I've recently begun doing my own C-41 processing (I just did my sixth roll today), so I've got several beginner references handy:
- Here's an article from several years ago from Shutterbug magazine. It covers the basic procedures, offers advice on chemistry, etc.
- Here's another page with basic information. A lot of this page's information will be old hat if you're familiar with B&W processing, though.
- Jobo (the US distributor for Tetenal chemistry, among other things) has a page with information on the basic process.
- If you're into mixing chemistry from scratch, check out this page, which has formulas for all of the major components. I don't claim these are the best formulas available or even that they compare favorably with the commercial kits, though.
- Another home-brew developer is described elsewhere on APUG (copied from the November/December, 1994 issue of Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques). This has the advantage of being a divided developer (hence long shelf life, at least in theory) and of working at 75 degrees F rather than the usual 100. Again, though, I can't comment on its quality.
It's probably best to start with a commercial kit or with individual components sold commercially, rather than mixing your own. (If you're well-versed with mixing your own B&W chemistry and have most of the components at hand, though, you could start out that way.) In the US, mail-order outfits like B&H, Adorama, and Freestyle sell C-41 chemistry from Kodak, Tetenal, Paterson, and others. Note that some components are considered hazardous, so some mail-order outfits (like B&H) won't ship them, and others will ship them only by ground. In particular, bleaches and stabilizers fall into this category, as do some developers. Note that some kits omit stabilizers. I've seen conflicting information on whether they're really necessary with modern films. For safety of preserving your images, it's best to use it -- but stabilizers contain formaldehyde, so for your personal safety, wear gloves when using it.