Monday, July 23, 2012

Retouching Digital Prints

    One of the reasons I shoot a chromogenic black and white film is so I can take advantage of the Digital ICE feature built into my film scanner. Digital ICE works to eliminate imperfections in a scan such as those caused by dust or small defects in the film’s emulsion. ICE works with film that has a color base, in other words, not with a silver based film. The silver in traditional black and white film scatters the infrared layer created by ICE making it impossible for the scanner to read the image on the film. Consequently, you can expect so see dust spots and fibers on a scan from a silver negative. This often requires a considerable amount of time spent “retouching” the file in PhotoShop.
    When I go back into my archive of silver negatives and select images to scan I usually end up with files that show little white impressions of dust and fibers. No matter how much I clean and blow off the neg, there is usually a good amount of retouching still to be done in PhotoShop.
    For a variety of reasons it is often impossible to get every annoying little spot retouched in PhotoShop. In many cases I don’t even notice these lingering white specks until I’ve made an archival pigment print. Hence my years long quest to find an adequate method for retouching a physical digital print.
    I’ve tried various indelible pens and waterproof and smudge proof inks, but nothing has ever come close to the way Spotone worked with photo paper emulsions. Until today, that is, when I pulled out my set of Faber-Castell grey scale Pitt artist pens.

    These pens are actually brush pens with soft, felt brush like tips about one quarter inch long. The ink in these pens is a water proof, smudge proof, lightfast India ink. The grey scale set includes both warm and cool tones. So far I have found the Cold Grey VI 235 pen the most useful, but the lighter cool grey pens come in very handy as well.
   It takes a very light touch to administer just the right amount of ink through the fine brush tip. But if you have ever done traditional “spotting” with a brush and Spotone you know it takes a steady hand and a good eye to nail that little glaring spot with one delicate tap.
    I use only very matte paper, so I’m not sure how well this will work on glossy or luster papers. I suspect with a little practice it could work just as fine as on the matte paper I use. 

Photos: ©2012 David W. Sumner