By Ron Ellis
Over the past year there have been many changes to the leading proofing Raster Image Processors, or commonly known in the industry as ÒRIPs.Ó All of the rips have had significant changes. Make no doubt about it — proofing is getting better, and proofing RIPs are also becoming more of a commodity as more of them are able to hit accurate color more consistently. Here is a summary of these changes, as well as some information on the new series of Epson proofers.
Best/EFI Colorproof XF
The former Best RIP has had a complete rewrite. The RIP is now a client/server-based application, which can be administered from any personal computer or Macintosh workstation. The biggest changes are that it can support multiple printers on the same system, and custom spot color gradients can now be entered and mapped (not just solid spot color values) to make rendering of spot colors more accurate. Jobs with spot colors can now be nested. There is also a new Beta utility for iterating color accuracy. With this utility you can compare your results to the actual target data you are trying to match, and keep outputting, reading, and correcting until you get as close a match as possible.
While Oris Colortuner and GMG have had this for a while it is new to XF and brings the rip much needed capabilities when seeking color accuracy. If you havenÕt seen it, it is very different than the old version, and the new interface is easier to use and visually refreshing.
CGS Oris ColorTuner
Version 5.1 or Oris has been released. Oris 5.x has always been good at color accuracy, taking second place in last years International Prepress Association overall shootout, first place in spot colors and, getting low deltaE numbers and pioneering the iterative approach to color management. Version 5.1 improves both the color management, and has improved wizards to make getting to good color even easier. The number of steps that the iterative process takes into account has been increased, resulting in even lower deltaE numbers.
The Wizard takes some of the organizational complexity out of linearizing and color matching a new paper so that average users will have a good shot at getting good results. Not wanting to be a one trick pony, Oris also has highlighted a number of non-inkjet proofing products as well. The Oris PressMatcher will use the iterative process to manage color output for presses. This can be used to control quality, or to match output on multiple presses. For large operations, Oris Ink Saver R option also applies GCR/UCR to the finished files, reducing ink consumption on press. Oris Softproof uses the Oris engine to produce a color managed PDF file for use in on-screen softproofing, and is being used by a number of select Oris customers. The tools allow the file to be validated via instruments and an Acrobat plug in. And Oris Normalizer will let users create a color managed preflighted PDF file for use by the printer and suitable for final ripping. Oris Certified Proof, another option allows trending and proof verification, and has the ability to output a label for attachment to the certified proof.
While always excellent at color and taking first place at the IPA shootout last year second place in spot colors, GMG has expanded the product to add new capabilities beyond just proofing. The GMG InkOptimizer uses GMG algorithms to reduce the CMYK inks by up to 25 percent and still maintain color fidelity. This product is designed to reduce the amount of ink used on press. GMG Proof Control is a quality control system that tracks color accuracy and provides instant verification of a proofÕs color quality against stored target values. The verification can be printed on a label that can be affixed to the proof. In addition to these options the interface has been enhanced for greater ease of use, and wizards have been added to make complex tasks easier for even novice users.
During the past year Colorburst was introduced as the default RIP shipped with Epson printers when purchased with the Pro option. The Pro option includes a Colorburst limited version RIP and a network card. When used with specific Epson printers and Epson paper, this combination is SWOP-certified right out of the box. In addition, Colorburst further tuned the Macintosh X-Proof products to have the simplest and best interface in the business.
As this article goes to press the IPA Colorproofing Roundup is taking place in Chicago. This roundup pits RIPs against each other to see who can produce the most accurate proofs. Last yearÕs results changed the way many printer thought of and purchased their RIPs and proofing solutions. For example, high-end proofers such as the Kodak Approval and Fuji Finalproof fared poorly. To follow the results stay tuned at the IPAÕs website at www.ipa.org
In addition to RIP changes, there have been some new instruments. While many of the iterative RIPs have depended on the speed of the GretagMacbeth ICColor to process the multiple iterations, reading an ECI chart with this spectrophotometer takes approximately 12 to15 minutes. A new instrument called the X-Rite DTP70 has come on the scene and can read the same chart in just a couple of minutes. X-Rite has also introduced the handheld Pulse spectrophotometer, which comes with color management software as well.
The New Epsons: WhatÕs Different
If you have been paying attention to proofing trends you may have noticed that there are some new Epson printers coming out. Epson has recently announced the 4800, 7800, and 9800. The old printer line of the 4000, 7600, 9600 and 10600 are to be discontinued. The first question everyone has is if their current Epson is obsolete. Other questions are what is different, and when will they be available.
The first main difference is the ink set. Another black ink cartridge has been added, and there are all new ink cartridges. The total number of ink cartridges is now eight. Epson is calling the technology Ultrachrome K3. Shadow density has always been weak and a problem for ultrachrome printers. This new inkset is supposed to take care of that producing shadow density and detail more like the original Epson dye printers but keeping the stability and lightfastness of the Ultrachrome ink set. This ink set is supposed to reduce the bronzing effect Ultrachrome prints currently show if you look at them from an angle rather than straight on.
The second major difference is speed. The 7800 and 9800 will be twice as fast as the current 7600 and 9600 printers. Even the 4800 is 20 percent faster than the already fast Epson 4000.
What if you already have an Epson Ultrachrome printer, or are thinking of buying one? Do you need to run out and buy one of these now? With the right paper (typically a semi-matte such as an Epson Photo Semi-gloss and other similar finishes, you can get the same results with the current generation of printers.
This upcoming generation of printers will just widen the range of papers we can get good results from. They also will have more consumables (extra ink cartridge) and make proofs a little more expensive. Not all the RIPs currently support these printers but by mid-fall they should be well established.
The 4800 is already shipping. The 7800 and 9800 are scheduled to ship in September, although some notable past Epson shipments have missed or been unable to keep up with demand so these dates may change.
About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.