I have never had a dust free LF print. I'd love to know how anyone manages such. For MF, oil immersion rules.
Dust was the bane of my existence until Michael Smith showed me how to spot one. Any of you in the postcard exchange who have received my picture of the boats: they all had dust spots on them. I spotted all 18 of them using Michael's method in about 15 minutes. Some were better than others, but in most of them you would be hard pressed to find where I had to spot them.
Go to the Azo forum and do a search on it. I think he outlines the procedure in answer to someone's question. Do exactly as he tells you. The trick is to build density incrementally. Once you go too far, you're dead.
And yes, lick the brush. Saliva, rather than water, makes a big difference in the control you wield.
Richeson Miniature Series brushes are my favorite spotting brushes. Ideally, you want to go to an art supply store and pick the brushes out yourself, rather than buying mail order, so you can find brushes that point well.
I would add the importance of constantly training your brush. Always turning it, in the same direction, between your fingers as you draw it along the pallette. This twists the bristles to a point over time and holds them there. A well trimmed and trained brush is an invaluable possession that can't be bought off the shelf.
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
You all should also look into SpotPens - they're soooooooo much easier to use than brushes with spotTone. No mixing required, no licking required. They last a very long time if you keep them capped, and they are as fine as a 000 brush (I think... might be one size up or down from that). The trick to spotting with them is to start lighter than you think you might need, and if it's wrong, it will be obvious because it basically won't show. When you hit the proper darkness, you'll know immediately. If you dork it up, just a dab of water (or spit) on your fingertip will suffice to take it up. SpotPens come in two different sets - one warmtone, one neutral/cold. They are graded from 1 to 10, with 1 being a hair darker than paper white, and 10 being Dmax black. Try them and see- they are so much better than spotTone.
I do it pretty much excatly as Monophoto describes. Another trick sometimes suggested is to turn the print upside down which is meant to stop you looking at the photo itself and to just concentrate on the spots. I do this sometimes but I'm wary of spotting out a spectral highlight that should be there! I also don't aim for a 'perfect match under magnification', just discolouring a spot is usually enough to hide it effectively. 'Donuts' where you've applied too much are much more noticable than something being a little bit light. Once I think a print is right, I give it to the quality control officer (wife!) and if she can't pick it.. no one will!
Jim, I didn't notice your spotting! I'm going to have a closer look or give it to the wife for inspection