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The Power of Neutral Gray

(March 2009) posted on Sun Mar 08, 2009

This article will explore how to harness neutral gray to benefit print production.


By Mike Ruff

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Proofing and printing to neutral gray is the means of attaining all four of these solutions. Anyone can get the solid densities and ink hues correct through proper fingerprinting, working with the ink supplier, and good color-management tools. But having solids dead on the color target only guarantees that the solid colors are correct. Even having dot gain equal and correct does not fix errors in substrates and ink hues.

Most four-color process images are not solid. In fact, very little of the image has solids in it—unless you‘re printing cartoon art. So in addition to controlling the solids, if we nail the neutral gray, everyone wins. From the client to the owner of the print shop, everyone moves forward at hyperspeed. This is why Don Hutcheson and IDEAlliance developed G7, the most successful color-productivity/color-calibration specification in North America. This is the power of neutral gray. This simple solution is taking the sheet-fed offset industry by storm. Gray balance is back because printers have decided that it is a lot more fun to make money printing rather than allow press operators to become artists.

Neutral gray defines accuracy

We normally can’t control how or where the images we use for print production were created or how the creator viewed or assessed files we receive. Our objective is to just produce the file we receive accurately. The challenge is defining accurately. One definition you can always substantiate and back up with fact is as follows: Accuracy in the print industry means producing a client’s file with no color cast. This means we do not add a red cast, a blue cast, a green cast, or a yellow cast. We print to neutral. We can measure neutral gray and easily explain it because gray balance is not subjective (Figure 1).

The power of a neutral monitor


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rocss says: Neutral gray is a term used frequently in the graphics-reproduction business but seldom put into practice correctly. The misuse of such a powerful tool is tragic, because neutral gray gives printers the ...

Neutral gray is a term used frequently in the graphics-reproduction business but seldom put into practice correctly. The misuse of such a powerful tool is tragic, because neutral gray gives printers the ability to accurately show a client what their creation looks like and then enables the print provider to accurately reproduce what the client intended for their final product. The principles of neutral-gray printing apply to all sorts of processes, screen and digital printing among them.

Neutral gray is so potent that when it’s applied after the printer addresses solid ink color, times for press setups that require critical color output can drop by more than 50%. The process involves simply correcting the solid colors, then calibrating and printing to neutral. There is power in understanding neutral gray, and this article will explore how to harness it to benefit print production.

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