The best thing about digital photography is that these amazing color enlargers are being dumped onto the used market. I acquired my Vivitar 356 enlarger with dichroic color head for $80 shipped and I got my beseler 50mm lens for $5. You can too.

Color NEGATIVE FILM printing is very similar to Black and White printing with a few changes. There is no Variable Contrast paper. There is essentially one grade of paper. All contrast corrections are made during in camera exposure rating. To decrease contrast, you overexpose the film. That is the extent of contrast correction.

Second, you adjust the three color channels separately. That means it's three times more difficult to print. Actually that's not quite true. Everything in color work has been standardized, so all the films posses similar contrast. If you use only one film type at one EI in one set of conditions, all your times will be just about the same.

Setting Up:

You need:
-A sink with tray/print washer
-An enlarger w/ carrier and lens. You either need a dichroic color head or a set of color filters. Filters are a pain. Get the dichroic head for $50.
-Easel for paper holding
-Two trays for chemistry
-Chemistry-Kodak Stuff
-Viewing Light
-Grain Scope
-Paper-Start with 8x10, 5x7 is rare. Some people like Fuji Crystal Archive best, others prefer Kodak Endura. Minor detail- the Kodak stuff works with both Fuji and Kodak films. The Fuji stuff is not absolutely optimal for Kodak films. I don't notice, maybe you will.
-Optional Safe light- Amber filter-"will degrade results"-try it if you want.

The Process:

Get this down. Use a wrist watch or timer for consistency. That's not terribly critical as long as you develop enough. I use room temperature with the Kodak chemistry, no problems. If you want to try the higher temperatures, have fun.

Developer-2-3 minutes. Pick a time and use it.
Blix-4 minutes for a final print, you can get away with less for a test strip.
Wash-Until the paper has no fix left in it. Run the water slowly. I use warm water.

Actual Printing:

Select a daylight exposed frame of your primary film. Most every color film uses an orange mask. This is to compensate for various inadequacies in the dyes of the couplers. Masks range from darker to lighter, different shades etc. You should take notes on every type film and it's "base values;" that is, the Magenta and Yellow numbers for each film. Then when you want to print a frame, you read your notebook and know which values to set. You may have to change them to get the best look on a frame by frame basis. I scrawl my notes on masking tape on my enlarger base. The old owner did that too

Follow all the techniques of B&W work including size and framing. Focus with a grain scope resting on a sheet of photo paper on the easel.

When you start, you should set a medium value like 25Y 25M onto your dichroic head. Then expose a test strip. On an optimally exposed frame, the orange base of the film will be completely black and the image will be perfect. You can try doing a test strip on the complete black area. Choose a time just greater than when the film turns black. From there adjust your EI for future films, if necessary adjust the time for each frame.

Once you get the time set, do a confirming strip-place a fresh strip of paper on the easel and expose for the correct time. After processing and rinsing to remove the orange blix cast, look at it under the same type of illumination you will view the final print in (important!) I purchased a daylight balanced CFL bulb for viewing. It works.

Print this out and post it in your darkroom:
-If print is too RED, dial +5cc MAGENTA and +5cc YELLOW, print will turn lighter
-too GREEN, dial -5cc MAGENTA, turns darker
-too BLUE, dial -5cc YELLOW, turns darker
-too CYAN, dial -5cc MAGENTA and -5cc YELLOW
-too MAGENTA, dial +5cc MAGENTA, turns lighter
-too YELLOW, dial +5cc YELLOW, turns lighter

Save yourself, don't try to memorize these. These are for negative work. Slide printing is the exact opposite. Notice that for negative work you need not touch the cyan dial 99% of the time.

5cc is a small correction. For blaring corrections, use 20-30cc. For moderate corrections use 10-15cc. Experience will tell.

Once your confirming strip looks the correct color balance, make sure the brightness is good. If not, adjust the time. Now make your final print. Process and wash.


This is for printing NEGATIVES. SLIDE FILM can only be printed digitally (for wimps) or with Ilfochrome materials. The 8x10 paper costs $3 a sheet and the chemistry costs $100 for a 2 liter kit. If you can afford it, the color corrections are opposite these and there are multiple grades of paper.