Every now and then an otherwise good print is spoiled by distracting spots.

Despite best efforts to keep dust at bay…. dusting off the negs with compressed air (and glass negative holders), keeping a clean darkroom, cleaning negative holders before loading with film and ensuring roll film cameras are blown out before loading, hanging drying negatives in a dust free environment and leaving over night…. white spots can still appear on the finsihed print.


Here is a few items needed in your armoury to elmininate these spots.

A good lamp with a daylight bulb together with a loupe or magnifying glass will allow initial assessment and aid the spotting process. A china pallete in which to mix or dilute the dyes, gloves, blotting paper or tissue, pipette or eye dropper, distilled water, a selection of dyes, brushes and weights to hold the photo.

I use Marshall’s Spot-all dyes these days, ‘Spotone’ is no longer available but Fotospeed make similar dyes. These come in a range of tones, neutral black through blue black, sepia, Selenium and so on. These can be dliuted and mixed to obtian a tone near to that of the print in question. Brushes need to be good quality sable of the type supplied to artists in watercolour. I use Rowney in a couple of sizes from 1 down to 0000.


Once you have the colour required load the brush then using the blotter to remove any excess colour until the brush is nearer dry then with the brush more verticle touch carefully the area to be spotted. Repeat this spotting motion to build up layers of colour. Avoid the temptation to apply a loaded brush full as this will lead to a puddle on the surface whish will spread out over an area larger than that you need to address and can darken a wider area. The idea is to build up slowly until the area is masked and blends into the print coour and becomes virtually invisible. It takes patience…. a lot of it…as the dyes are opaque but persevere. If you do apply too much then blot immediatley to remove the excess.


I use rice made up in different weights then using the wifes food sealing kit I make up bags to weight down the print and provide a surface to rest on while spotting out the print.

There are other ways to achieve the same results but with a limited range of tones. These are known as ‘spotpens’ and are rather like pens but with a brush like tip and come in a range of greys usually 10 to a set. Mine are from the USA but I believe Tetenal make a set in Europe. These are useful for greytone prints and can do the job if applied with the same patience.


There is also ‘Nicholson’s Peerless dryspot’ books. These are pages of colour impregnated paper that are activated with water to provide a surface to transfer the colour to your brush.

You might also mix your own colours from China or India solid ink sticks mixed with a little gum arabic and applied in the same manner as above and finally I have heard of people using dilute printer ink. I’ve not tried this myself but I can see it could be used.

Most of the above is available in the UK from Firstcall Photographic



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