Is there an industry standard that covers all types of printing?

Answered by Gordon Pritchard, Print Solutions Senior, Creo, a subsidiary of Kodak.

On a regular basis, my company designs and supplies final files to our clients for printing 4-color process pieces. We do not usually know who will print the pieces, and in fact, do not even know how they will be printed (i.e., web, sheetfed, digital printing, etc.). We always have contract quality proofs made for ourselves so we can review the Photoshop work we have done but is there an industry standard or target that we can tell our pre-press shops to run their proofs to? I am familiar with SWOP (Specifications Web Offset Publications), but that is for publications and our pieces will most likely print on #1 or #2 grade sheets. I have also looked into GRACoL (General Requirements for Applications in Offset Lithography), but the pre-press shops and printers I have spoken to have said that there is not a standard that they can target for GRACoL like there is for SWOP. Do you have any suggestions?


You are experiencing a dilemma caused by one part of the industry (print buyers and specifiers) progressing more quickly than another (the standards organizations).

While there are a number of industry-standard color spaces that have been defined, if you ask your pre-press shop to run their proof to one of those standards you may get a blank stare. If you truly want to span web, sheet fed and digital printing with a single proofing standard, you may need to pick one common denominator that can be reproduced by all three printing technologies. The trade-off is that this approach may restrict the quality you might achieve with any one type of printing.

Currently, there is actually only one industry standard specification for presswork and proofing that you can ask your pre-press shops to run to - SWOP. However, if you take a look at the GRACoL guidelines you'll notice that in many respects, they are not too different from the SWOP specifications.

For proofing purposes, the key areas of difference in most cases will be the color of the substrate that is used for the proof and the target solid ink densities. Fortunately, most proofing systems offer a choice of commercial or SWOP substrates as well as higher solid color densities to better simulate GRACoL. The key is to make sure that the proof you receive conforms to the presswork standard you are targeting in terms of paper simulation and solid ink density. For example, higher density solids on commercial substrates for GRACoL or lower density solids on publication substrates for SWOP work. Make certain that the proofs you receive are consistent and accurate by insisting that your supplier include color bars or certification marks, or the GATF proof comparator.
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