View Full Version : Using a grow tent as a full fledged darkroom

27-Jul-2016, 22:31
I want a darkroom, but need to construct one as cheaply as possible. While I would love to have running water in said darkroom, I think I can work around that. My bathroom is not appropriate, so that leads me to my garage. My washer and dryer are in the garage as is a sink and I store lots of stuff in the garage (but not my car), so I would like to designate part of the garage for the darkroom. Seems to me that it would be cheaper to buy a tent and put it in the garage than to have someone build a darkroom in the garage.

Several threads have mentioned growing tents as a possibility (you know, the ones to grow "plants" indoors), but I have yet to read of anyone who actually used one of these tents for a darkroom. I'm looking at one that is 10x5x6.7 feet, for example. It appears to be light proof, lots of ports for ventilation, bars to hang lights, etc. My main concern is the fact that the interior walls are made of mylar or some reflective material.

Here is an example:

So my questions are:
1. has anyone used a tent like this for a darkroom? If so, what is your experience?
2. Even if you haven't used such a tent for a darkroom, do you think the walls will be a problem?

Thanks for your help.

27-Jul-2016, 22:44
Hi Shula,

I use an ice-fishing tent for my enlarger and print developing trays. What surprised me is how unbearably hot and stuffy it gets, even in winter. The stop/fixer fumes can get pretty powerful too. My main concern would be getting as much ventilation as possible into the tent.

I'm not sure about the grow tents, but my ice fishing tent isn't 100% light tight either. It's no big deal at night, but I got some cool camera obscura effects when I tried to print in the day with the garage door open once. Sealing the light leaks was easy, but it did take a bit of effort.

Good luck!

-- Dan

Jim Jones
28-Jul-2016, 04:54
I've improvised seven darkrooms over the years. Two had no running water, but that is not a major problem. Water can be carried in in jugs and waste water taken out in buckets. There are less expensive than the tent solutions involving an improvised enclosure in your garage that may work much better. Two layers of heavy black plastic sheet, available in farm & garden stores, should block enough light. It can be attached to a light framework which also includes a door, light trap, or curtains for entry. A bench attached to a wall provides a solid support for the enlarger, trays, etc. Electrical outlets protected by a ground fault interrupter can be permanently mounted above the bench. Plan for more outlets than you first think you'll need. An exhaust fan can be mounted above the door or in some other convenient place. Opposite it you'll need an air inlet with a light trap. Better than an exhaust fan might be a fan that forces filtered air into the darkroom and out through cracks and a light trap. It's much easier to mount an air conditioner in a permanent darkroom than in a tent. If you have good safelights, the interior can be painted white except near the enlarger. A permanent darkroom like this should be more pleasant a work space than a growing tent. It can also be used for growing plants.

28-Jul-2016, 05:18

You may not use this specific product but this system will work well. Black mylar for lightproof walls. Easy setup and takedown - at least after the first couple of times you do it.
Plastic/mylar attracts dust and airborne particulates so you can wipe down the walls and keep things clean. Dust will migrate to the walls rather than your prints. To help it along keep a piece of wool handy and rub the mylar on one wall every now & then to generate a bit of static charge so the dust goes there.

A HEPA air filter inside will keep air moving and some kind of air interchange will keep it fresh for you.

28-Jul-2016, 05:25
It might be easier to permanently, or with removable baffles, block the existing Windows and not worry about an enclosure. In high school I wanted a darkroom but all we had was a 1-car garage. We permanently blocked the windows and baffled the door. I used my dads work bench for the enlarger and stored it underneath it worked well.

28-Jul-2016, 07:45
One darkroom I had for a while was in a basement. I bought a roll of the widest thick black construction plastic I could find, and stapled it to the floor joists above, hanging down to the floor, and dropped books and things on the bottom to keep it tight and closed. Overlapping layers was enough to keep out the light, and gave me lots of options for entrances. :-)

But I like scheinfluger's suggestion to turn it all dark.

Drew Wiley
28-Jul-2016, 08:35
Zipwall is an awfully expensive option for just a makeshift darkroom. I sell this system to contractors for temporary dust containment. If you want to go the
black plastic route, use rolls of 6 mil black polyethylene, since it won't outgas like vinyl. Then you can staple it onto black 2x2 members painted black, and then
just attach the latter with a couple of decent screws apiece, making everything easy to remove later. But nearly all plastics are static-prone do attract dirt, so need to be sponged down from time to time. "Builders tape", intended to adhere to polyethylene is also helpful to have around for sealing corners and accidental holes.

Kirk Gittings
28-Jul-2016, 09:49
there is a company that makes tents for wet plate that would work I think and they are not badly priced like $200 or so. We use them at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design for wetplate and other on location wet darkroom antics.


Drew Wiley
28-Jul-2016, 11:09
Here's what EVERBODY needs: look up Blue Ridge Woodworks Dark Box. There are several links, all interesting. Hint: a cosmetically matched wet plate camera
and fold-up portable darkroom which won an international woodworking prize.

Jim Andrada
28-Jul-2016, 21:24
Festool makes some of the best small power woodworking tools I've used but pricey enough to be confused for camera gear. I usually make tables and cabinets with mine. Maybe one of these boxes would be a good project.

28-Jul-2016, 22:07
Thanks, Dan. The thing I like about the grow tents is that there are all sorts of ports for air exchange, electric, etc. And there is an infrastructure for lighting. Supposedly, they are light tight.

28-Jul-2016, 22:10
Thanks, Willie. Zipwall looks interesting.

28-Jul-2016, 22:11
Thanks, everyone. Some great ideas. If you have more, I'm eager to listen.

28-Jul-2016, 22:46
I would plan your ventilation well. Ventilation does little good if the fumes exit the darkroom pass ones head. If at all possible the system should be designed to have fresh air pass ones head, pick up the chemical fumes and directly exit the darkroom. One way is to use an exhaust fan to draw the air over the trays of chemicals, with the fresh air inlet behind the worker.