Am I in hell? No, I'm spotting prints!!

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by scott_killian|1, May 31, 2003.

  1. After years of print making, I finally decided to start spotting some prints so I bought
    some Spotone, two trusty 0 and 00 brushes, sat down with a good cup of coffee and
    read up on David Vestal & St. Ansel's advice on spotting and.... this is a #$%@*

    I also read most of the threads on here about spotting and I must either be the most
    incompetent man to ever hold a paintbrush, or I'm missing something. I've ruined at
    least 15 work prints. Color matching has been reasonably easy, my biggest problem
    seems to be that the spotting agent penetrates the area AROUND the white spot, but
    not the white spot itself which leaves a nice ring around the spot, this only calls more
    attention to the spot. My technique, as advised, has been to dab the brush lightly
    rather than brush it on - I've tried it with a wetting agent, without a wetting agent,
    with saliva and without, with extreme cursing and without, etc... But the actual spots
    themselves don't seem to take the spotting agent.

    So I have a two part question:

    1. Based on my description, does anybody know what I might be doing wrong (ok,
    other than the dust in my film holders - we're talking spotting here).

    2. Is there anyone - a person or a service who still does spotting for people? I would
    really rather spend my time shooting and making prints than losing my eyesight so I
    would gladly pay somebody to do this. (I hope the lady pictured in Ansel's book The
    Print is still alive - I need her!)

    As always, help is much appreciated (minus the "buy a copy of PhotoShop" jokes!)
  2. Are you using some sort of magnifying device? When I used to spot my prints (before Photoshop) I used a light that we used in the graphic arts business. It had a light and a magnifier built onto a spring-loaded elbow arm (for lack of a better description) that clamped onto the table. It's a lot like what a dentist uses, only less expensive. I also remember reading somewhere (and trying) pulling a few more of the bristles out of the brush, thereby using as few of them as possible. Then you build up a very small area, rather than putting too much on and getting those rings.

  3. You must applied very LITTLE liquid on the brush. It sjould be barrely wet. Your other problem is that you are starting it "after years of print making", rather than learnig simultaneously.
  4. I hope you are not making the MAJOR mistake some are, by using Spotone right out of the bottle. Most pros, myself included, get a petri dish, watch crystal or similar, and pour some of the liquid into the dish. We wait about a day until the liquid evaporates. We then use a 00 or 000 brush, with a little 'spit' and it works like a champ. No wetting of the print, to speak of. Sure, your toungue might have a spot or two on it, but a cold beer will take care of that.
    Good luck. Richard Boulware - Denver.
  5. Three things:

    1. Did you use a hardening fixer? If so you'll have a difficult time. Instead use plain hypo as your second fixing bath.

    2. Use a Windsor & Newton, Series 7 Water color brush # 0. It has a lot of spring action and comes to a fine point time after time.

    3. Use the Spottone when its virtually dry on the artist's mixing tray. Slowly dab the color into the spot, using pixment that is slightly lighter than the surrounding area. Build up the tone gradually. Use a magnifying lamp. Brace your arm so you have max. control!
  6. As per very aptly pointed out, you are using the brush too wet. It has to have enough moisture to hold a point but nothing more.

    I threw spotone away and used the spot pens and the print I spotted 10 years ago seems to be still in good shape.
  7. Only print pictures that are so incredibly busy you could never identify a spot if your life depended on it.
  8. With the point of a very sharp exakto knife cut the white part out of
    the print and soak it in a weak solution of Spotone, when the
    desired colour is reached after a few sessions glue it back into
    the print. To get a nice smooth finish take a small tab of Scotch
    Magic Tape and lay that over the cut area.

    I don't spot prints myself but it seems like a good idea to me!! ;-)

    PS:Eddy Weston used some gum arabic in his version of
    spotone as it had a glossy finish when dry that matched the
    paper surface.

    CP Goerz
  9. Your brush tip is most likely too wet. After you've dunked the tip of the brush in the Spotone lightly touch the tip to an old tee shirt or anything else that is absorbent but that won't pick up lint. Get the tip almost totally dry, then spot. That should fix the problem.
  10. Here is how I do it. Get a small artist's china retouching palette of the type that looks like a series of hemispherical depressions arranged in a circle. With an eyedropper, dispense just a drop or two of the Spotone in one of the wells. With another clean eyedropper, dispense some distilled water (one or two drops) in an adjacent well. Use a high quality sable watercolor brush such as a W&N series 7 or, if like me and looking for ways to save, a Kolinsky from Utrecht Art Supplies. They are on the web. A number 00 or 000 should do the trick. Take a little dye from the first well, and mix it with a drop of water in the second. Take a loaded brush and paint it onto a piece of scrap mount board to get a feel for the depth of color. You don't want to paint dye onto the photograph that is as dark as the surrounding area, but rather, build up through a couple of applications the color depth you need. Always paint the excess fluid away onto that piece of scrap board so you touch the print with only a damp brush, not a wet one. Don't attempt to paint lines or fill shapes, but rather, hold the brush vertically and touch little dots to the area. The objective is to make the dust spot disappear from a normal viewing distance. The tendency among those new to this is to try and erradicate any vestage of a dust spot and in so doing, one usually overworks the area and gets halos of dark dye around the affected area, calling even more attention to it. As others pointed out, you can leave the dye to dry in the palette and just rewet with a drop of distilled water the next time around. This will also allow you to retain a mix of dyes you may have spent time achieving to match your specific finished print tone. Doing this for awhile will help force you to figure out how to keep dust from getting on film and processed negatives so as to keep the need for spotting to a minimum. I hope that helps in some way.
  11. i get my wife to do it, she has a business restoring old master paintings, not that my pictures are old masters, but if she can retouch a velazquez i'm sure ain't gonna make like a fool with the spotone.

    seriously, i know excellent printers who retouch terribly, so if you have someone close who is a "dab hand", it may be worth a try...
  12. Like they said... Also, it's almost impossible to paint a smooth area of tone that exactly matches the surrounding area. You'll botch it and get halos every time. The technique is to build up density with a large number of tiny discrete flyspecks, making the spot disappear at some normal viewing distance. If the print has some visible grain, so much the better, as the spots blend right in. I usually spot prints when they are slightly damp so the dye takes better.
  13. Scott:

    The proper and effective way to retouch prints is very easy. In the first place what you are now doing is trying to "paint" away the mark. What you need to use is very simple. It is called the dry brush technique.

    Many people here have many opinions and most seem to hate the process. I do it every day. It is really no big deal.

    You get a small pallette. A Kolinsky Series 12 #1 brush,(although many others work).A box of kleenex. a small bottle that allows you to drip out drops( or else get and eye dropper). Distilled water.

    You get a small piece of the same paper that has been processed and is white.( dev, wash and fix and dry).

    You put a drop of dye in perhaps three of the indents in the pallette. You put distilled water in another indent. Now you drip in some distilled water with an eyedropper in the indents with the dye in them. One indent full strength, one with one drop of water, one with two drops of water etc. This will give you different dillutions so that you can do different areas of light and dark on the print. You take some of the dye that you want to use dry. This can be done with a blowdryer or from a previous session. This will be for the darkest areas.

    You take a kleenex and fold twice into a four inch square.

    NOw you simply dip the brush slightly in the distilled water indent to get it moist. Then dip the brush into one of the dye indents. Remember it is not paint. You need very little. Next you wipe the brush lightly sideways on the kleenex to remove any moisture. You do this in a slight rolling motion to make the brush come to a fine point.( you roll the brush gently with your fingers)The brush is now like a old fashioned quill. The dye is inside the bristles and will come out the point.

    Now take this and gently make lines on the paper that you use as a test sheet to check for how dark or light your brush is.

    This part takes practice to get the right shade. If you need black or close to it you dip the brush into the distilled water and get is fairly dry on the kleenex then dip it into the dry dye. Be cafeful to just pick up a slight bit of the dye. Again try it on your practice paper for the correct shade. Then gently make tiny dots on the offending area. You don't use the very tip of the brush but you use it at a slight angle. To remove scratch marks you merely move th brush along the line gently. Sometimes you have to let it dry for a couple of minutes to go over it again.

    Now my suggestion;

    Take a neg and scratch and pit it. Make five prints of it.
    Get dyes. I bottle mauve, one midnight, one browntone - $4.ea.I use almost exclusively mauve for B&W.
    Sit down with the first of five prints and retouch it as I have suggested. In a day you will have this mastered. Then work on the rest. You'll never fear this again. Remember don't paint, this is the dry brush technique.

    If you need any more help contact me at It is very easy to demonstrate but harder to describe. I hope this helps.

    Michael McBlane
  14. In all sincerity, no joke, I'd try scanning and Photoshop. It won't get you completely out of hell, more of a high tech purgatory, and will initially set you back the proverbial 2 steps.

    Ultimately, much more efficient, thorough and seamless repairs are possible with the computer. They can be done at an early stage in your workflow, allowing subsequent tonal adjustments to be made with cleaned images. It is still a craft, requiring patience, judgment and lots of practice.

    Good luck with your efforts!

    Attachment is full resolution crop example, before cleaning:
  15. And after:
  16. Zeichner is right. Never use Spotone without a white Kleenex in hand, use it as a blotter, and blot the brush till the tone on the Kleenex is LIGHTER than the tone of the area you are working on, and nearly dry. I think a #0 is too big, I prefer #000 or #00000 sable watercolor brushes. I never use hardening fixer for anything.

    I spotted my own prints for 20 years and they look very good -- of course it helps that I used that grainy infrared film!

    The spotting pens are great, but not as precise. They are good for light washes of big areas.

  17. Don't use a brush. I use a sharpened wooden skewer like a large toothpick. I shave the point down to a tiny sliver and use that to pick up the least amount of diluted spotone. This tiny "flyspeck" of spotting agent can be placed with absolute precision. If the droplet is too large when first picked up on the skewer I touch it to a scrap of paper lightly, then the second touch of solution that remains can go on the print.
    For mixing I put a few drops (literally - 2 to 3 drops) of distilled water on a piece of white plastic, dip the skewer into the Spotone bottle about a quarter inch to get a fair amount of liquid on it then dab that into the water. If the mix is too light I dip into the bottle again and add that to make it stronger.
  18. When I was in photo school we had to take a photo with a 5x7 view camera of a dog. It was just a picture of a dog with about a hundred white spots on it. We then made two contact prints. (Azo) By the time you got to spotting the second print you were damn good.

    If you have good color just thin it out, a lot. Then build up slow, real slow.

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