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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

The server-based software feeds virtual proofs to clients and collaborators within a secure Web environment. Multiple permission levels can be es-tablished based on who needs to be involved at any single stage. ICS man-ages the servers and the backend as part of its solution, thereby freeing those who have access to IT of the hassles and frustrations.

The really powerful aspect of the system is in how it addresses the various hardware components. For example, Remote Director software continuously measures and validates each monitor in real time to assure that every machine displays the same white point, black point, and gamma. Additionally, this powerful software uses both ICC profiles and its own CMS engine to effectively manage not only CMYK, but also nChannel, RGB, L*a*b*, spot color, and specialty coatings. Furthermore, it uses proprietary algorithms to extend the 8-bit graphics card GPU to 10 bits per channel, effectively increasing the number of grayscale gradations from 255 to 1024. This virtual expansion of the dynamic range means Remote Director can not only display much finer gradations free of banding, but it can also accurately model substrate texture. These features effectively extend the realism of the proof and take it closer to the true visual equivalent of the printed substrate. The software’s advanced color engine can also accurately calculate and display the results of spot colors overlaying each other, including clear coats and varnishes.

The workflow aspect of the software is also noteworthy. Sign-offs and approvals are noted and logged throughout the collaboration process as part of the job history. Print-authorization permissions can be created and granted in several different ways. When the pro-ject receives print authorization, the composed, finalized file is exported as a TIFF—an exact, high-resolution copy of the currently active image, with all color and channel information intact. This file can now be hard-proofed local-ly if desired. With the addition of ICS’s PressOK scanning option, printed stock coming off press can be continuously checked against the stored values and on-press adjustments made during production.


The state of soft proofing

Remote soft proofing is already here on the commercial and publication side of the graphics industry. Time Inc. has mandated soft proofing for more than two years now, which means only digital files created and managed in a certified color workflow are accepted for publication. This dramatically speeds up the workflow while limiting Time’s liability for matching client-supplied proofs. If the system works on a daily basis for Time, you can be sure this technology will filter down into our markets.

Those who produce large-format graphics, whether screen or digital should seriously consider implementation now. The significant value of the projects you’ll be able to accept can easily justify the investment in the added control and assurance the system provides.

We’ve seen significant improvements in color control in our industry in the last few years; therefore screen and digital printers must at least be prepared for this migration. Even if you’re not quite ready to adopt a virtual-proofing solution, you should still begin the education process so you’ll be ready when the time comes. The benefits to you are a faster approval process and reduced reject costs as you print to calibrated and approved values that are traceable and continuously manageable. n



Mark A. Coudray is president of Coudray Graphic Technologies, San Luis Obispo, CA. He has served as a director of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association Int’l (SGIA) and as chairman of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology. Coudray has authored more than 250 papers and articles over the last 20 years, and he received the SGIA’s Swormstedt Award in 1992 and 1994. He covers electronic prepress issues in Screen Printing magazine. He can be reached via e-mail at






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