Teach me about spotting BW prints
I'd like to learn a bit more about spotting my prints. Reason? Dust. I'm usually able to keep dust at manageable level when I'm enlarging, but when making contact prints from LF negatives the problem gets worse and almost every print has a dust mark or more.
I did a bit of searching, peeped into Way beyond monochrome and learned that THE best thing is Spotone and that I cannot get anymore.
What would be the next best solution?
I've looked in the local store. Found some brushes, they did carry some colours/paints made by kooh-i-noor but they looked too much like the stuff we were using in secondary school - I'm not sure about the english term, here they are called aniline paints... Are those OK for spotting regular bw prints on baryta paper or what shall I get?
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Check out Freestylephoto.biz under photo artistry they have a spotting tab with spotone like dyes and spotting pens. Although I still my stock of spotone when it runs out I'll probably try the spotting pens. Bruce Barbaum uses just a very soft pencil.
No escaping it!
I must step on fallen leaves
to take this path
Wow, never even thought about Spotone being discontinued. What next? Beer? Thought I would share a spotting trick that I was taught in high school decades ago. The teacher taught me to take a small chunk of matte board and put a few strips of masking tape on it. Apply a nice coating of straight spotone on it and then just use a brush and wet it and roll it around on the spotone on the making tape. You can really control how dark the spotone will be that way with a little practice. Don
Spotone has not been available in UK for quite a while.
What I use are the dyes from an inkjet printer cartridge and extract them using a syringe with a very fine needle and put only a very small drop onto an old plate. The dye's nowadays are very much more light fast than they were 15 years ago and apart from the black in a six colour set cartridge you have all the other 5 colours with which to vary your tone/tints with - Sepia is a doddle! They need to be diluted quite a lot as the dyes are very concentrated and experimentation is needed to get just the shade/depth you need. Let the dye dry out on the plate after using it and then use a damp size '000' brush to apply it with.
I use a six pot cartridge (Genuine Epson) which I bought specifically for that purpose. Actually a hell of a lot cheaper than Spotone dyes
I really need to get ontop of making my "how to spot B&W prints" video. In a sad and pathetic way, it's probably my best skill related to printing.
My advice would be to get a 000 and 0 fine sable brush (I use Windsor and Newton series 7 brushes). I spent about $40 on the pair, but it's well worth it. If you get a cheap brush, you'll lose control, you'll have an inconsistent retention of ink and it will cause you more $$ in frustration. You also need different shades of ink for the different tones. I use one neutral black, a cold black, warm black, selenium tone black. I mix different ones if I need to. Tone is important because if you don't match it, a cold black looks like blue ink on a warmtone print.
I use extra photo trim as my "test". Before I touch the actual print, I try match the shades to be as accurate as possible. There's nothing worse than trying to tone down a spot that you went too dark on. I always start lighter and go darker (it only makes sense).
Always make sure you "dot" your spotting. It's not painting, it's spotting (unless you're just trying to match the base density). The idea is to emulate the grain. If there's a big spot, you'll have to use a mix of heavier tones and lighter tones to achieve this.
From here, it's just a lot of practice. Spotting is truly an art within itself and you'll quickly find that out. You can even use it to add density to certain areas of the print that might be too difficult to do with burning. If you get good enough, you can even sharpen certain areas of a print or image to give them more punch, but that's a whole other lesson.
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I like to use a dry-brush technique and a stippling motion (like tapping). Build up density very slowly.
Little tiny figure eights for me - really, really tiny ones.
And make absolutely sure you have time for this on a bright morning - you need light!
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I use Marshall's Spot-All. The brush I use the most is 3/0.
Funny thing is, I have much finer brushes but 3/0 works the best for me. I have 20/0 also but I rarely use it. Expect to spend about 10 dollars and up for a fine brush..... and treat with extreme care. Once it loses the "tip", it's gone. You may do better with stores that cater to serious artists, as those stores tends to carry better grade brushes.
Other than that, it's all in technique. I developed (and later found it's a common method) a process where I dilute and let dry spot-all on a palette overnight. I then slightly wet my brush and lightly touch the dried up dye. I "brush" the brush on discarded envelope until I get the density I want, then go to the real print.
A trick is, not to PAINT the spot. Amazingly, well placed "dot" in an oblong dust spot will make the spot basically disappear. The goal is not to make the spot gone, but make it obscure enough that it doesn't scream out, "I'm HERE!".
My brush is made by Princeton Art & Brush Co. Model 3050SP
Hope this helps.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I use the Marshall's inks with an almost-dry brush and they work fine for me. The only other thing I have to add is that spotting prints is like crack cocaine. I can go months without touching a print, but once I start, I'm hooked. I start scouring every recent print for dust marks, then I start going through my junk box... before I know it, I'm up in the kitchen fixing blemishes on the wallpaper.
Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
Ansel Adams had the Zone System... I'm working on the points
system. First I points it here, and then I points it there...
I "cut my teeth" using the SpotPen. I've had great success using them (be warned--my standard may be quite low). They are still available through Freestyle and B&H in both neutral tone and warmtone. I was given a set of four Spotone bottles, but I haven't used them yet.
The fix is in!