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Digital Remote Soft Proofing: The Key to Effective Color Communication

(June 2008) posted on Thu Jun 19, 2008

Digital remote soft proofing offers screen and digital printers a way to improve color control, speed up time to press, and greatly reduce rejects. Read on to find out more about this technology and some of the other benefits you can reap when you implement a remote soft proofing system.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Virtually all of the early collaborative portals fell victim to the dot-com meltdown as their funding ran out before they could overcome technical and bandwidth-related obstacles. At the same time these companies wrestled with Internet issues, color-management systems struggled to effectively implement the ICC specifications for digital color. They faced similar hardware, software, and processing challenges: conceptually solid, but limited in the ability to be implemented. They also faced a significant paradigm shift from the analog processes, as well as a very steep learning curve. The innovators and early adopters could achieve no better than proof of concept.

So here we are in mid 2008—my, how the landscape has changed! Now we have cheap, abundant bandwidth. Color science has yielded mature technical workflows that achieve all they were billed to deliver. Any company can now afford to generate its own custom ICC profiles internally for a very modest investment. All of the major graphics software programs support color management and allow for easy calibration and integration into all phases of the process, from image capture on digital cameras and scanners through accurate monitor viewing, proofing, and final output—whether on a digital inkjet printer, a toner-based device, or an analog printing system.

The missing component is remote soft proofing during the collaboration and approval phases, which is where the process breaks down or is severely delayed. Hard-copy analog proofs are still quite common, though declining steadily. Hard-copy inkjet proofs are more the norm, but they still require output by the printer, courier delivery, and collaboration and physical mark-up before being returned to the printer for correction prior to production or another round of proofs.


Components of remote soft proofing

Soft proofing means comparing a monitor image to hard-copy output (Figure 2).We may also refer to this as a virtual proof, because we don’t generate a hard copy—it’s only an image on the monitor. Hard copy can be either continuous tone (dotless) or halftoned with the same digital information to be used for final output. From the 2006 IDEAlliance Position Paper on Soft Proofing, the challenges facing the adoption and use of the practice are categorized into three main areas:

1. lighting, monitors, and instrumentation

2. total supply chain: digital workflow best practices

3. tools, outreach, and education


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