Spotting Pens vs Spotone : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

Has anyone used the spotting pens instead of spotone? Are the easier to work with? Any comments relating to experience would be appreciated

-- Barry Trabitz (, January 23, 2002


They are a lot easier to use IF you are using fiber based papers, with RC papers, they seem to change colors...or at least they did with me.....but if you can get them, way easier than spotone....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 23, 2002.

I've been using Spotone for years. I wonder how easy it is to spot a very light grey value with a spotting pen? I can use a fine brush with Spotone and lay down very tiny dots with a hair or two and I would challenge most anyone to find the area I spotted--it seems to me that this would not be possible with a pen, certainly not with the precision of a brush. Can you respond, Jorge?

-- Ed Buffaloe (, January 23, 2002.

I've used both for years. I agree with Ed in that for very light areas the Spotone is better. Also, if you want to apply a "wash" to a reflection hilight such as sun off a bumper to dimish the glare, the brush with Spotone is easier to control.

-- Jim Steele (, January 23, 2002.


In the pen set there is a pen which has almost no pigment, and usually unless the "color" is almost white it requires about 3 or 4 passes to spot a light gray value. I also have found myself on the situation of trying to spot a shade of almost white, in that case I dip the pen's tip on a little bit of water...only a drop on a plate, and I can even control the value for the advantages, no brush hairs, no sucking of the dye into the brush, no drips, better control (the tips of the pens are way finer than any brush)... As soon as I found these pens I thought I had died and gone to heaven...on the other hand I am careful enough with darkroom dust control that I have sppoted only 2 prints in 5 years, so maybe I am not an expert and not the correct person to take advice from. If someone has to do extensive spotting then maybe the spotone route is better, and it is the reason I hated spotone I was terrible with it, making a mess and always messing up the print, heck most of the time when I used spotone the print looked better before it was Ok, hope this helped.. BTW I have the same set of pens I bought about 8 years ago.....they still work like new...does spotone last that long?

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 23, 2002.

I use both the pens (warm tone) and regular Spotone (for cold tone). The pens are well designed and have advantages alluded to above. They come to a fine point and it is easy to lay down a clean little dot. The penset contains 10 pens of increasingly darker pigment. The downside with the pens is that they have a set pigment. So, if you've toned prints and the pigment colors don't match well, it can exacerbate the problem. The Spotone dyes are probably more flexible in this regard. FWIW, I have the warm tone set of pens, which works fine for selenium toned prints that I make on my paper etc etc. For cold tone works, I fall back on the regular Spotone, purely because I already have it and would like to exhaust it (which means I'll probably never get around to buying cold tone pens, since the bottle of Spotone lasts forever....)

I don't think there is a huge difference between the two ways of spotting. If you're uncomfortable with a brush, a good alternative with regular Spotone is to use a toothpick. So, I think it probably comes down to individual preference. The pens are probably easier to use (no mixing, less chance of a spill etc) but I don't think the pens are going to help one to spot better. Spotting is a skill i.e., it takes experience to not over-spot the hell out of a print.

Cheers, DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, January 23, 2002.

"I'll probably never get around to buying cold tone pens, since the bottle of Spotone lasts forever.."

Didn't you know that bottles of Spotone are the oldest physical objects in the known universe? The Hubble ST has pictures of Spotone Bottles pre-dating the big bang!

I use the pens. Mainly for the reasons outlined above -- they're a whole lot easier to deal with than the dyes.

-- David Parmet (, January 23, 2002.

I have used spotone for years, but I didn't realize the pens existed until this year. I tried them, and was very pleased with the results. The 10 different shades seemed to be more than adequate for my prints. I normally don't tone my work, though, and so I don't know how the pens will react to warmer values. I had good luck most of time with the spotone, but I had difficulties diluting to a light shade of gray for areas of clouds, etc. The pens were wonderful for these types of areas, and not having to mix is a great bonus. Probably the best thing about the pens is that even when a print is held at an angle, creating a surface glare, I cannot discern the presence of the ink, but with spotone there seems to be a reflectance glare when held at an angle. I threw out my spotone and now use only the pens.

-- James Webb (, January 26, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ