Etch and retouch after toning, otherwise you will not be able to get an exact color match. Note that almost all etching requires some spotting afterward; there is usually a lighter or white area left, and you want to be able to match the surface sheen as well.
Granted, it is rarely 100% perfect, and often the etched areas are visible in glancing light, but the spots I etch and then retouch using this method are indistinguishable in non-reflective viewing light, and it sure looks better than the defect.
I regard either etching or bleaching as a last resort. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, and it might be easier just to reprint the
image. If the original neg has a scratch in the emulsion itself, well then, ouch! One more reason why the bigger the film format, the better.
Oops! My bad. Jumped after reading only the last two posts.
I use all three techniques. If it needs to be perfect, I spot the negative, then take forever to spot the white blob back to what it's supposed to be. I've a print where it takes 4 hours. If the issue is in a light, fuzzy area (cloud), I bleach then spot. For everything else I leave it be or apply very minor etching with a surgeon scalpel, generally trying to disguise the fault (break the hair line into bits) rather than removing it. Still, etching usually shows in an oblique light, but not behind glass.
I'd love to learn a better way.
I tried the knife etching... Sad to say I am brutal at it... I am now trying to find a retoucher who can work in all three method like Rafal.
I know a wicked bleach retoucher, I know two fantastic spotters, but now I am looking for someone who can work on large film and also do the other methods.
I am not a bad spotter, and I can local bleach with swabs and brushes quite well, its just the fixing of hairs and and stuff that I do not have the patience.
Basically I think I am too high strung to knife with no fail safe option..
With spotting if you go to far you can always rewash and start again.
I better get a handle on this as I have a few monstor projects coming up over the next 10 years that will require any and all methods.
hey I know I can scan the negs , fix in PS and make inkjets.. now there is an idea, I wonder if anyone has thought about that.
I'm sure you'll get the hang of etching, give it a go on a few scraps. For what it is worth, I barely touch the surface, moving the blade sideways, as if to scratch/scrape, and definitely not to cut. I work using the very tip of a surgical blade, but I've seen Alan Ross use an Xacto knife in exactly the same way. It takes a few "touches" before anything disappears, but I'd rather make it go lighter than disappear, as the traces will be less visible that way. Altogether, if the line is very geometric on a smooth, lighter tone, this technique is unlikely to work in my hand. If the background is very light, bleach seems easier, and if it is a busy spot, anything is good.
I've noticed Alan used two Xacto knives, one was new and sharp, the other he blunted purposefully, by grinding its top round, and he used them for different spots, but I fail to remember what the blunt one was for, I'll ask him.
And if you need perfection, there's Phyllis, in US, and there's nothing she couldn't spot.