This paper describes the development of a method for quantitative measurement of the elemental composition of particulate matter (PM) in seawater. This method is based on use of wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) analysing PM harvested on various filter types. As the amount of material is less than a monolayer of cells on the filters we reduced the need for absorption correction. Given the appropriate combination of filters and elements the detection limits are low: <1 µg/filter for carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and <0.1 µg/filter for silicon (Si), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca) and iron (Fe). The analytical range used was 90–750 µg C, 23–116 µg N and 7–30 µg P, depending on the filters applied. Calibration constants for the elements included in this study were obtained from analysis of known quantities of chemical compounds on filters or silver plates. For carbon and nitrogen we also used comparative measurements of Synechococcus sp. cultures by CHN analyser and WDXRF. We harvested PM from 150 ml to 2000 ml on each filter in three replicates, obtaining less than 5% analytical variability between the replicates. One of the challenges using WDXRF as proposed here is the absorption of X-ray signals by the filter and variability of cell/particle sizes, and, consequentlyly, the variability of harvested PM on various filters. We find that an anodisc filter is best suited for C and N, while polycarbonate filters are best for heavier elements. Here we present analytical details and some data from field experiments related to C, N, P, Si, Ca and Fe in particles from seawater.