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Embracing New Proofing Technology

(September 2008) posted on Tue Sep 23, 2008

Proofing tools have come a long way in a short period of time.

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By Stephen Beals

If you don’t think things have changed much in the proofing arena in the past year, you are only partly right. Often, it’s the little things that make dramatic differences in the way people do business, and our industry has been moving slowly but steadily toward embracing technology that has been around for a while but underutilized. In addition, manufacturers have been steadily improving all aspects of the proofing environment-from cheaper, better spectrophotometers to advances in lighting technology, new inks for proofing devices, and more user-friendly software.

Education also has played a role in this trend, and although there are still skeptics, the trend toward color-managed proofing systems is strong. Yes, there are still plenty of shops still "eyeballing" projects rather than relying upon spectral readings, but there is a strong upsurge in companies that now do standards-based proofing.

But the best is yet to come. Several newly released technologies promise a huge improvement in color proofing in 2009, and I think you’ll see this equate to fewer comebacks in the long run as well as more satisfied customers overall.

The right light
It may be the most overlooked and/or taken-for-granted aspect to the proofing process: lighting conditions.

One consistent problem with color proofing is consistent, accurate repeatable light-viewing conditions. We have certainly come a long way in addressing the problem by developing industry standards for light viewing booths. However, there is still some inconsistency in the industry over which standards to use. And there are still a few issues that standards cannot resolve. One is the fact that even the best light sources available have more light fluctuation (spikes) than would be ideal, even if they do meet standards. The fluorescent lights often used simply have inherent characteristics that are less than perfect.

But new LED lighting technology promises to address those problems in rather dramatic fashion. Both Just Normlicht and GTi have been working on lighting booths that use LED technologies to provide more even and consistent lighting than fluorescent bulbs are capable of. In addition, the bulbs are more environmentally friendly since standard lighting booth bulbs use toxic metals like mercury.