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DIY Film Holder Index Tabs

Here's a quick and inexpensive technique for adding an index to your film holders. No more guessing which negative came from which holder.

1. Download the Tab target files. If you want light colored index numbers on your negatives, choose the Clear/Black letters; for dark letters choose the Black/Clear letters. (Yeah, it sounds backwards but remember, you'll get the negative of what ever you choose.) If you want to customize your tabs, you can download the spreadsheet here: Tabs.ods

2. Print out the target on 8.5 x 11 paper. If you're using the Black/clear, make sure the black is really black.

3. Photograph the target onto 4x5 film. The target should just fill the entire frame (it's about 2:1.) When photographing the black/clear letters; underexpose by at least three stops; if photographing the clear/black letters, overexpose by at least two or three stops.You'll probably need to experiment just a bit.

4. Process the film, preferably in our SP-445 film tank. You'll probably want to go for higher than normal contrast.

5. Cut the tabs apart with a scissors. I mitered the corners of the tabs to keep them from catching on things. This is not a precision operation and you could certainly trim things much closer.

5. Use super glue to attach the tabs into the film holder pocket. Don't use any more glue than needed, excess glue can actually weaken the bond. Note that the tab should be readable from the bottom when the film holder gate is open as shown.

For a crisper letters on your negatives, use a piece of scrap film as a spacer between the tab and the film holder. This puts the tab closer to the film surface.


Don't forget to mark outside of the film holders to match the tabs.

For more the details, check out our blog post: