View Full Version : Darkroom Layout Designs

Adam Touffay
5-Sep-2007, 12:41
I plan on building a darkroom in my house strictly dedicated to traditional film processing and printing. I need design plans for a wet and a dry side with good ventilation.

5-Sep-2007, 12:49
Well, how much space do you have? How big of a sink do you want? How many enlargers?

My darkroom has a 9 foot SS sink on the wet side and 14 feet of counter top with 2 enlargers on the dry side.

The whole space is 9x14.

Mark Woods
5-Sep-2007, 13:34
My dark room is 6'x7' with 1 side: 3 deep tanks, #2: 6' sink, #3: 8x10 enlarger, #4: door with white board on back. I do have a 7x8' matt room with file cabinets etc. What some of you guys do in your dark room's dry side. I didn't want to be in the dark all the time. ;-)

5-Sep-2007, 13:36
one question i'd ask is to what degree will it be a creative environment vs. a production environment.

there's a lot of info online about how to make an efficient darkroom from a production perspective. but the result is sometimes a space that's not too inviting. like a restaurant kitchen vs. a home kitchen.

if you're cranking out prints in volume then efficiency is probably the most important thing. i work slowly, though ... often days on a single print. so for me the most important thing is that the space is inviting and comfortable to hang out in for long stretches.

i figured this out by accident. my first darkroom was in a spare bedroom. a beautiful space with an unreasonable layout and hardly any standard darkroom features (it wasn't even light tight enough to use in the daytime). but as it turned out, i loved it. it was a nicer space than any darkroom i'd ever used, and i had no problem spending the whole night in there, music blasting, space to spin around, my cat coming and going as he pleased.

so when i built my first official darkroom, i modeled it more on the spare bedroom than on the high tech, efficient labs that i'd worked in before then.

just something to think about that doesn't get a lot of attention in the books.

Louie Powell
5-Sep-2007, 13:40
Adam -

Only you can determine the right layout for a darkroom in your home. There are two major design factors to consider:

1. What is the largest size print you plan to make? The wet-side sink is typically the largest piece of furniture in a darkroom. Based on your chosen maximum print size, lay out an array of trays (you need four active trays during a printing session) in an open space, and measure how much sink space they will require.

2. What are the dimensions and constraints of the space where you plan to locate your darkroom? Where is it most convenient to bring water into the area, and where is it most convenient to have gray-water drains? Are there windows that you need to work around? Do you need to make provisions to maintain household utilities? What about overhead clearances - is the area open or are there obstacles that you will have to work around. Do you have enough overhead space to elevate your enlarger to the degree necessary to make your chosen largest-size print?

I've designed and built three darkrooms - its a challenge to your inherent creativity and a lot of fun. One thing I suggest is that you visit as many darkrooms as you can to see what others have done - get ideas of things that you want to copy, or that are mistakes that you don't want to make.

By the way - here's what mine looks like.

5-Sep-2007, 13:45
i have an earlier edition of this book:

it's pretty cool. there's a lot of theory and tech stuff, but it also walks you through the actual darkrooms of some famous photographers, so you can see the interesting ways they worked with their spaces, and how their personalities are all reflected in what they did.

Keith Pitman
5-Sep-2007, 13:49
As someone said, only you can figure out what you want. This thread on APUG may give you some ideas of what works and what doesn't (some are really crude and some really elegant):


5-Sep-2007, 14:13
Before you build anything do a mock-up in the space. I have built over a dozen darkrooms and when I can I do a mock-up and roll play out every process you can think of in the room (film, printing several sizes, washing, drying etc...) with whoever is going to use it. This way we make design changes before we build or spend anything. I use cardboard and scrap lumber with masking tape for most things. If you have a sink and enlarger set them up to see how they fit. Sheets make good walls, don't just use tape on the floor. If you need to build walls mock-up the walls. The same goes for sink and counter tops. A 6 ft wide room may seem large until you install a 27 in. counter on one side and a 27 in. sink on the other. Now you only have 18 in. to stand in. I use that example because I was asked how to fix this very problem. Set up the safe light and white lights, use work lights or drop lights to see how the shadows fall.

In the dark room I have now the design seemed great until I tried to use it with my son. It is large enough for two but in the mock-up we were bumping into each other. A few adjustments were an easy fix but if the door and one of the counters had actualy been in place we couldn't have done it without loosing a lot of money.

I have also built a darkroom for a guy useing his scale drawings. He was shocked at how small it actualy was when it looked large on paper. I think if he had let me just do a quick mock-up he would have used the other side of the basement but he was convinced his drawing was good enough. He can only print up to 11X14 without problems.