I've developed and printed from black and white film, but not color. I might want to play with color if the process is similar. Earlier, I asked about the ease of making Ilfochrome prints from tranparencies, but it sounds like more hassle than I want to deal with right now. Would color prints from color negatives be easier? Thanks for any help.
From what I have read, it is more hassle than it is worth (for me at least) to process C41 film. You need precise temp control and a very repeatable process to make sure it works right. Color prints can be done at home with the proper chems and printing filters. It is easier to use a unicolor print drum or jobo for this so you aren't in total darkness.
Agreed that C-41 film processing isn't terribly interesting. There are not many creative options involved--just consistency. Unless you don't have access to a good lab, better to send it out.
Prints from color negs are easier than Ilfochrome, because the contrast is more manageable, and the time-consuming step of contrast masking is usually not required. If you work carefully and can manage the temperature control (just keep the chemistry in water bath until ready for use), it's not that difficult. If you don't have a dichroic enlarger, you can use filters. If you don't have a color analyzer (and even if you do), you can evaluate color balance on dry work prints with a Kodak Color Viewing Filter kit.
Drums are better than trays, because it is best to use one-shot chemistry, and drums require less chemistry per sheet. You can find drums and roller bases inexpensively on the used market.
I must mildly disagree with the previous posts. I've been doing ALL my own C-41 and color printing (EP-2, and now RA-4) since the early 1980's and can state the following without reservation.
(1) C-41 development is not very hard if you have some means of temperature control, e.g., a Jobo unit or a water bath such as a PhotoTherm. Consistency is more important than absolute temperature control. The stated requirement of 0.25degF temperature control is misunderstood. What this really means is that, if you vary identically exposed film by more than this amount in the C-41 process and *microscopically examine the negatives*, you *might* discern a difference. If you can stay within 0.5 degF of 100degF, you will not find any really noticeable differences in the color curves of the negatives, at least none you cannot correct at print time. I have developed rolls as low as 98.5 and as high as 102 and *ALL* we printable without color crossover. (FYI, color crossover occurs when the 3 color curves in the film emulsion don't stay relatively parallel throughout the exposure scale, i.e., the shadows have one color cast and the highlights have the complementary color cast. This is uncorrectable at print time.) With a modicum of practice and a good water bath (e.g., Jobo or ColorTherm), consistency within 0.5deg is easily attainable. The previsous posters are correct to the point that C-41 processing is "uninteresting". You cannot do N+1 or N-1 development with any degree of repeatable success. C-41 is strictly "cookbook". Push processing usually works within 1 stop and maybe more with certain films that are designed for this. But you cannot do with negative films what you can do with B&W films, period. The primary reason I do my own C-41 is to avoid "scratches" on the negatives which come from the lab processing machines. Even "pro" labs will occasionally get an operator that doesn't keep everything clean and this results in scratches on the negs. Mine have been scratch-free since I started doing my own.
(2) Printing color negatives is not too much harder than printing in black and white. A small amount of "contrast adjustment" even is now possible using the various color papers that are now available. For example, Kodak Portra, Supra, and Ultra all approximately one "grade" apart in contrast, although their color pallets are also a little different. Fuji Crystal Archive (type C) is a good medium-high contrast negative paper and I use it for 70% of my prints. However, you won't have the tremendous variability in contrast that you have with B&W VC papers. You must still choose your scenes and light carefully to avoid exceeding the capabilities of both the film and the paper.
(3) The biggest challenge with color printing of negatives is "color balance". This requires a bit of practice and is the bane of most newbie color printers. A good color analyzer coupled with the strategic shooting of gray cards makes arriving at the proper color balance nearly "automatic". (I shoot a gray card on each roll of 35mm and on each emulsion batch of 4x5 sheet film that I use to facilitate the use of the analyzer.) I would recommend you not use an analyzer at first, though. You need to get a "feel" for what it takes to zero-in on the proper color balance before you can fully appreciate just what it is a color analyzer does. (They really should be called color-comparators, as they are really just giving you the "delta" or difference of color filtration between and ideal print on a given paper vs. the target negative or gray card negative on the same paper.)
(4) Doing your own color printing allows you unlimited cropping choices. This, plus the ability to experiment with different papers, is the best reason for doing your own color printing, IMO.
Don't be afraid to try this. Trust me. It ain't no "black art" as some people imply. I've not tried the "room temperature" color printing chemistries but a friend of mine has and produces good prints with them, although hist unit costs are substantially higher. If the color-printing water then feels warm to you, you can then think about investing in the temp-control equipment and analyzer and all the other accoutrements that make the job easier. I belive the difficulties of doing your own color work have always been vastly overrated. Yes, it's not the same as B&W but it is not rocket science either.
The only thing I don't much like about printing color negatives at home is the unnervingly short development times the paper needs. At the temp recommended it takes only 45 seconds, which is about the time it takes me to pour the chems in, hit the timer switch, and prepare to add the stop.
But it is a very plesant relief to get prints do so rapidly, I almost don't need to write down my color settings as I hone in on the color balance as I can remember them.