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Embracing New Proofing Technology

(September 2008) posted on Tue Sep 23, 2008

Proofing tools have come a long way in a short period of time.

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By Stephen Beals

Achieving a high degree of color consistency over ink batches is also important for proofing inks. You don’t want to have to start from scratch every time you load a new batch of ink.

To achieve this consistency, manufacturers have worked hard to develop inks that are uniquely suited for proofing devices, and that means inks have changed pretty dramatically in the last few years, as have the print heads for these machines. But the bottom line is that print devices that are designed for proofing tend to have a clear advantage compared to machines designed for more general print production. In fact, some machines are not well suited at all for proofing simply because they are designed with other production requirements in mind.

Also of note: Manufacturers have presented to the proofing market a number of machines designed for very high color gamut output. There are pluses and minuses here. Some print providers like to have the option of achieving a higher color gamut so they can show more accurate spot colors or maximize saturation. If you are producing proofs to show what a printed piece will look like within a CMYK color space, however, the extra gamut these machines are capable of producing could be overkill. There may be more than a little temptation to produce a good-looking proof even if your final output won’t be able to match it. Salesmen and designers might want to "sell the proof" rather than the final product-which can lead to unhappy customers.

These new machines will offer a relatively huge color gamut and meet the needs of printers who are printing in a wide-gamut space. At the same time, they’ll be able to produce proofs that are simply unmatchable on a CMYK printing device. If these devices are used to show critical spot colors that will be printed as a separate ink, they will be able to produce much more accurate proofs for that application. For packaging printers, these expanded gamut devices can allow proofing in areas that were difficult if not impossible to create digitally in the past. But if it turns out that critical spot color is going to wind up converted to CMYK and won’t match the proof at all, it could spell trouble. Such a piece of proofing equipment is a bit like giving someone super powers-those powers have to be used wisely.