Although I would also prefer to first retouch the negative and then spot the print, I have found etching to be a very good tool for removing very small dark defects in the print that would be difficult to deal with on the negative. These include lint and hair marks, which are often too thin to deal with on the negative as well as very small dust specks.
I have a selection of surgical scalpels and blades. You can get them from surgical supply stores. I imagine Xacto blades would work well too, but have never tried them.
I use an 8x loupe, and, while watching very carefully, gently scrape the emulsion with the curved part of the scalpel. With luck, one can remove just the right amount of density without breaking through to the paper base. Often, however, the entire emulsion needs to be removed (particularly for tiny specks), leaving a small crater that exposes the baryta base beneath. This needs to be spotted back.
I find that by using a tiny bit of gum Arabic in my spotting fluid, I can match the gloss of the paper surface pretty well, minimizing the difference in texture.
My experience with bleaching very small areas of the print is not good. First, a selenium-toned print doesn't like to bleach very easily, and doing so can result in unwanted changes in image tone. Second, the bleach diffuses through the emulsion, often making a much bigger spot to spot than the original defect. Third, ferricyanide often leaves a yellow stain that is difficult to get rid of (haven't tried the iodine yet, but it's on my list). I find that etching is a better choice for very small defects and use it together with negative retouching.
Of course, the best scenario is to have no defects on the negative to start with. If I find myself spotting a lot, I re-evaluate my film-loading and cleanliness techniques!
Just don't mix Farmers together reducer -- use the packets separately(or discard the fixer portion and use your own nonhardening fixer).
And the Ferricyanide is too slow a bleach without the fixer ....
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
Dip the print in fixer, squeegee onto a piece of plex, lean the plex, have a hose with water ready- then take a spotting brush with ferricyanide then apply. use water to control. then back in the fix. repeat until happy.
Use fresh fixer; don't reuse from film developing.
There used to be some stuff called new coccine. I believe it was a red-looking dye made for retouching negatives. Long time ago.
This is wy us old people are fanatics about cleanliness in film pocessing. There really is no good way to do what you need, just a bunch of bad and maybe some less bad ways. We all learn the hard way to be clean. Good luck!