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MQ Base, a flexible black and white photographic print developer

MQ Base is a three-part photographic paper developer based on metol and hydroquinone (MQ). The developer is in three parts to maximize its flexibility. Follow the instructions below to mix the stock solutions. Then combine varying amounts of MQ Base, carbonate, bromide and water to make these tray-strength developers:

  • Kodak D-72 (a.k.a. Dektol)
  • Kodak D-52 (a.k.a. Selectol)
  • Defender 55-D (a warmtone developer)
  • SA Warm-tone (another warm tone developer from Steve Anchell)

Separating the accelerator (carbonate) means that MQ Base can also be used for divided development.

Stock solutions

Prepare the following three stock solutions and store them in separate bottles. A liter of MQ Base stock keeps for at least 3 months in a brown glass bottle. The carbonate and bromide solutions keep indefinitely.

MQ Base

Distilled water at 125F/52C:  800ml  
Metol:                          3g  
Sodium sulfite, anhydrous:     45g  
Hydroquinone:                  12g  
Distilled water to make:     1000ml

6% carbonate solution

Distilled water:                 750ml  
Sodium carbonate, monohydrated:    60g  
Distilled water to make:        1000ml  

10% bromide solution

Distilled water:              400ml 
Potassium bromide, anhydrous:   50g 
Distilled water to make:      500ml 

Working strength dilutions

Dilute the MQ Base solutions as follows. Each dilution yields 1 liter of working developer.

D-72 (Dektol)

MQ Base stock:   333ml  
6% carbonate:    444ml  
10% bromide:       7ml  
Distilled water: 216ml  

D-52 (Selectol)

MQ Base stock:   167ml  
6% carbonate:     95ml  
10% bromide:       5ml  
Distilled water: 733ml  

Defender 55-D

MQ Base stock:   278ml  
6% carbonate:    250ml  
10% bromide:      43ml  
Distilled water: 429ml  

SA Warm-tone:

As 1:1 dilution:

MQ Base stock:     250ml  
6% carbonate:    127.5ml  
10% bromide:         5ml  
Distilled water: 617.5ml  

As 1:3 dilution:

MQ Base stock: 125ml  
6% carbonate: 64ml  
10% bromide: 3ml  
Distilled water: 808ml  

Note: This is not an exact match for Anchell’s SA Warm-tone. SA Warmtone has a teensy bit more hydroquinone (4.2 grams per gram of metol) than MQ Base (4.0 grams per gram of metol.) In 1:1 working solution, this difference amounts to 5% less hydroquinone.

Get in touch

If you try MQ Base, please let me know how it goes for you.


When formulating MQ Base, I used the recipes for Kodak D-72, Kodak D-52, and Defender 55-D from Steve Anchell’s The Darkroom Cookbook. The recipe for SA Warm-tone came from Anchell’s Variable Contrast Printing Manual. Special thanks to Mr. Anchell for preserving and sharing these formulas (and many others!)

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