Proofing In A Digital World
It’s been a few years and a pandemic since many of us on the vendor side of the industry have been on the road, making in-person visits to customers and prospects. The development of the tools and technologies we promote, however, have continued to advance during this time—innovation seemingly unfazed by the global crisis happening around us. Much of this development, as I observe, appears to have a direct correlation to the continued movement of our industry toward digital technology.
As digital technology advancements continue to be substantive, and the quality gap between offset and digital inevitably shortens—what does this mean for environments that have been traditionally, conventional that are migrating to digital? Where should we be leveraging color management technology? Should we be re-examining the contract proofing practices known to be synonymous with commercial print environments?
In the hay-day of offset, contract proofing was ‘it’. It became the standard practice—the checks and balances. In the last fifteen years, the contract proofing practice has matured and become the industry standard for substantiating an ability to accurately reproduce color, and consistently. Proofing eliminates the need to defend ‘good print’ and serves as an agreement between a shop and a customer. It helps to communicate expectations visually and numerically.
In a conventional environment, inkjet proofing is an established part of the workflow. Is proofing required? It depends. It depends on where color management is being leveraged; the amount of repeat production; the expectations of a customer; job size; consistency among devices, and, in general, workflow. It depends on, whether a shop co-works with another facility—or, if a client cross-campaigns. It depends on the number on process colors vs. extended gamut colors a shop runs and what type of jobs they produce. In conventional environments, all contract and content-only work is proofed, and on an aqueous inkjet device.
In digital environments, the decision to proof and how depends significantly on workstream + workflow. For printers producing thousands to tens of thousands of any job of one environment per day, proofing is not necessarily relevant and instead, frequent validation to a standard (visual and numeric) tends to be the preferred practice.
Digital environments share a strong preference for ‘onpress’ proofs. Where multiple machines of the same type are concerned, only one press needs to do the proofing — it can be a slower or a base model so-long-as the imaging and ink are the same as the other devices.
In a digital environment which produces short, medium, or long run jobs, proofing is practical. In highly automated workflows, it’s necessary. A highly automated internal digital proof typically costs under $5 to make. If the risk of a reprint cost is greater than $5, it would be logical to create physical proofs. Less automated and external proofs can cost upwards of $50 and similarly, creating physical proofs in this scenario, just fits.
As quality gaps continue to shorten and the industry continues to adopt digital technology, it’s becoming exceptionally important for printers to ensure that they are investing in color management servers that are robust. Having a centralized color server bulletproof and verifiable in the press room, correlates directly with the ability to properly proof production work. It also ensures that as business moves digitally, that the ability to match color across devices and print processes, isn’t a daunting task.
CGS ORIS has developed solutions for matching color cross-fleet within a single production environment. There are others on the market. I encourage you to shop for solutions that are agnostic of brand, model, make, and which color manage mixed environments. These solutions allow for repeatability, consistency, and accuracy across devices—offset and digital.
In our experience working with printers, palatable software investments routinely produce quick ROI’s. Often, taking inventory of current practices uncovers the opportunity for cost savings, as well as increased efficiency and consistency. The ‘new normal’ feels as good a time as any to plan our future goals as businesses and determine how to set ourselves up for success as we move forward in achieving them.