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Why Should You Print to Standards?

(June 2005) posted on Mon Jun 06, 2005

Wide-format printers need standards for their wider color gamut.

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By Stephen Beals

The graphic-arts industry has traditionally put a lot of time and
energy into developing standards. To a large degree, however,
these have been ignored"?especially by wide-format print
providers. While the idea of having a standard to print to is certainly
sound, there is good reason these standards have not
generally been used for wide-format output.

SWOP, the Standard for Web Offset Printing (,
was the first printing standard to be widely used by printers. But
SWOP is much too limiting to be used for any printing application
beyond high-speed web presses. Intended to be a standard that
all web presses could hit, it
is a generic specification.
After all, when you create
such a standard, you have
to design it not only so the
very best presses with the
very best operators can
duplicate it, but also so that
just about any press under
any conditions can do so.
As a result, running to
such a standard is far too
limiting. Since just about
any press can print a wider gamut of colors than strict adherence
to SWOP allows, very few companies want to be confined to that
specification. Yes, it provides a decent frame of reference, but
everyone wants their final results to be "better" than SWOP. It is
basically the lowest common denominator.

Which is one of the reasons GRACoL (General Requirements
for Applications in Commercial Offset Lithography) came along.
Originally, GRACoL was SWOP for sheetfed presses. Because
sheetfed presses most commonly print higher ink densities,
produce finer and cleaner dots, and have less press gain, the
gamut of colors that can be reproduced is greatly increased.

But, recently, the GRACoL standards organization decided that
the standard is lower than it should be. Most printers use brighter
papers and print a wider color gamut than is covered by the current
standard. As a result, the standards committee ( is
in the process of generating a new standard that will reflect the
industry's ability to print at a higher quality level.

The consistency factor