Developing Film in Cannabis

Test Results and Recipe

21 min read by Dmitri, with image(s) by yhanson100 and Daren.
Published on . Updated on .

I made a cannabis-based film developer and processed over a hundred test exposures with it.

In this article, I’ll share the results from my new “Sativa Cannanol” film developer and a recipe so you can make it at home. You’ll also see how this cannabis-based developer stacks up against a commercial one and various phenol-based solutions, like coffee, moss, fir, cedar, blood, pond water, EpiPen, and pee.

Plus, you’ll learn about the ethanolic extraction method and various ways to make and improve your own organic homemade developer.

Jump to: recipe | sample scans | etc.developers | videos.

Cannabis: an ideal film developer candidate?

Factory-made chemicals are often the easiest, fastest, cheapest, and best-resolving solution for developing black and white film.

My Vancouver lab uses Ilford DD-X, which yields excellent results in most cases. I just finished a bottle of Ilford Ilfosol 3, which was recommended for better results with my black and white film that expired in 1992.

But black and white film developers can also be made at home. The most famous recipe is Caffenol — a simple mixture of instant coffee, vitamin C, and washing soda. Recipes that use beer, wine, garlic, and other organic compounds can be easily found online. Yet no one seems to have attempted to develop film in weed, according to the English internet (I’ve been recently pointed to Maconhol). That’s despite the plant’s 3,000-year history of cultivation and increasing availability after 95 years of prohibition.

Cannabis is legal in Canada nationwide and it’s relatively inexpensive. Plants and seeds can be bought at nurseries and grown at home, yielding over 100g of dried flower for less than $100.

Dispensaries will often sell dried flowers for about $5-10 per gram, which is a lot more expensive than growing but also less hassle and smell. But how much weed do you need to develop a roll of fim?

It turns out that Cannabis sativa strains are rich in phenols (>1800mg/100g by some measurements), making the plant an ideal candidate for film development. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that we need less than an eighth of the amount of weed by weight than coffee to make a comparable developer. In other words, we only need 1.5g of cannabis to make a 300ml solution (which should be enough for one roll of film).

While the rough estimates ignore the exact chemical composition of each plant and the extraction methods, test results with film appeared very promising (I tried two different strains).

Can you develop film in weed?

Yes! I developed multiple rolls of Ilford HP5+ in various cannabis-based recipes for this article. I was even able to reuse the same developer multiple times (though there was some loss of quality).

Cannabis is just one of the ingredients Daren (@LearnFilmPhotography on YouTube and here), Yvonne (@YvonneHansonPhotography on YouTube), and I tried to develop our film with. Below, you’ll see the samples developed in weed alongside blood, pond water, pee (!), wood, and flowers.

Left to right: Yvonne, Lily, and Daren. At the studio, getting ready to shoot 50 feet of film to see if we can develop it in weed, blood, and pee.

Our tests involved taking over 200 35mm film exposures on 20 bulk-loaded short rolls of HP5+. In the end, each canister contained eight bracketed exposures of our model, Lily (@lilianlihua on Instagram), and a stationary object with consistent studio lighting. We used those test exposures to determine the best conditions for our experimental developers.

During this experiment, we determined optimal extraction methods, which have significantly improved our results with all types of developers. I’ve also added a final bath specifically for the cannabis developer to prevent a very real problem of intense, unfixable clouds of debris.


You Can Develop Film in (just about) ANYTHING — this is Daren’s video summary of our experiment with particular attention given to the science and the experience of putting the experiment together.

Making CURSED Images | Can You Develop Film In BLOOD? — Yvonne’s video about her first-time (!) home film development and the experiment.

Both of the videos are also posted below as part of the discussion, for your convenience.

Sativa Cannanol film developer recipe.

Sativa Cannanol takes 420 seconds at 69℉ with continuous agitation to develop HP5+ rated at EI 25-100.

The process involves an optional final wash to help with the sticky debris that can’t be strained out of the solution without a vacuum filter.

If you’d like to try this yourself, you’ll need to start three days in advance as it takes time to extract the phenol compounds from cannabis flowers.

Please also note that I’ve tested results with specific strains of cannabis on HP5+ only. If you’d like to see similar results, you’ll need to seek out the listed sativa plant varieties. If you manage to develop anything else with Sativa Cannanol, please share the results!


1.5g of cannabis flower (Sativa) soaked in 30ml of isopropyl 99% rubbing alcohol (C₃H₈O) for 3 days.

20g washing soda.