WhatÕs new with GRACoL: A summary of news from the G7 Summit

By Ron Ellis

During the past year GRACoL 7 saw a rise in the rate of adoption across the printing industry. In New England alone, a number of new printers and even some agencies and service providers were qualified as G7 Masters. The G7 Summit was held in New Orleans in September. The summit was well attended, and in addition to many presentations on GRACoL7, SWOP and the G7 Specification and Method, participants shared feedback on their experiences with GRACoL and the G7 Specification and Method. GRACoL co-chairs presented a summary of whatÕs new with GRACoL.

For those not familiar, GRACoL stands for General Requirements Accepted for Commercial Offset Lithography, a comprehensive set of recommended specifications that when used, bring uniformity and consistency in color to the commercial offset lithography printed process. The GRACoL 7 calibration process is a unique approach and  is based on ISO standards as well as gray balance.

For GRACoL to be effective, not only print manufacturers, but professional print buyers and specifiers should have a working understanding of standards and specifications. Current programs exist to help printing staff become proficient in understanding and using GRACoL7 specification.

New GRACoL tools and other changes

For those who have not taken a look at it in the past few months there are a number of new tools and some changes in the GRACoL specification. GRACoL has been tremendously successful. More and more new G7 applications are received each week by IdeaAlliance, the governing and accrediting body for GRACoL.

If you are not using the GRACoL 7 specification for commercial printing I urge you to consider it. (If you would like more information on it feel free to contact me at the email address below).


What happened in the past year

Here are some of the new developments over the past year. The CGATS/GRACoL TR006 2007 profile was included in ICC Profile Registry at icc.color.org. Even more importantly, Adobe Acrobat 9 became the first Adobe product to ship with AdobeÕs coated GRACoL 2006 ICC profile. This is important because with future Adobe products that include this profile, GRACoL users will no longer have to load and install the GRACoL profile on their systems. If they are using Adobe products — the profiles will already be there. Adobe also included the two new SWOP profiles based on the G7 Specification for the No. 3 and No.5 paper types.

Earlier this year, Pantone conducted its first GRACoL test runs and was qualified as a G7 Master. Many other small things occurred including a rewriting of the ÒG7 How to Guide,Ó by Don Hutcheson and a change in the definition of G7.

Prior to the new definition, G7 was defined as a calibration method based on gray balance. G7 is now defined as a print specification based around gray aim points, as well as a method. In addition, because it became clear that G7 was valuable for other media besides offset, and because some print methods cannot attain the same level of accuracy as sheetfed offset, G7 was given several new levels of compliance.


Different levels of G7 Grayscale

The basic G7 Grayscale specification defines the appearance of neutral image components (grayscale images) regardless of ink color.  The G7 Grayscale specification does not mandate a specific ink set, and therefore does not define the appearance of colored samples or images.

The second level of G7 Grayscale is referred to as ÒG7 Targeted.Ó When combined with colorimetric definitions for substrate (e.g. paper) and colorants (e.g. inks), such as those found in ISO 12647-2, the term ÒG7 TargetedÓ is used. A G7 Targeted specification therefore does not necessarily define the appearance of a printed color image. (Most offset printing falls into this category.)

The third level is G7 Colorspace. When a print specification defined as a characterization data set is based on G7, that print specification can be referred to as ÒG7 Characterized.Ó The benefit of G7 Characterized printing specifications is Ôshared appearance,Õ meaning they share some important photographic characteristics, like gray balance and tonality, with each other. (inkjet and digital printers fall into this category).

The above three levels can be arranged in concentric circles much like a shooting target with the most accurate level — G7 Characterized — being the bulls eye in the center. In addition to these levels, there is also a fourth level that has been proposed called G7 Extreme, which would be the benchmark when using G7 techniques with high gamut devices and print methods.

Sound confusing? These levels have been proposed but are under discussion and there may be changes to make them simpler and easier to understand in the next few months.


2008 initiatives

During 2008 there were a number of initiatives undertaken by the GRACoL committee. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

á        A prequalification kit was developed, which includes diagnostic test forms, an assessment form, and directions on how to use and interpret the diagnostic form. This kit is designed to help both the user and G7 experts determine if the press has any mechanical defects or other problems that may prevent a successful G7 calibration. This is currently in draft review and can be obtained by downloading from the GRACoL website.

á        A Press Operators Guide to G7 was developed with the pressman in mind. This guide was developed with the intention of providing the press operator with an understanding of G7 Calibration using terms press operators are familiar with. This is in final draft mode, and is to be released prior to this month.

á        A G7 for Print Buyers and Creatives Guide was developed. This guide explains how to set up applications for G7, as well as how to verify G7 compliance in proofs and other print media. This document is also in draft mode and can be obtained by requesting it from IDEAlliance.

á        An ink vendor database is near completion, and will allow an easy way for customers to communicate with ink vendors about specific G7 related ink issues.


What about 2009?

As we look towards 2009, there are a number of new initiatives that the GRACoL. Committee is considering for the next year. Some of these include simplifying the definition of G7 and GRACoL, while others may tighten up the criteria required to obtain G7 master status.

Members have requested a dataset for an uncoated sheet, as well as revisions to test forms and better education and outreach to buyers. As GRACoL has become more accepted, the need to refine and tune the associated programs has become obvious, and IDEAlliance will continue to work on and improve all of the G7 related programs such as GRACoL, SWOP, and other new G7 based print methods.


About the author: Ron Ellis is a New England-based consultant specializing in color management, graphic arts integration and press calibration. He also serves as a current co-chair of GRACoL. He can be reached at 603-498-4553 pr through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.