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

Scott Killian , May 31, 2003; 10:19 p.m.

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 #$%@* NIGHTMARE !!!

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!)


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Richard Coda , May 31, 2003; 10:37 p.m.

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.

Rich www.rcodaphotography.com

Igor Johanson , May 31, 2003; 10:44 p.m.

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.

Richard Boulware , May 31, 2003; 10:58 p.m.

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.

Per Volquartz , May 31, 2003; 11:11 p.m.

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!

Jorge Gasteazoro , Jun 01, 2003; 12:06 a.m.

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.

Jim Galli , Jun 01, 2003; 12:27 a.m.

Only print pictures that are so incredibly busy you could never identify a spot if your life depended on it.

C P Goerz , Jun 01, 2003; 02:20 a.m.

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

Brian Ellis , Jun 01, 2003; 06:59 a.m.

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.

Robert A. Zeichner , Jun 01, 2003; 08:39 a.m.

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.

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