Color Proofing--Bantering Beyond The Black & WhiteJune 1998
While digital proofing devices are gaining acceptance, there are still many prepress departments waiting in the wings for this evolving technology.
"The problem with color performance in digital proofing is that it is subjective—statistically, it is reported men see color differently than women, age makes a difference in how one views color and even a person's vision impacts their perception of color," Black muses. "Color is totally subjective—how can we take control over that?"
Fuji, Black reports, has been working with two OEMs looking into ICC profiles and how Fuji can use ICC profiles to bridge the gap of subjectivity. Fuji is also very active in GRACoL, with Fuji's Larry Warter, director of new business development, playing a key role on GRACoL's committee.
An early adopter of Pantone's Hexachrome colors for their analog proofing product, Fuji is aiming to tackle the core frustrations of digital proofing. Fuji's efforts can be seen in FirstProof, based on Fujifilm's Color-Art aqueous-based proofing system, and Pictro Proof, which is built on the Fuji FirstLook foundation. Pictro Proof is a new dye-based digital proofing system, offering multiple RIP options, such as an Adobe CPSI RIP running on Windows NT or a Harlequin RIP running on a Power Macintosh.
"Our game plan with our color proofing devices is that, since there is no official standard color gamut on the commercial side, we've defaulted all of our color gamut to our analog proofing technology, Fuji-Proof. With every device we make digitally, our aim point is not the press sheet, it's our own analog proofing technology," Black reports. "Somehow, as an industry, we have to define color—we need to have a color gamut we all agree upon—but until then, we at Fuji will continue to default to the color parameters of our proven analog proofer."
ICC profiles, Black suggests, might not be the be-all-end-all vehicle for delivering the digital proof of the year 2000. "Well, let's just say I'm not yet enamored with ICC profiles," Black suggests. "I respect what the ICC has brought to the industry, and it is clear the ICC's contribution is valued, but ICC profiles leave a recognizable gap from one proofing environment to the next, and that's one gap that needs to be closed at some point."
Kodak Polychrome's Wick McCaleb, sales development manager for digital proofing—with key emphasis on the Kodak Approval, is sensitive to the less-than-glowing views on ICC profiles.
"I am aware that there is a view that ICC profiles offer too much flexibility, and the industry, overall, is lacking a more rigid set of color standards, but there are no other standards or benchmarks commonly accepted in the industry right now," McCaleb states, emphasizing Kodak Polychrome's strong support for ICC initiatives. Kodak also recognizes GRACoL activities.
"The industry is in need of a commercial standard in digital color proofing but the reality is, I doubt very highly that the commercial printers will rush to conform to a standard of that nature," McCaleb suggests, noting that individual printing operations find value in subtle, customized color manipulation practices. "I believe that printers need GRACoL in order to create a benchmark from which to determine whether or not their printing is up to par, but it doesn't mean everyone will conform exactly to that standard."
The Kodak Approval Digital Color Proofing system offers a SWOP Application Data Sheet often referred to as the Kodak Approval Standard. It allows anyone operating a Kodak Approval to make a proof that will provide a close match to proofs made elsewhere using the same standard.
Early in the life of the Kodak Approval halftone digital color proofing system it was determined that the graphic arts industry demanded standards. In turn, the Kodak Approval is capable of operator adjustment of print densities and dot gain of CMYK independently, allowing standards to be set and accurately maintained from machine to machine.
Mapping Out Routes
What's Agfa's opinion?
"In our view the ICC is not just the best, but the only sensible route for anyone serious about the future of digital proofing, or any aspect of color reproduction, for that matter," explains Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager for proofing at Agfa Div., Bayer Corp.
The advantage of ICC-based color management is that users can choose to match either one of the industry standards—such as SWOP, SNAP or GRACoL—or an industry-standard analog proofing system, like Agfa Pressmatch, through openly distributed standard press profiles, or their own specific printing characteristics via homegrown press profiles created through any ICC-compliant profiling software, Hutcheson continues. She notes that Agfa develops color matching profiles for Agfa DuoProof to match Agfa Pressmatch through Agfa's ColorTune Pro software, a fully ICC-compliant package.
DuPont Color Proofing recently introduced major upgrades to its Digital WaterProof Ax4 ink-jet proofing system, including Pantone licensing for PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM colors, a new system software including Adobe PostScript 3.
The Digital WaterProof Ax4 now features CromaNet 4.0, DuPont's fourth-generation CIELAB-based color technology, as well as PostScript 3, which adds enhanced levels of gray and smooth shading. The digital proofer also supports ICC workflows and the ability to handle native PDF through the use of drop folders.
With the release of Version 4.0 software, the Digital Waterproof Ax4 now supports spot color from a range of desktop publishing software packages, including Quark Illustrator and Freehand. With the capability to output spot colors, there is no need to omit elements from the proof, substitute process colors or use overlays.
"We made accurate spot color and custom process color matching a priority," reports Craig Reid, DuPont Color Proofing brand manager for digital proofing.
"The worldwide standard for spot color is PANTONE. Version 4.0 will come with a color match library to accurately produce most of the colors in the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM."
IRIS, the manufacturer of the Realist digital proofing family, supports the Scitex Profile Wizard methodology, a newly released Scitex product that treats ICC profiles in a robust manner—allowing the user to create, edit and combine profiles for any device, between different color spaces.
IRIS ColorZone software enables IRIS proofing customers to create color databases specific to the fingerprints of any chosen press or analog proofing system.
"We design our products to address our customers' color management needs, supporting both generic ICC profiles, as well as our own, more robust implementation," says Brian Alterio, business line manager, digital color proofing at IRIS. In addition, ColorTool within ColorZone is a remote proofing enabler, allowing the import and export of these unique color databases to remote IRIS proofing sites.
Presstek, makers of the PEARLhdp digital halftone proofing device, supports ICC profiles and is carefully monitoring activities on the GRACoL front. PEARLhdp has a direct digital link to a variety of electronic prepress systems through a Presstek process known as PEARL imaging, an external, laser diode-based, thermal imager connected to a prepress area via the PEARLrip workstation. PEARLhdp uses Imation's Matchprint Laser Proof materials.
"I think GRACoL is a long time coming," Presstek's Sandy Fuhs, marketing manager, enthuses. "A majority of commercial printers' needs are not being met by SWOP. GRACoL and other standards, such as ICC profiles, are fantastic—they are the tools by which we will move to the next level of digital color proofing."
New Level Proofs
Speaking of next levels, right now Screen is positioning to enter a new level of proofing. A to-be-named new digital proofer, due to be shown in prototype format this fall, will have the punch of TrueRite with an added perk—the capability to run any and all thermally exposed color proofing materials. "We can't control the consumables, but we can control the engine and have it accept all the different materials out there, all for the sake of delivering solid CMYK," reports Glenn Fisher, sales support manager at Screen USA.
Betty LaBaugh, marketing and communications manager at Polaroid Graphics Imaging, offers a word of advice regarding control: "I think, with digital proofing devices, there can be some limitations to exactly what parameters you want to control—it is very different in the digital world."
Polaroid's answer to color management in its DryJet digital proofing environment is Pressto! Proof, a solution that allows the user to achieve device characterization and profile calibration by applying calibration information to any ICC device-linked color profile. This capability allows the user to apply color adjustments globally to any ICC device-linked color profile.
"Truth be told, if you have the color right to start with, you don't really need that much in the way of color management," reports Polaroid's Ed Riggs, a member of the GRACoL committee.
"Color management may not be digital proofing's big issue, as much as is getting the dot right," the Polaroid proofing expert continues. "You want to have a sharp dot going into a CTP workflow, with not too much dot gain, optical gain or mechanical gain. I could go on —but that's another story."