True colours

One printer’s eye on colour will be different to another’s – and to the client’s. But in a brutally competitive manufacturing environment, where printing has been changed from a craft to a commodity, subjectivity is a luxury that Australian prepress and print can no longer afford.

David Crowther of Australian colour specialist DES has made the observation that despite a strong subjective visual element, printing still needs to conform to the manufacturing paradigm of measurement, control and consistent reproduction – and this is where a new set of standards will help enormously.

Says one of Australia’s colour specialists and doyens of colour management, Yves Roussange, increasing globalisation of branding means Australian printing companies must maintain the international standard or lose valued market share to overseas competitors.

Technologically, colour consistency and accuracy has taken a warp-speed leap forward through the advent of digital proofing. The past year has been a seminal one for Australia in terms of colour management, with a new Australian ISO standard about to be formalised.

AS/ISO 12647-2 draws directly on the international ISO 12647-2 (Graphic technology-Process control for the production of halftone colour separations, proof and production prints). The global standard has been adopted by SA (Standards Australia), and once the formalities are complete, it will become AS/ISO 12647-2, identical to the original.

Says Crowther, “We are adopting ISO 12647-2, as it is a true international standard, with achievable aim points, targets and tolerances. We might be downunder, but we are not backward about coming forward and utilising a specification that applies to real-world situations and production values.”

The breakthrough was lauded at the Lithographic Institute of Australia’s 19th biennial conference in October last year, where the LIA’s Bob Lamont also confirmed that the LIA and Printing Industries, having gained Australian ISO observer status on the ISO/TC-130 graphic technology standard in April of that year, now looked forward to promoting the value of an Australian standard.

Lamont said adoption of the standard would help make Australia “a ‘first-world’ printing country”. (Since then, he has been able to confirm that it will give Australian printers easier access to ISO information, to standards and to related documents).

Meanwhile, Roussange, who directs ColourProcess, a Sydney colour management consultancy, has created the Print Process Standard (PPS) as the methodology by which Australia’s printers can embrace two popular sets of guidelines, Process Standard Offset (PSO) and GRACoL 7.

PSO is certification on compliance, based on ISO 12647-2, and is carried out by German-based research institute FOGRA and the printing body BVDM. Roussange is a partner of FOGRA and provides onsite support for certification according to PSO.

Crowther emphasises that PSO is not ISO certification but a “check” by FOGRA on prepress and print or print only, serving a similar purpose to guidelines such as Mellow Colour’s ISO 12647 Proficient Printer programme.

But Roussange emphasises that PSO is a certification procedure based on a 5,000-sheet print run and an independent evaluation done by BVDM and FOGRA, which created the ISO profiles and reference files based on the ISO-12647-2_2007 standard – and not a vendor oriented concept.

GRACoL 7 (General Requirements for Applications in Commercial Offset Lithography) is a sheetfed offset guideline developed in and primarily for the US market by IDEAlliance, an American committee that conducted a series of research press runs and developed a new set of process controls based on principles of digital imaging, spectrophotometry, and computer-to-plate (CtP) technologies previously not known in the USA.

Says Roussange, “Whereas the PSO would advise to adjust the inking until the TVIs of CMY come close to their aims, GRACol 7 would request that the neutral densities of the CMY and the K grey patches should be brought close to the prescribed aim value for both, regardless of the individual TVIs that result.”

So which guidelines should a prepress operator use? There’s no “better” or “worse”, advises Roussange. “Practical printing tests have shown that the differences between the PSO and the GRACol 7 methods are very slight. Both PSO and GRACol 7 teach that mid-tone colours are more important than those of the solids. In cases where the mid-tones are not automatically correct after the solids have been brought into compliance, the solids should be adjusted to move the mid-tones into compliance.”

Already one Australian printing company has shown its true colours by committing itself to AS/ISO 12647-2. Printpoint Australia, a client of ColourProcess, is a waterless specialist in Brisbane. Managing director Alan Rhodes says the certification completes a two-year benchmarking process at Printpoint, of which six months was spent upgrading the necessary equipment, including proofing, software, and evaluative processes that will allow the company to troubleshoot, and to keep itself on track with FOGRA and 12647-2.

DES has a number of reference sites for its Mellow Colour Proficient Printer certification to the ISO standard. These sites are strictly audited every six months in order to qualify for re-certification. Certified sites are Rawson Graphics Printing, WebStar-Silverwater and Chippendale Printing in NSW, Energi Print and Vega Press in Victoria, National Capital Printing in the ACT, and WA Newspapers.

How ready is Australia’s printing fraternity to adopt a new set of guidelines for sheetfed and web offset colour? If the pace of adopting 3DAP, and its version-2 modifications, is any guide, advocates of ISO 12647-2 may have a tough road to hoe before the corner printer bothers to sign on. When ProPrint surveyed attitudes to 3DAP amongst the heatset community (3DAP’s target group) in 2006, the responses were mixed.

There is a strong likelihood that the 3DAP committee may adopt ISO 12647-2 as this has already been done by many of the major magazine publishers around the world. “This would change 3DAP v2 from being a just a recommended guideline to being in line with an internationally accepted standard,” says David Crowther.

Suppliers ready for Australian ISO standard
EFI has kept itself at the forefront of colour management, and Eric Holtsmark, director of sales, Asia Pacific, says EFI’s compliance with GRACoL, ICC, PDF and other open standards “ensures that EFI solutions easily, seamlessly integrate into customers’ overall print shop operations, including offset/digital hybrid environments”.

Visitors to EFI’s stand at drupa will get a first look at EFI’s new “proofing-to-go” RIP software, Colorproof eXpress, an entry-level product being launched at drupa, which outputs accurate proofs, full-colour printouts and photos, with a single RIP/inkjet printer combination. Another stand highlight will be EFI Colorproof XF, the cross-platform proofing and large-format production solution that supports inkjet printers (up to 2.64m).

Fiery XF leverages EFI’s proofing competence for perfect colour, says Holtsmark. “It offers intelligent Clean Color and Full Gamut Technology for brilliant print results in wide format and superwide format. Fiery XF is a complete cross-platform application for both production and proofing purposes.”

Kayell Australia supplies a range of colour management technologies that integrate with ISO 12647-2, including GMG Colour Management Technology prepress, press and file separation software, X-Rite calibration and profiling instruments for CtP, monitors, proofing and presses, Epson Stylus Pro large-format printers for contract proofing, Eizo monitors for soft proofing and GTI viewing booths, globes and luminaires for proofs and press sheets.

Kayell’s Luke Wooldridge has been appointed as a certification partner for AS/ISO 12647-2, a recognition that allows Kayell to be one of a few companies in Australia that can provide onsite support on behalf of FOGRA to printing and prepress companies aiming to achieve the ISO standard, he says.

Wooldridge says GMG is announcing two new ISO-compliant products at drupa – ColorMaster in a Box, for agencies wishing to work in RGB before converting for press, and GMG Connect, an integration tool for workflow environments such as Prinergy, Esko and DaliM. In addition, GMG will be unveiling new versions of ColorProof, DotProof and FlexoProof proofing software, and PrintControl Pro and RapidCheck press software at drupa.

Screen Australia’s Peter Scott says predictability across any number of printing devices at any number of printing companies has until now been the industry’s most elusive goal. The new ISO 12647-2:2007 “will allow printing companies to sell print at a known recognisable standard in terms of colour and quality, and at the same time save significant money by reducing makeready and wastage”.

The latest version of Trueflow, called Trueflow SE, is an upgrade that includes the Adobe PDF Print Engine, improved RGB-to-CMYK and CMYK-to-CMYK colour management and a dot-gain fine tuner tool. The Truepress 344 digital press has a closed-loop colour management system called TrueFit Advance that scans every sixth printed sheet to adjust water/ink balance and ink density.

Sydney-based colour management supplier CMYKit has inked two major agreements with European manufacturers. Alwan Color Expertise, a French company, will make its Dynamic Device Links technology and CMYK Optimizer available in Australia through CMYKit.

Alwan has announced drupa 2008 as the venue for its rollout of a new series of ICC colour management software, which builds on the success of the Alwan CMYK Optimizer servers, now installed on over 400 printers worldwide. It will also launch two new Adobe Photoshop plug-ins at drupa 2008.

“ICC colour management still generates a lot of confusion in the industry,” said Alwan’s president Elie Khoury. “Users are often convinced ICC colour management is inefficient, inappropriate for print workflows and unable to preserve black text and images or any primary ink purity.”

CMYKit has also announced a partnership with Bodoni Systems to market pressSIGN and proofSIGN, the European developer’s software for monitoring and controlling colour on proofers and presses. PressSIGN enables printers to achieve accurate colour on the press in five steps, says CMYKit’s Jason Hall. ProofSIGN ensures proofs match international printing and proofing standards.

EskoArtwork, represented locally by Esko Australia, has upped the ante on colour management for package printing, with its Kaleidoscope software, which now supports colour profiles in its Equinox colour conversion software for non-standard colour sets, including Opaltone colour management, but also hexachromes and Pantones, all profiled to the ICC standard.

Xerox is about to occupy new space for a developer at the output end of digital print. Fuji Xerox Australia’s Henryk Kraszewski will be at drupa 2008 to show customers its colour managed workflow solution based on the ORIS colour server that allows any of its digital presses – from the entry-level products, to the mid-range DocuColor 5000 or 8000, to the iGen3 – to be colour matched to a proof, all within ISO specifications.

Amongst the traditional reprographics vendors, colour management has become a paramount area of focus. Agfa Graphics will take a major stride ahead in colour management with :Apogee Colour, the colour management tool in its :Apogee workflow suite. :Apogee Colour is being promoted as software that simplifies calibration, quality control and colour profiling.

Australian visitors to Agfa’s stand will be given demos of :Apogee Colour and the rest of the suite by Agfa’s graphics manager, Garry Muratore.

Advanced colour management has been built into Kodak’s Creo Spire colour server, and now Kodak’s Print On Demand Solutions (PODS) Group will introduce its Nuevo workflow to further enhance this server. Connected to the Nuevo parallel RIP architecture, it will bring high-level colour management to volume applications, such as transpromo.

Fujifilm will demonstrate its cross-platform colour acumen, with automatic re-imposing of jobs from different output devices on a Fujifilm XMF platform, based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine. Demos will show how “fingerprinted” target devices enable colour management on each signature and between, say, a four-up and eight-up press.

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