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How to guide: DIY darkroom

The garage can provide the perfect opportunity to add some extra space to your home, helping to make the best use of every square metre. Using your garage, or a part of it in creative ways can be one of the quickest and most affordable methods of adding a new living or hobby area to your house.

Photography is a beloved hobby for many Kiwis. Creating a darkroom to develop film can be a rewarding experience that will help you to better understand photography, while also bolstering your skills.

Building a garage darkroom on a budget

What you’ll need to succeed:

  • A darkened garage with blackout curtains to avoid light interference
  • Access to clean water
  • At least one electric outlet
  • A space converted into two distinct wet and dry areas
  • A well ventilated room
  • Darkroom processing kit
  • An enlarger
  • Line to dry your images on
  • Lockable cupboard for securing processing chemicals

Light tight

Firstly, you’ll need to ensure that your garage is light tight by sealing any light leakages. To create a temporary light tight space, invest in blackout curtains which can be purchased from Bunnings and provide a level of flexibility for how you use the garage space when the darkroom is not in use. In contrast, if the darkroom is a more permanent conversion, windows can be replaced with renovated walls for permanent darkness.

Once you’ve set up your room, turn all the lights off and wait for a few minutes as your eyes adjust to identify any cracks of light.


Ventilation is extremely important, particularly when you are working in an enclosed space with chemicals. To protect your health, it’s a smart idea to install a form of exhaust in the garage, like a small fan. This will also help to keep the moisture out of the air and speed up the drying time of your artistic works.

For permanent ventilation, consider installing a roof turbine vent (otherwise known as a whirlybird) which work by spinning in the wind currents, pulling air up from the garage.

Wet and dry areas

Next, divide the garage into wet and dry areas. The dry area should be close to a power source and is home to the enlarger, tools and paper.

The wet area includes developing trays, water, film developer and chemicals. It’s vital that there is no overlap of the wet and dry areas, which can severely disrupt the darkroom’s functionality.

Creating wet and dry areas can be achieved in two primary ways: installing two permanent work bench stations for the wet and dry areas or alternatively, utilising trestle tables which offers a level of special flexibility for hobbyists.

Successful storage

Finally, to enhance the order of your darkroom, installing shelving units for your materials will improve your experience in the space. Whether it’s under bench storage or cupboard space, ensure that your storage space is appropriately divided between wet and dry areas.

Similarly, help to keep the family safe and products out of harm’s way by locking chemicals and processing materials away with a lockable cupboard.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur film photographer who enjoys capturing moments or a professional looking to create masterpieces, developing films and creating prints in your darkroom will not only be an adventure in terms of knowledge, it will also be a rewarding and fun activity!

Moreover, you can even become an entrepreneur by renting out your studio space to other photography lovers, to make a little extra money on the side. Just make sure you look at the tax implications of any extra income!

For more information about Merlin’s range of garage door openers and accessories, contact our Customer Service team on 0800 653 667 or visit our website.