SWOP (Specifications for Web Offset Publications) has announced plans to modernize SWOP Specification by addressing the industry’s shift toward virtual proofing workflows. It also plans to halt its certification program until July, when it plans to unveil a comprehensive industry program.
Jim Mikol, Senior Vice President of Technology, Leo Burnett USA and member of the SWOP Advisory Committee said, "Our industry has changed since SWOP first developed its specifications, yet SWOP has not. The vast majority of us produce proofs on non-SWOP paper stocks. We now demand tighter tolerances and greater assurance of a close visual match from proof to printed publication."
SWOP’s merger with IDEAlliance in 2005 provided new resources to support SWOP modernization. In February, IDEAlliance announced the adoption of a new #3 grade paper (such as Fortune Gloss) as an approved SWOP paper stock in addition to the traditional #5 grade groundwood publication printing paper. Errata, updating the SWOP Specifications to include the #3 grade paper, were published simultaneously.The inclusion of a brighter #3 grade paper was a significant move toward SWOP modernization.
SWOP has also adopted the new G7(tm) calibration, printing and proofing process control methods.The G7(tm) methodology grew out of the recent research and development efforts of the IDEAlliance GRACoL� Committee. It defines gray balance and target neutral print density curves for three-color gray and black as the primary method for color control as opposed to the current SWOP methods that focus on ink density and TVI (formerly known as dot gain) on a prescribed paper stock. This shift in digital calibration methodology establishes a new foundation upon which to update the specification.
IDEAlliance’s Print Properties Committee has initiated a series of research and development efforts to provide a scientific basis for modernizing SWOP, including a series of press runs on web presses to develop an idealized characterization data set for both the #5 and #3 grade papers. Additional research projects are being conducted that focus on producing high-end halftone proofs "to the numbers" that provide a close visual match to a press sheet and to one another.
The current SWOP Certification program combines a numeric evaluation of offset proofs based on target TVI values along with a human evaluation of visual similarity. But new factors demand that SWOP re-evaluate and update the certification program. As a result, SWOP is suspending new certifications until July 1 when a comprehensive industry certification program will be in place.