Developing Black and White Film with Kodak XTol


When I first learned to develop black and white film, I used Ilford’s Perceptol. Perceptol is a wonderful fine grain developer that gives you an amazing gradation of gray in the midtones. That said, I always felt that my results lacked the contrast of many images that I had seen online from the same films. What was the difference between those images and the ones that I was making? Kodak XTol. Go ahead — take a look at the flickr group:

I immediately went online to buy some Kodak XTol. I had been developing with Perceptol for months now and it was time to try something new. But I ran into a wall – Kodak XTol came in a powder format to mix 5L! My Perceptol came in a powder to mix 1L and lasted a few months once mixed. How was I going to mix 5L and store 5L of developer?! As such, Perceptol and I continued on for a few more years.

Eventually, I decided that I had had enough of looking at the contrasty results people were getting with Kodak XTol and somehow or another, I would need to figure this 5L thing out. Having figured it out, I’m writing this page to share with anyone on the internet who has the same questions. Kodak XTol is a wonderful black and white developer and I’ve not looked back since moving to XTol!

DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for anything that you do as a result of following any information in or linked from this post. This post is about conducting a chemical process which could cause harm to you and others if not conducted appropriately. Please read all safety and MSDS specification sheets for any chemicals that you purchase for this and other chemical processes that you may decide to undertake.

A Brief Discussion of Kodak XTol

Developing your black and white film at home is easy enough to do and there are several great guides to doing it. This guide is specific to Kodak XTol though because it does present a few differences from the 1L powders and concentrated liquid developers like HC-110.

Kodak XTol can be used in a stock mixture once mixed (meaning you use it as is) or it can be mixed in a 1+1 ratio (You’ll see this as XTol 1:1) in which you mix X mL of XTol and X mL of Distilled Water to make 2X mL of developer. If you choose to dilute XTol and mix it at 1:1, you will need to heed the rule that states you must have 100mL of XTol per roll of film. See the developer directions linked at the end of this blog for a better explanation. Further, once you have used diluted developer, it’s time to dispose of it properly.

I personally use Kodak XTol in its stock mixture. This has several benefits. When kept in airtight bottles, Kodak XTol in stock lasts for 6 months according to Kodak. You can probably get longer out of that, but I do dispose of it properly after 6 months. Another benefit is that for the 5 bottles of stock solution that you mix up, you get 5 rolls of black and white film per bottle before having to adjust your development times. This means that a kit of XTol will allow you to develop 25 rolls (1 roll = 1 36exp 135mm, 1 120, 4 4×5 sheets, 1 8×10 sheet) before you have to adjust development times. This is a big benefit to me as I don’t typically shoot more than 25 rolls in a 6 month time. That said, for rolls 6-10 on 1L of XTol stock, you simply increase the time by 15%, and for rolls 11-15, you increase the time another 15%. This means that by the rules laid down by Kodak, a 5L XTol stock mixture can allow you to develop 75 rolls of film in a 6 month time! At $10 (it usually sells for 7-10), this comes out to $0.13/roll for developer costs. That’s really quite cheap!

So why throw this stuff out at 6 months? We all know that chemicals last longer than what the manufacturer says, right?! Well, many people have reportedly used XTol for much longer than 6 months, but when XTol dies, it dies. It does not warn you that it is about to go, it’s quality does not gradually degrade. It does not change colors to tell you it’s on it’s way out. It simply dies. And you have a blank roll of film. And that would be sad. So, given that Kodak says 6 months and they have fine tuned XTol to definitely last 6 months, I don’t personally take it past that point.

Images Developed with XTol

What is a blog post about XTol without some pictures? Before we get started on what to buy and how to mix XTol, I’d like to share some images of common films developed in XTol stock:

Kodak Tri-X – Minolta Autocord – 120
Ilford FP4 – Mamiya 7 – 120
Kodak Plus-X (Eastman 5231) – Minolta XD-11 – 35mm
Ilford Delta 100 – Minolta Autocord – 120
Ilford Delta 3200 – Minolta Autocord – 120
Kodak TMAX 100 – Minolta Autocord – 120
Ferrania P30 Alpha – Minolta CLE – 35mm
Silberra Ultima 200 – Minolta XD-11 – 35mm
Kodak Eastman XX (5222) – Minolta XD-11 – 35mm

As you can see, I’ve run a number of film stocks through Kodak XTol and I absolutely love this developer! For times, I use the Massive Dev Chart:

Things to Purchase

There are a few things that you will need to begin developing with Kodak XTol. Let’s go shopping:

Chemistry Preparations

Prior to developing film with this process, you will need to mix some chemistry.

When you first get your XTol, it will come in two parts – Part A and Part B. Both are bags of powder.

First, fill your 5L graduate with 4L of Distilled Water. This is going to look like:

Next, pour in the powder from Part A and use your chemistry stirrer to mix all of Part A in. This will take a few minutes. Make sure everything dissolves before moving to Part B and remember, this is 6 months worth of chemistry!

Part A Dissolved — Look at that pretty color!

Next, pour in the powder from Part B and use your chemistry stirrer to stir all of Part B in. As with Part A, you can expect this to take some time and you should stir until all of Part B is dissolved. Once this is finished, use Distilled Water and fill the graduate all the way to the 5L line. At this point, you should have something that looks like this:

Now you have successfully mixed up 5L of XTol! But what to do with it?! This is where I pour 1L of XTol into my 1L graduate (very carefully — one hand firmly under the pour spout and one on the handle or this stuff will splash about as full as the 5L graduate is!) and once I have 1L XTol in the 1L graduate, I put a funnel in a 1L glass bottle and pour from the 1L graduate into the 1L glass bottle. Repeat this four more times and you now have 1L bottles with 1L of XTol stock in them ready to develop your pictures!

Now we need to mix the fixer and that is done at a 1:4 ratio. This means, that to mix 1L of Fixer, you will pour 200mL of Fixer concentrate into a 1L graduate, and then fill the 1L graduate with 800mL of Distilled Water, which takes it to the 1L line. Pour this into a glass bottle and you are good to go for a while. Fixer does eventually start to go, but you can usually get a lot of film done on 1L of fixer before you have to mix a new batch.

The other chemical that I use is Kodak Photo-Flo. This stuff lasts forever — I’m still using a bottle that I purchased in 2013! There isn’t anything that you need to do with the Photo-Flo to get it ready. It’s ready to use in its bottle.

Massive Dev Chart App Preparations

I love the Massive Dev Chart App! It makes doing black and white photography quite simple. I also use it for my Kodak Flexicolor C-41 setup.

To get started, the app has a section called “Massive Dev Chart” and you can find the film you want to develop in that list, tap it, and then see a list of developers and ISOs that you can use that developer to develop that film at. Simply pick XTol (stock), which is on almost every film, and then pick the ISO that you shot the film at. Then when you have pulled this up, you will see a screen with the timers and there will be a “+” in the upper right hand corner that you can tap to save the recipe to “My Times”.

For an XTol recipe, I then edit the recipe and edit the “Stop Bath”, “Fixing” times to be 0:00 and 5:00 respectively. I do not use a stop bath and instead use Ilford’s water based stop method and do not time it. Then I edit the “Hypo Clear, Final Wash, Rinse Aid” section and set those times to 0:00, 10:00, 0:00 respectively. Then, I edit the “Agitation Scheme” section and set 30 sec + 5 sec every 30 sec. This agitation scheme works fine for XTol and then I use the Ilford agitation scheme for the fixer (more on that later). I usually then select the developer option and enable the “Temp/Time Conversion” option, so that I can set the actual temperature of my XTol and have the application adjust the development time based on that.

The Massive Dev Chart app is really nice and once you get the hang of it, I think you’ll agree it’s an invaluable tool for developing film.

Getting Set Up

Once you have mixed the chemistry, you’ll need to load your film into your tank and have 1L of developer and fixer ready to go. You’ll also need to load less than 1mL of Photo Flo into your dropper for the tail end of the process. You will also want to make sure you have the thermometer, the squeegee (unless doing 4×5 film), the funnel, and a darkroom timer or the Massive Dev Chart App ready to go as well.

For instructions on how to load your film into the tank, have a look at this video from Ilford:

To get started, I fill the tank (with film) with room temperature water and then pour the 1L of XTol into the 1L Graduate and begin to take the temperature of the XTol. If you are using the Massive Dev Chart app, you can tap Edit on your recipe, then pick the development time and temperature, enable the “Temp/Time Conversion” option and then change the temperature to whatever you measure on the XTol. This will adjust the development time for the temperature of your XTol. Once finished, tap “Save” and then “Done” and you are ready to go.

I like to make sure that the 1L of water in the tank with the film sits there for at least a minute before proceeding. Once this has happened, dump the water into your sink. You will probably see some colored liquid come out as this is some of the protective coatings from the film. I have been told that these are safe to dump down the drain.


You can then pour the 1L of XTol into the tank and hit “Start” on the Massive Dev Chart App. If using the app, it indicates when you should be agitating the tank and when you should be letting it sit. I use an agitation scheme where I invert the tank by turning it clockwise and then return it to right side up. Next, I invert the tank by turning it counter-clockwise and then return it to right side up. That’s one full agitation cycle for XTol. At first, you’ll agitate for a full 30 seconds, so just keep repeating that pattern for the full 30 seconds. Make sure to place a funnel into the glass bottle that you are using to store your XTol as we will put the XTol back in the bottle at the end of this process.

Once the timer reaches 10 seconds, go ahead and start pouring the XTol back into the glass bottle.

Stop Bath by Water

It is possible to use a stop bath chemical at this point for developing your black and white film, but at this point, I use water. I fill the tank up with water, put the lid on it and do 2 full agitation cycles (detailed in the development step). Once done, I pour out the tank and repeat this 3 more times for a total of 4 cycles. I use the water during this step to also clean the funnel.


I then pour the Fixer from the 1L bottle into the tank and hit “Start” on the Massive Dev Chart App. That said, I do not follow the application’s agitation directions. I agitate with fixer for the first full minute and then with 3 minutes left, I do 2 full agitation cycles. I also do 2 full agitation cycles at 2 minutes left and at 1 minute left. When the fixer timer is done, I pour the fixer back into the fixer bottle using the funnel.

Final Rinse

There are ways to do this that use less water, but I use Ilford’s washing method and I wash my film for a full 10 minutes in running water. If your water is too hard, you will want to look into ways to use less water and use distilled water. I am lucky to live in an area with soft water where there usually aren’t any issues just using the tap. For further information, see Ilford’s document on minimum water usage:

Distilled Water / Photo Flo

As a final step, I empty the water from the final rinse and add the photo flo to the tank. I then add 1L of distilled water, put the lid on the tank, and give the tank 2 full agitation cycles. Once done, I open the lid and let the tank sit for a minute or two. If using the squeegee, after the tank has sat for a minute or two, I dump this water over the squeegee to get it ready for use.

Drying and Cleanup

You did it! You’ve developed Black and White film in Kodak XTol! Go hang those negatives to dry. I use a squeegee to help with drying 35mm and 120 film. I get good results with my squeegee. That said, I get scratches when drying 4×5 film with a squeegee. I’ve had reasonable results using cotton balls to dry 4×5 film, but I’m still not 100% happy with this method. Your mileage may vary. My usual drying time for the film is 3 hours, though depending on the season and humidity levels, I’ve needed as much as 4 hours.

Time to clean your equipment in soap and water and wait for the film to dry so that you can scan it.

Further Reading

Further resources that you may find useful: