Understanding paper and having a universal language to describe paper could be the key to print predictability, said panelists earlier this month during an Idealliance- and P3-sponsored conference in New York. “The way they describe paper in Europe and Asia is very different from the way we describe it in this country,” said Trish Wales, an associate of Idealliance’s Print Predictability Paper Task Force. “In this country, we buy #1, 2 and 3 according to brightness. But what does that really mean?”

Members of the opening panel called “Achieving Print Predictability” at the Idea! Focus event held at the McGraw-Hill offices said updating SWOP specifications and creating a new characterization data set for GRACoL are the keys to achieving print predictability. “We’re not trying to change the way paper is sold,” Wales said. “Instead, we want to provide meaningful metrics for the paper buyer.”

The goal of Idealliance’s SWOP and GRACoL committees is to achieve seamless printing across borders, said Nubar Nakashian, executive vice president of Taneseybert and chairman of Idealliance’s SWOP committee. Both groups have engaged in intensive press tests in their efforts to enable printers to achieve closer matches to proofs. “We’re looking to develop one common methodology and with specific tools and characterization data sets so we will be able to provide a better match to proof no matter where you are printing in the world,” he said.

As part of its move to SWOP modernization, Idealliance earlier this year adopted a new #3 grade paper (such as Fortune Gloss) as an approved paper stock in addition to the traditional #5 grade groundwood publication printing paper. The characterization data for the changes between #3 and #5 papers can be found at Idealliance.org.

Idealliance CEO David Steinhardt said the association is working with Adobe to get the new data for the #3 paper entered into Photoshop. “The bottom line is that whatever system that is in place now, it’s fundamentally broken,” he said. “What we’re dealing with now is the politics of pulling together all the parties – the publishers, the advertisers, the paper companies – and we’re trying to walk a fine line to do that so that we can come up with a methodology to serve the entire industry.”

Gina Sigmon, director of technical sales for Quebecor World and chairwoman of Idealliance’s virtual proofing task force, said Idealliance also is working to establish specifications and commonality around virtual proofing, a process that essentially eliminates the need for hardcopy proofing. “Members of our task force include advertisers, printers, we have members from the offset side, because we basically want to take a look into everyone’s world,” she said.

The task force is putting together a best practice worksheet, which should be available on Idealliance’s Web site in January, on the design aspect of virtual proofing comparing hardcopy proofing with a virtual workflow proofing process, Sigmon said. She said the task force is also researching a justification for switching to virtual proofing by showing how it can reduce labor, shipping and other charges.

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