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Better balance

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Until recently, managing and maintaining gray balance had prepress operators at Paragon Press (Salt Lake City, UT), gnashing their teeth. When the operators ran a neutral three-color gray next to black-only boxes on a press, they had a warm tint in the midtones, a green tint in the 3/4 tones, and pink highlights. They wanted a gray balance throughout the range to improve quality and consistency.

At Graph Expo 2007, the Paragon team learned about GMG Americas' (Hingham, MA) InkOptimizer. This solution automatically reduces the amount of chromatic colors, providing significant ink savings, while maintaining quality, and improving printing conditions. Even though images remain identical — both to the eye and spectrophotometrically — the amount of color ink used is significantly reduced. GMG InkOptimizer supports the full range of industry-standard data formats and can handle PDF files directly without interpreting them, preserving data integrity and eliminating format conversions.

‘We didn't believe it’

“Although GMG promoted InkOptimizer as an opportunity to save ink, what really [attracted us] was the company's claim that InkOptimizer would provide us with better quality and consistency, and improve our gray balance,” says Chris Hamilton, prepress manager. “The idea was that with less of the three color inks (CMY), there would be less influence on the gray balance. Frankly, we didn't believe it.”

Paragon became G7certified at the same time it installed GMG InkOptimizer. “We ran a job twice, with and without InkOptimizer,” says Hamilton. “The unoptimized plates had tints, while the optimized set was truly neutral — a big improvement in quality. We ran two more sets of G7 plates, with and without InkOptimizer. With InkOptimizer, the gray balance was perfect. There was no difference between gray balance and a black bar. For example, four-color grays — typically a nightmare — were finally consistent throughout the tone range.”

Paragon split a job of 140,000 impressions to the test ink savings. Half of the job was printed with InkOptimizer. “The savings were so good that we could not believe it,” says Hamilton. “We tested another run of 160,000 to see if we could recreate the savings. On the second job, we printed pages that had more black objects, and fewer images, but we still saved eight to 10 percent CMY ink with InkOptimizer. On average, we're finding savings of 10 to 12 percent.”

Content of the work determines ink savings. “If a lot of the page consists of rasterized color images, you'll save more CMY ink,” Hamilton says.

Paragon currently uses GMG Ink Optimizer for about 65 percent of its commercial print work. “Our press operators love it,” says Hamilton. “Before, we seldom heard a kind word from them. Now, they say, ‘Whatever you're doing, it's working great.’”


Is it a Hemi engine?

High-speed Komori 8-color perfecting presses anchor Paragon's traditional offset litho capabilities. Three 10-color flexo machines can print stock up to 13 inches wide. There's also a new Xerox iGen3 digital press. Paragon uses GMG ColorServer to match flexo and digital output to its offset presses.

“GMG has the best color engine in terms of reading and remapping color,” says Chris Hamilton. “GMG InkOptimizer, GMG ColorServer and GMG ColorProof use the same principal to achieve the same thing.”

The commercial printer was one of the first U.S. printers to install GMG ColorProof several years ago. “I don't think there is anything out there as good, in terms of accuracy,” says Hamilton. “Originally we were driving an Epson 9600 and 7600. Now we drive HP Z6100 and Z2100 printers, using the internal spectrophotometers for calibration. We use the GMG Wizard for calibration on the Epson 7600. Along with GMG Media, everything is dead-on.”


What is GCR?

Gray component replacement (GCR) is total undercolor removal. GCR reduces cyan, magenta, and yellow in the neutral and trichromatic color throughout an image. For a concise overview, see Joe Marin's January 2006 article, “Match game” at