Softproof – opportunity or risk?

Softproof means: The correct color display of a printed product on a monitor. Both a standardized print, e.g. according to process standard offset printing, can be simulated – e.g. a later offset print according to ISOCoatedV2 can be simulated correctly in colour on the screen – and the output on digital terminals such as LFP systems in advertising technology.

From a technical point of view, soft proofs are now well controllable. The monitor technology is advanced enough to provide excellent displays with a high color gamut and consistent illumination even for a few hundred euros. For example, monitors in two branches of a company can be coordinated in such a way that the result displayed on the monitors corresponds exactly to each other at both locations, i.e. one image editor in Hamburg and one in Munich can talk about retouching the same file.

The problem: The fact that the two monitors emit the identical color and light result can be precisely controlled. The fact that the colleague in Hamburg is looking at the foggy Alster lake at a northern window, while the colleague in Munich moved the monitor to a southern window in the direction of the Isar river in sunshine, already shows the problem: The environment variables under which the softproof is viewed are not identical.

It is even more difficult when the soft proof is to be used in the pressroom to coordinate the production run. Many companies such as JUST offer modern solutions that can provide a soft proof directly at the press. However, the problem remains that the soft proof should be considered to be less than 10% away of the brightness of the press. While 2000 lux brightness was previously the standard for printers, JUST now writes: “The comparison of soft proofs on monitors with prints and hard proofs is regulated in accordance with ISO 12646. The light conditions basically correspond to ISO 3664, but the brightness must be adjusted to the limited luminance of the monitor, which ideally is > 120 cd/m². ”

Two scenarios therefore arise at the printing press: Either the printer is “in the light” and can then match the print with a contract proof printed on paper, or it is “in the dark” and can match the print with the soft proof. The difficulty of matching paper and monitor – and these are two completely different and difficult to compare media – is compounded by the difficulty of the printer having to dim the light at the press by up to a factor of 10 to be able to match both a contract proof and a soft proof at the same workstation. From today’s point of view, this does not really seem practicable.

Conclusion: The soft proof is on the advance and will certainly sooner or later displace the classic contract proof from the market for reasons of speed and cost. However, due to the great technical lighting and haptic differences between the monitor and the illuminated sheet of paper, a widespread introduction is still a long way off. After all, anyone who has ever performed a color match on a printing press can imagine that a match to the contract proof on the one hand and to a soft proof monitor on the other hand is difficult to imagine at the same time.  The contract proof will therefore also have to remain the first choice in the near future in order to be able to carry out colour-accurate proofing of the printing result in the pressroom.

Matthias Betz

Matthias Betz

Born in 1970. Owner and CEO of Proof GmbH in Tübingen. Since the 1990s, Matthias is dealing with colour management, proofing, standardised lighting technology, colour-consistent work and soft proofing. He is a certified PDFX-ready Expert (X-1a and X-4) and a member of the examination board for media design at IHK Reutlingen. Proof GmbH is the first worldwide company certified for PSOCoatedV3 and PSOUncoatedV3 Contract Proofing.

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2 Responses

  1. Das stimmt, ich habe gesehen, daß Quato mit dem Proof View 700 – 42 Monitore hat, die speziell auf den Leitstand bzw. die Normlichtkabine ausgerichtet sind und mit Luminanzen von bis zu 700 cd/qm glänzen sollen, das hieße laut meinen Erfahrungen auch eine reale Leuchtdichte von 450 cd/qm.

    Kennen Sie denn den Monitor im Einsatz aus der Praxis? Für ISOCoatedV2 scheint das ja wirklich noch nicht zu funktionieren. Und ist LWC tatsächlich im Rahmen des Farbumfanges erreichbar? Ich habe das Gerät noch nie im Einsatz gesehen und gemessen.

  2. Grundsätzlich stimme ich Ihrer Einschätzung zu. Die Kontrolle und Stabiliät der Umgebungsparameter sind auch meiner Meinung nach der Schlüssel zum “perfekten Softproof”…

    Ich möchte allerdings das Zitat der Firma JUST und den genanten Luminanzwert von “…idealerweise >120cd/m²” noch etwas besser einordnen und das beschriebene “Horrorszenario” etwas entschärfen:
    Aktuelle Softproof-Monitore können heute durchaus über den Zeitraum von >2 Jahren eine Luminanz von bis zu 200cd/m² stabil leisten, so dass die Leitstandsbeleuchtung auf lediglich ~700 Lux (also grob einem Drittel) reduziert werden muss. Das ist zwar immer noch gewöhnungsbedürftig, aber durchaus praktikabel und wird auch so in der Produktion schon heute angewandt.
    Von QUATO gibt es zudem einen 42″-Proof-Monitor, welcher sogar dauerhaft mit einer Leuchtdichte von 450cd/m² betrieben werden kann und somit die Beleuchtung des Druckleitstandes lediglich um ~500Lux reduziert werden muss, so dass man sich weiterhin innerhalb des ISO-Standard (2000 Lux +/- 500Lux) befindet.
    Leider kann dieser Monitor nicht den vollen Farbumfang der Druckbedingung ISOcoated v2/FOGRA39 darstellen. Im Zeitungsdruck z.B. sind hiermit aber schon heute problemlos ISO-konforme Produktionsbedingungen, kombiniert mit den Vorteilen des Softproof, möglich.

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