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DIGITAL PROOFING -- Taking Measure of a Proof

August 2003
BY MARK SMITH


The only constant may be change, but things have gotten pretty quiet on most fronts of the digital revolution in printing. Even computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), arguably, is more about a workflow evolution than revolution.

One area that remains unsettled is proofing. Decades after the first digital systems were introduced, the industry is still debating what's the "right" solution.

It's probably not reasonable to think one solution could meet the needs of every print shop and application. Nonetheless, the proliferation of systems is leading print execs to ask, "Why do I have so many proofers in my shop?"

A related question is at the heart of the matter. What is an acceptable proof? Several industry initiatives hold promise to answer all or part of that question.

Twenty color proofing solution vendors recently participated in a Color Proofing Roundup held in conjunction with the IPA Technical Seminar in Chicago. They accepted a challenge to make proofs from a PDF/x-3 file utilizing the Altona Test Suite (www.eci.org/eng/index_e.html). The suite was devised by the Germany-based European Color Initiative (ECI), which had already conducted two rounds of tests in Europe.

One set of proofs was prepared using a SWOP TR001 reference print condition. A second set was prepared using a blind target, which was the proposed GRACoL reference print conditions, now also known as TR004.

While a decision was made not to identify systems in the report's results section, IPA did release a list of vendors that agreed to participate in the proofing roundup. They included Agfa Corp., Apago, Best Color, Blanchard Systems, CGS Publishing, Compose Systems, Creo, DuPont Imaging Technologies, Enovation Graphic Systems (Fuji), Heidelberg USA, Integrated Color Solutions, Kodak Polychrome Graphics, Latran Technologies, X-Rite, GMG Weihing GmbH, Pitman Co., RealTimeImage, Xinet and Xerox Corp.

Consultant Dave Zwang oversaw the testing on behalf of IPA, the Association of Graphic Solutions Providers based in Edina, MN. Zwang contends the key finding from the study is that the rules for proofing have changed.

In terms of evaluating color, he says the overall issue now is, "What is the target?" Is it an industry defined standard, such as TR001, TR004 or something else. Or, is it a target tailored more specifically to a shop's own color standard.

Pick Your Target

Digital technology has expanded the range of targets that can be used effectively, the consultant notes. That flexibility comes from combining device calibration and color management with the capability to mix colorants enabled by toner and ink-jet systems.
 

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