This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
The Position. Retouching requires quite a steady hand, and to acquire this, an easy, unrestrained sitting position is necessary. Select a chair of a height that will permit of the elbow resting comfortably on the table, allowing the hand and pencil to rest on the mask and negative. If the hand perspires freely, a handkerchief may be used between the hand and plate, on which to rest the fingers. A small pad or cushion may be placed under the elbow. Sit quite erect in the chair, resting comfortably, and do not bring the face too close to the negative, but just close enough so that you can see all the blemishes. The farther away you can work and see the blemishes, the better.
blackest or most opaque portions). In some portion of the high-lights select a large freckle or blemish. Make no attempt to fill it up solid, but break it up, so to speak, by-applying different strokes of the pencil.
The Stroke. The spots and blemishes, being of different shapes and sizes, will require different strokes of the pencil. Some portions may require a series of straight or slightly curved lines placed quite close together, and crossing each other so as to break up the blemish rather than to fill it in solid. Small blemishes may be easily removed by using one or two small commas. Various workers have different methods of handling these imperfections, but there is no marked advantage in any one particular form over another. Whatever stroke you use it must be such that you cannot see it when the negative is held a foot from you, nor must the strokes be visible in the print. Three or four strokes will often suffice to make the average freckle almost unnoticeable. Always guard against placing too much lead on the negative; strive to remove the imperfection completely, using as few strokes as possible. The weight of your stroke will govern this to a great extent.
125. Use any movement you see fit. It makes no difference how you perform the work, so long as you produce the results of filling in and smoothing over. Always steer clear of the edge of the spot, for to touch the edge would intensify the outline, consequently, requiring more work on the original blemish. Some of the blemishes or blotches may require only a dot of the pencil; others the spreading of a dot, a zig-zag line, or a curved line or several strokes. The lead must be applied so lightly that while the blemish disappears the strokes are not visible when looking through the negative.
126. Do just as little retouching as is required in each case - too little is better than too much. It will be found advisable to apply different forms of strokes for various shaped spots or blemishes on different parts of the face. You will soon have a preference for one form of touch over another - finding that this form gives you the greatest
amount of control. More or less unconsciously this will become your method. It is much better to work in this manner than to try using one particular form of stroke from the start. The actual results in retouching do not lie in the particular form of the stroke, but in your being able to use that stroke to secure the required result.
127. One important point you must remember: Never permit the lead to touch any portion of the plate which you do not expect to strengthen. A properly retouched plate, when examined by transmitted light, should show no marks of the pencil on the surface. (Note: Transmitted light is that light which comes through the negative.)
128. When you apply the lead to the negative, bear in mind a very important fact: The lead is applied to build up those portions which are transparent and of less density than the main surface of the plate. You must exercise care, therefore, not to apply too much lead. Also remember, that to touch the outline or high-light portions of the blemish, which are the black portions, will intensify these outlines and make them still stronger - this you do not want. What you do desire is to build up and blend only these higher lights. Therefore, avoid working beyond the edge of the blemish. Apply the lead only to the white transparencies, or, giving them their technical term, black blemishes.
129. Beginning with the center of these blemishes, freckles, lines, or whatever they may be, gradually blend to their edge, connecting them with their surroundings. As previously stated, some of these spots may be very small and require but very few strokes of the lead; others are larger, requiring longer strokes. In any event, never attempt to work beyond the outline of the spot or blemish. If the spot is an irregularly shaped one, follow this shape with the pencil. Do not leave out the corners, but work with any stroke that you find will erase this spot and even it up with the rest of the work. After you have completely finished one spot, take the one nearest to the one already removed and continue with every spot in regular order
until all have been removed. These blemishes and spots you will observe, are not of the same density. Some are blacker (using their technical term) than others. Therefore, you must apply the lead accordingly. The less conspicuous the blemish the lighter you apply the lead.
130. After removing the most conspicuous spots that are visible to the eye, lean back from the easel and take a general view of the entire surface of the face. You will observe in many instances where you have worked over and filled small spots, you have created larger blotches; that is, you have connected small spots which were more transparent than the larger ones. The latter were invisible to the eye, but after the small spots were removed or eliminated, the larger blotches became visible. In other words, while the large blemish was always present, yet the more obtrusive little spots, pimples, etc., attracted the eye first, so that you did not notice the larger one which was very mild and subdued.
131. From the fact that this larger blotch - which you have created by the removal of the smaller blemishes - is much larger and milder in appearance, you must lean back farther from your work and, using a longer and lighter stroke, go over the surface you have already worked upon. Fill in this large space and blend it with the remaining surface. Very few of these large spots - which are created from the elimination of smaller spots - will require more than a half-dozen strokes of the pencil.
132. Practically speaking, the blending together of the created spots is termed modeling. It is not desired that you attempt to model at this time. Our object is only to prepare you for the advanced work by calling your attention to these blemishes so that you will observe them as you progress with your practice work. Therefore, all we expect you to do in this lesson is to fill up and blend these little spots, remembering at all times that it requires but very little weight on the pencil to produce the desired effect. Rather depend upon the retouching fluid, which supplies the tooth to take the lead, than upon the pressure of
the hand. Practice eliminating and building up the blotches and blemishes of the face, bearing in mind that the larger the blotch or freckle the longer should be the stroke of the pencil.
133. Never permit the pencil to touch upon the highlights - in other words, the outline of the blemish. Remember at all times that the object of retouching is to model and smooth over the defects, connecting them with the higher lights, thereby producing an even and clear texture of the skin.
134. After a careful trial you may find that your work is not producing the desired effect; that it is entirely too heavy and coarse, and that the lead which you have applied has not improved the plate, but, on the contrary, makes the work appear extremely crude and very unsatisfactory. Do not become discouraged on account of this, but erase the work you have done by carefully rubbing over the plate a little absorbent cotton dipped in turpentine. Allow it to dry, after which you can again prepare the plate with the retouching fluid. If so desired, the retouching fluid can be substituted for the turpentine. Apply a few drops of the fluid and spread it with absorbent cotton or Canton flannel, thereby erasing the lead previously applied and at the same time preparing the plate for further retouching. After a few moments the plate is again ready to receive the lead, when you may proceed carefully, as before, and profit by your former experience.
135. After you have removed the blemishes in the highest points of light, gradually work down through the half-tones and into the shadows. Of course your strokes must gradually become lighter as you proceed to the thinner or shadow portions of the negative.
136. By the time you have completely removed the blemishes you should have made three or four proofs and compared them with the proof made before any work was applied to the plate. This will give you an exact idea of the effect you are producing with your pencil, and also
clearly show whether or not you are placing too much lead on the plate - whether your strokes are sufficient to remove the imperfections without showing their identity.
137. If you apply too much lead on one spot it will gradually become glazed over and no more lead will adhere. This difficulty will often occur with beginners and should you experience it, instead of erasing the work already done by applying more retouching dope, flow the plate with the retouching varnish, as previously described in Paragraph No. 93. By using this medium there will be no danger of removing the retouching you have placed on the negative, which would be the case if you applied the dope. You may now continue to apply more lead in the quantity necessary to remove the imperfection.
138. All of the proofs which you make should be filed in the proof-book, or proof-file, and full data placed on the back of each proof as to the method you employed and the manner in which you proceeded to remove the imperfections. This memorandum is of the greatest importance, as you may desire to refer to it at any future time. By keeping the proofs in your file away from the light, they will remain in practically perfect condition for an indefinite period of time.