March 2016

The Only Constant is Change

Clients depend on us every day to accurately present their brands across all platforms. At Phototype, we’re especially excited about (and are participating in) a number of leading initiatives that will help us all deliver against that mission, including:

Spot Color Characterization In CxF

ISO recently published a new standard for communicating spot color spectral information using the CxF format. This standard is known as “Graphic technology – Colour data exchange format (CxF/X) – Part 4, also known as ISO 17972-4: Spot colour characterisation data (CxF/X-4).” This covers the use of CxF to communicate spectral measurement data about a spot color (including the substrate, tints and opacity) by giving information about how the color overprints black.

It has three levels of compliance that can be used. The most complete level of compliance includes all the recommended amount of information about a spot color, including its tints and opacity. There are also two other levels, depending upon how much information is available. Work is also being done to enable this data to be inserted into a PDF file so all the information needed to reproduce the file correctly can follow the file – this is commonly referred to as a “blind transfer.”

Calculation of Spot Color Tone Value (SCTV)

This initiative started as a LinkedIn conversation about issues with linearizing/calibrating spot colors. As it turns out, using the current Murray-Davies tint calculation method can yield some extremely unusual results on many spot colors. When used to linearize these anomalous spot colors, the result was an unevenly spaced visual perception. Often, if there was a change from one spot color to another and all other print conditions — like ink film thickness, water balance, substrate, etc. — were kept the same, this could result in completely different calibration curves. After close visual inspection of the dot, it was obvious that the actual dot sizes hadn’t changed that much.

During discussions organized under the auspices of the Idealliance Print Properties & Colorimetric Council, a call for ideas was circulated internationally and resulted in eight possible solutions that were catalogued and tested for their merit. One of the methods tested was the “Spot Color Tone Value” which provides a tint value metric that represents a more evenly spaced visual result. This metric is intended for calibration/linearization of spot colors, and not to be used as a definition of color or color-tolerancing. If you have the same tint value of an exact same ink being used on offset and gravure, there is no guarantee that the actual color of these tints will be anywhere close to each other — only that they will be perceived as being evenly spaced from solid to substrate. This method has since been submitted to ISO for standardization as a preliminary work item ISO 20654.

New data exchange protocol with PQX

Under development by Idealliance, PQX standardizes the transfer of color measurement data between quality management applications.

Within the last several years, a number of competing quality-evaluation programs have been adopted by consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies as brand owners seek to maintain a consistent shelf appearance from their global supply chain. As a result, print providers are faced with owning and managing multiple quality evaluation and score carding programs, as each of their CPG customers specifies a different scorecard system.

PQX is intended to relieve this application congestion on the shop floor. Scorecard applications that are PQX compliant will be able to exchange a standardized PQX message with any other PQX-compliant scorecard application. As a result, a printer can implement a single PQX-compliant application and still satisfy the reporting and score-carding requirements of their diverse customer base.

The ISO is in the process of taking this on as a work item to create a new international standard. Discussions are taking place in the Seoul, South Korea, meetings in early November.

Color management with iccMAX

Developed in ICC Labs, iccMAX is a new color management system that goes beyond D50 colorimetry. This new specification will be known as iccMAX and is being released as a preliminary document for public testing, before being published as a new ICC standard and proposed as a new part of ISO 15076.

iccMAX will provide a significant enhancement to the functionality of the current v4 specification. It will handle a full spectral connection space, with support for tint definitions, which will enable better management of spot colors. It introduces a new function called “programmable transforms” that will allow for better handling of profiles aimed at ECG process. There are many more features that will revolutionize the way we manage color in the future. It is recognized that, in many industries, v4 (and even v2) meets existing color management needs and, in these industries, there will be no drive to adopt the new specification.

An iccMAX CMM will be completely backward-compatible and will recognize and correctly process v2 and v4 profiles. iccMAX profiles are not expected, however, to be compatible with v4 CMMs. ICC will provide a reference implementation to help with iccMAX adoption.

Intelligent PDF files with ISO 19593 (also known as Processing Steps)

Established standards currently do not exist to store non-print data within a PDF file, especially in regard to layers. Instead, multiple methods are used and there is no easy way to predict what is needed to process files consistently. The Ghent WorkGroup (GWG), whose mission is to establish and disseminate process specifications for best practices in graphic arts workflows, is working to change that. The standard in development is ISO 19593: Graphic technology — Use of PDF to associate processing steps and content data. By establishing and following standards around layers (known as OCG – Optional Content Groups), speed to market can be accelerated and costs reduced by having a standard method to create and describe these layers. The result is consistent file structures and a single file format (PDF). Ultimately, GWG efforts are to make specifications that work in real life.

By Gary Russell (VP of Research & Development, Phototype) with contributions from Phototype staff. Note:  This article was published in the November, 2015 Printing Industries of America Magazine.

Phototype is a 4th-generation, family-owned company that provides fully integrated graphic solutions to the consumer packaged goods (CPG), medical/pharma, retail, printing and converting industries. To learn more, contact us.