My friend accidentally did it, and got very interesting pictures with an aspect that reminds something akin to pictorialism. I would like to know more about the actual chemical 'impact', what actually happens in technical terms when using developing techniques for color film when having an actual b&w film. I think my friend accidentally used a B&W 35mm film (ISO/ASA 100 or 200) and apparently use the same for the camera ISO/ASA.


  • Hi, thank you for your answer. Sure, this is the link to one picture. drive.google.com/file/d/11VdiaNURlFz7cf8mBVspHueZuP7ZnnNC/… – juan Guerrero May 26 '19 at 16:42
  • Did your friend develop the film at home or send to a lab? What specific film did your friend use? – xiota May 27 '19 at 3:43
  • Hi Juan, Welcome to Photography.StackExchange. We hope you enjoy sharing your knowledge and experience here with us. – Stan May 27 '19 at 19:20

Developing black-and-white film as color (C41 or E6) is usually expected to produce blank negatives because the bleach step removes the silver and leaves behind only dye. Black-and-white film has no dye to leave behind.

  • A partial bleach might leave a faded looking image. Skipped bleach might look like normal black-and-white processing. (These are guesses because I haven't done any partial/skipped bleach processing on either color or black-and-white film.)

  • A different color process might produce different results, but this scenario is unlikely because they are not in common use.

  • Cross processing C41 black-and-white in E6 might produce unusual results. C41 black-and-white film does have dye in it.

  • tfb notes that the temperatures for color processes are much higher than black and white. This might cause "smeary horribleness / reticulation". Normally, such problems occur when there is significant temperature variation among the solutions.

  • 1
    Aren't C41 & E6 temperatures much higher than B/W too? I'd expect lots of smeary horribleness / reticularion as well as the emulsion probably turns into goo at high temperature. That might be the 'pictorialist' effect. – user82065 May 26 '19 at 11:06
  • I just added a link to one picture. My friend does not remember the actual process she used. – juan Guerrero May 26 '19 at 16:49
  • Colour couplers change the silver image to a dye image during colour development after the first developer renders the silver image. I've done this countless times with b&w film. – Stan May 27 '19 at 18:43
  • Normal B&W film doesn't have dye couplers. Chromogenic B&W film does. – xiota May 28 '19 at 4:32

Developing a Black & White film as colour film will leave a dye image rather than a metallic silver one. The secret is in how colour coupling works on a silver image. In effect, you are going to produce a "stain" image similar to "pyrogallol"/"Pyrocatechin" developed images

  1. The first developer works to provide the negative silver image.
  2. Stop development at the appropriate time with stop bath.
  3. Bleach the existing negative metallic silver image which will make it water soluble.
  4. Expose the film to light or chemical fog to render the remaining undeveloped silver image (which is positive).
  5. Re-develop the re-exposed image in colour developer (one with colour coupler(s) added) to completion. You have already removed the negative image. At this point, you are developing all the remaining silver that has not been bleached.
  6. Fix to remove all the remaining silver leaving the dye image that was coupled to the silver in the second (colour) development.
  7. Stabilize with "stabilizer" (whatever that is and does)
  8. Wash and dry.
  9. Admire your unique and beautiful work.

Have fun. Good luck.

  • 1
    Normal B&W film doesn't have dye couplers. Chromogenic B&W film does. – xiota May 28 '19 at 4:33
  • Developing conventional B&W film in any color negative or transparency process from the past 80 years will result in blank film if the process is completed. – Zeiss Ikon Mar 18 '20 at 17:18
  • Sorry, the answer didn't make it clear that you had to add the color couplers to the color developer. I've long been aware of this as "color toning" of prints (usually a finished print, bleach and redevelop), but didn't see any good reason you'd do it to film. – Zeiss Ikon Mar 19 '20 at 11:47
  • I don't know that the comments are still needed, with the strong clarification in the answer text. Good enough for me to change my vote, anyway. BTW, in thinking about it, I can see this being a spiffy way to make slides from B&W stock -- develop, fog, redevelop w/ dye couplers, and bleach/fix, and you have dye image monochrome slides. Use a clear-base stock and they won't be gray in the whites. – Zeiss Ikon Mar 19 '20 at 17:03
  • 1
    @ZeissIkon You've found me out! This is, in fact, how I made my first million. Big screen colour infographic presentations made in minutes, in house, without delay—for business presentations with sensitive data—predated digital graphics. – Stan Mar 19 '20 at 19:04

There's one "color" process that might have produced an image like the one shown (though it appears the negative was "distressed" in some manner as well): that's developing with any of the three developers, C-41, E-6 First Developer, or E-6 Color Developer, then stopping and fixing with non-bleaching fixer (like conventional B&W fixer or C-41 fixer, not blix), without going through the bleaching step (often combined with fixing in home color developing kits). Any color developer will produce a silver image in any conventional film -- but standard color processes bleach away the silver to leave only the color dye clouds that form the final (either positive or negative) color image.

With no dye couplers in your B&W film, you won't get a dye cloud image, but if you don't bleach the silver, you'll still get a silver negative images, just like what you'd get in D-76 or Rodinal.

The only other way to get a B&W negative with a color process is to use a so-called "chromogenic" B&W film, like Ilford XP2 Super or the Kodak equivalent. These are essentially color films, but instead of three layers with filtration and different dye couplers, these films have a single layer of sensitive emultion, no filter layer(s), and dye couplers balance to produce a black image (by producing all three dyes in visually equal amounts). With these films, in a C-41 process, the silver image is bleached away and the dye cloud negative image remains, just as with C-41 color films.

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