Sunday, January 18, 2009

Press and proof alignment strategies

Strategies for answering the critical question: should your press color align to your proof or should the proof color align to the press?

• Strategy One: Targeting an Industry Defined Specification - the press aligns to the proof

If you do not control 100% of the digital files entering your pressroom it would be best to target an industry-defined specification as a way of bringing some degree of order to the various inputs that you receive. This strategy also allows prepress tradeshops and production graphic designers to prepare image scans and digital artwork appropriately even when they don't know which printer will be doing the final presswork.
This strategy is most appropriate in a distributed printing environment where prepress and scans from a variety of sources must conform to a common print characteristic. Examples are magazine and newspaper advertising or brochures that will be printed at a variety of locations.
Aligning the press to the proof is embodied in the traditional, analog film-based, laminate proofing systems with the most popular implementation for offset printing being SWOP. It is also the process embodied in the GRACoL 7/G7 specification.

• Strategy Two: Proofing to a Shop-Specific Presswork Target - the proof aligns to the press

With this strategy, the presswork color is the target and the proof is aligned to it. This strategy is appropriate in a non-distributed printing environment where prepress and scans are completely controlled by the printer or where the printer has a close relationship with the print specifier. Examples include brochures, collateral materials, annual reports, corporate brochures, art reproduction, and so on. This strategy is often used by printers wishing to differentiate their presswork from their competition. In this case print purchasers are primarily concerned that their particular project looks as good as possible in print. The presswork is unique — either to the individual print shop or even to a specific press in the shop.

• Strategy Three: - Align to Your Customer

Just as one size does not fit all - one print characteristic may not suit all. In today's highly competitive print environment, it can make competitive sense for the printer to leverage the flexibility of digital proofing and plating systems to offer multiple print characteristics to their customers. I.e. both strategy One and Two could be offered as options.
This initially involves greater complexity in workflow, however, once set up can provide the printer with tremendous flexibility in differentiating themselves and better meeting their customer's requirements in print.

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