Soft proofing replaces the hard proof

I predict that within three years, we’ll be viewing more proofs on press via a flat-screen colour monitor than with a hard copy proof.

Consider these facts: At a recent conference in Hong Kong, TIME, Inc. unveiled their proofing goals – to eliminate hard-copy proofs in Asia in the next year and in the U.S. within the next two years.

Eliminate the hard proof? If that seems difficult for you to believe, you may want to continue reading.

What is soft proofing?

“The idea of soft proofing is to replace the traditional paper-based proofing method in order to create a more effective, full digital workflow. By using the monitor, colour decisions can be made to accurately match what images look like when proofed or when printed on press.” (Shaffer, J. 2005, ‘Instant Gratification’, American Printer, July issue, pp. 40 – 47)

Right now, the major obstacle in the acceptance of monitor proofing is actually the lack of understanding and not the technology. It’s been proven by the GATF via its SWOP Certifications of various soft-proofing systems that the technology works. Currently, 20 of the 60 certified proofing systems are display/monitor-based proofing systems.

What are the advantages of our current LCD monitors?

1) Jitter free, translates into sharper images
2) No RFI interference. Less image degradation.
3) Significantly more luminance/brightness. This translates into increased dynamic range.
4) Less reflection translates into better shadow detail in brighter environments.

What are the reasons to implement Soft Proofing?

1) Deadlines are getting shorter. Offset printing is becoming on-demand printing.
2) To make money today you need to focus on a global market, not just the local market.
3) To be competitive you need to be working efficiently – getting the job delivered faster with fewer steps.

A recent GATF study showed that 70% of print buyers would use soft proofing if it was as accurate as a hard proof.

In a traditional hard proofing workflow, the average approval time is 2 1/2 days.

1) Hard proofs are printed.
2) Proofs are delivered.
3) Client reviews them.
4) Mark up and deliver back to printer.
5) Prepress makes corrections.
6) Then we repeat steps 1-5 again, if required.

In a soft-proofing workflow, approval can be granted in hours.

1) Job is uploaded to an ftp site or a central soft-proofing system.
2) Client reviews and makes annotations.
3) Printer is notified if a change must be made and makes the necessary corrections.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 as required.

Additional benefits to a soft-proofing workflow:

1) Avoids delays due to weather or natural disasters.
2) Ability to track electronically all document changes.
3) Lower costs.
4) Less chance of a substrate mismatch.

What are the negatives to viewing and approving images on screen?

1) Proper monitor calibration at both printer and client is required.
2) Proper viewing environment must be set up for viewing area.
3) High bandwidth required: T1 line required for printer and DSL or cable for client.
4) Initial costs for implementation: new hardware and software.
5) Overcoming psychological need to have a psychical proof in hand.

Soft-proofing options:

1) ICS: Remote Director.
2) KPG: Matchprint Virtual Proofing System.
3) Creo Synapse Insite.
4) Dalim Dialogue.
5) CGS ColorTuner Soft-proof.

The current status of soft proofing can be visualized by the graphic below. With all technological introductions, industries go through phases of acceptance. Soft proofing is currently in between the Early Adopters and Early Majority phase. It should only be another 6-10 months before we’re into the phase where the majority of users are comfortable with this form of proofing,

The hard proof will never go away entirely, but it’s certain that in many workflows soft proofing will be a dominant and viable method of proofing. Don’t hold out and be labeled a traditionalist. Many of the current soft-proofing systems offer demo options to try before you buy. Set up a selected group of customers and test the waters first.