your negatives. There are specific models intended just for drying film.
  • Gloves and an apron. You should avoid contact with developing chemicals as much as possible (especially for color film). We’d also recommend an apron to keep your clothes from getting stained.
  • A way to scan your negatives. Getting your film developed is the most important part of the process. But most people still need a digital copy.
Film negatives hanging from a clip after being developed.

Which Option Should You Choose?

With all of this information, you may still be wondering which option is best for you. While everyone’s needs are different, here’s what we’d recommend, in the simplest terms possible:

You should buy a film developing kit if you are a total beginner who doesn’t know much about the process. Especially if you’re not sure about your level of commitment, a home film developing kit is a great way to test the waters. This is also a nice and easy gift for someone interested in film photography.

You should build your own film developing kit if you’re committed to developing a lot of film. Instead of replacing/upgrading some of the products from a beginner kit, you can just buy the proper gear up front. This is also a good option if you’d rather research all of the different products and make your own decisions, instead of relying on what comes in a pre made kit.

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