Standards and Specifications
This section is devoted to demystifying the sometimes confusing array of terms and conditions describing the different types of standards, their relationship to the industry, applicable technologies and the systems employed to implement them.
What is a ‘Standard’?
The term standard has been loosely applied to any agreed-upon way of doing things. However, there is a big difference in the way different standard have been developed, maintained, and often most importantly, who has agreed upon the contents.
Essentially there are three principal types of standards:
- Accredited standards generally have two important characteristics: 1. they are developed and adopted as standards through an open consensus process, under the guidelines of national or international standards bodies. These procedures ensure that the concerns of all interested parties will be heard and addressed. In addition, accredited standards tend to distinguish more clearly the difference between requirements (normative elements) that must be met to conform to the standard and descriptive material (informative elements) that provide additional information, but do not contain requirements. ISO, IEC, ANSI and other national standards bodies like Standards Australia, develop standards through this consensus process. Accredited standards are publicly available from the respective standards bodies.
- Industry specifications often take the form of formalized industry practices. An example of this would be SWOP (Specifications for Web Offset Publications), which is a standardized printing specification developed in the USA. These specifications are generally developed by a group within the industry, but there are no formal guidelines or procedures that ensure that the work is open to any interested party or open to review and comment during the development process. Such groups are not bound to consider or respond to comments on the work. However, such publications are generally publicly available and can be referenced in accredited standards.
- De facto standards are usually developed and owned by a single group or company, and gain credibility as the result of the use of a critical mass of people. The development of such work is done within a closed group and is not necessarily open to the consensus process. In addition, the resulting standards are subject to change, without notice, by the owner of the work. In some cases, the use of these standards requires payment of a licensing fee. PostScript and PDF are examples of de facto standards. In many cases, de facto standards are developed by a company to serve a specific product line and target market. Some of these standards may progress on to the Accredited stage after going through the due process. PDF/X and PDF/A amongst others fall into this category.
Accredited standards – ISO
The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 147 countries. ISO, a non-governmental organisation, was established in 1947. Its mission is to promote the development of standardisation and related activities in the world with a view toward facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. ISO’s work results in international agreements that are published as international standards.
ISO is not an acronym; it is a word, derived from the Greek isos meaning equal. In addition, the name has the advantage of being valid in each of the organisation’s three official languages, English, French and Russian. The scope of ISO covers standardisation in all fields except electrical and electronic engineering standards, which are the responsibility of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Together, ISO and IEC form the specialized system for worldwide standardisation. it is the world’s largest non-governmental system for voluntary industrial and technical collaboration at the international level.
The results of ISO technical work are published in the form of international standards. There are nearly 10,000 international standards and technical reports covering hundreds of industry fields. More information on these organisations can be found at the following links…
ISO Central Secretariat
International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), http://www.iso.ch
United States of America
US National Committee of the IEC ANSI, http://www.ansi.org
Standards Australia International, http://www.standards.org.au
The ISO implements its charter by way of Technical Committees (TCs).
Currently, it has 244 TCs covering a vast array of industrial and technical issues. These TCs are invoked at the request of a group of industry representatives based on the need to address technical issues and development uniform resolutions. They usually exist only for the time necessary to develop, implement and monitor implementation. They authorise standards and their revisions by way of vote. The ability to vote is dependent on the status of the member country. Generally, Participant (P) members are allowed to vote; Observer (O) members are not.
The Technical Committee covering standards applicable to Graphic Arts is the TC 130: Graphic Technology. The TC130 is directly responsible for 61 published ISO standards. It has 17 participating countries and 21 with observer status. Each country has its own TC 130 which decides, if they are a Participant member, how they will vote on the contents of new standards and their subsequent revisions.
According to the ISO website the scope of the TC 130 covers “Standardization of terminology, test methods and specifications in the field of printing and graphic technology from the original provided to finished products.” Further, it includes “composition, reproduction, printing processes, finishing, and the suitability of inks, substrates and other materials used in graphic technology”.
“Printing is defined here as the process of reproduction involving the transfer of a medium either coloured or not (ink, etc.) to substrate, using a relief, planographic, intaglio, stencil or other image element.”
Refer to this link to see the relevant page.
Some of the ISO standards that are applicable to Graphic Arts include:
Specifies the colour and transparency to be produced by inks intended for four-colour coldset web offset printing when printed under specified conditions on a printability tester. It also describes the test method to ensure conformance.
This standard is not applicable to fluorescent inks and does not specify pigments (or spectral reflectance) so as not to preclude the use of suitable future pigment combinations and still claim compliance with its colorimetric requirements
ISO 12640-1:1997 (R2003)
Prepress digital data exchange – CMYK standard colour image data (CMYK/SCID). See companion document ISO/TR 14672. This International Standard specifies the CMYK digital data that represents a set of standard colour images to be used for evaluation of changes in image quality during coding, image processing (including transformation, compression and decompression), film recording or printing which can be used for research, development, product evaluation and process control.
Prepress digital data exchange – Part 2: XYZ/sRGB encoded standard colour image data (XYZ/SCID). This part of ISO 12640 specifies a set of 15 standard colour images (encoded as both 16-bit XYZ and 8-bit RGB digital data provided in electronic data files) that can be used for the evaluation of changes in image quality during coding, image processing (including transformation compression and decompression), displaying on a colour monitor or printing. They can be used for many graphic technology applications.
This revision of 12640-2 specifies a set of standard large gamut colour images (encoded as 16-bit CIELAB digital data) that can be used for the evaluation of changes in image quality during coding, image processing (including transformation, compression and decompression), displaying on a colour monitor and printing. These images can be used for research, testing and assessing of output systems such as printers, colour management systems and colour profiles.
Specifies a set of standard large gamut colour images (encoded as 16-bit CIELAB digital data) that can be used for the evaluation of changes in image quality during coding, image processing (including transformation, compression and decompression), displaying on a colour monitor and printing. These images can be used for research, testing and assessing of output systems such as printers, colour management systems and colour profiles
Application of reflection densitometry and colorimetry to process control or evaluation of prints and proofs. This International Standard applies to process control and evaluation of single and multi-colour proofing and printing in the graphic arts using densitometry and colorimetry. This standard defines terms; specifies minimum requirements for control strips; specifies test methods and specifies reporting procedures for the results.
Graphic technology — Prepress digital data exchange — Use of PDF — Part 1: Complete exchange using CMYK data (PDF/X-1 and PDF/X-1a).
Specifies the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) for the dissemination of complete digital data, in a single exchange, that contains all elements necessary for final print reproduction. These exchanges will support both colour-managed workflows and traditional CMYK workflows.
ISO 15930-4:2003 specifies the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) Version 1.4 for the dissemination of complete digital data, in a single exchange that contains all elements ready for final print reproduction. CMYK and spot-colour data are supported in any combination.
Specifies the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) Version 1.4 for the dissemination of digital data, where all elements necessary for final print reproduction are either included or provision is made for unique identification. Colour-managed, CMYK, and spot colour data are supported in any combination.
Specifies the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) Version 1.4 for the dissemination of complete digital data, in a single exchange that contains all elements necessary for final print reproduction. Colour-managed, CMYK, Gray, RGB or spot colour data are supported.
Specifies the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) Version 1.6 for the dissemination of digital data intended for print reproduction. Where all elements necessary for final print reproduction are contained within the file it is designated as PDF/X-4. If a required ICC profile is externally supplied and unambiguously identified, it is designated as PDF/X-4p.
Colour-managed, CMYK, gray, RGB or spot colour data are supported, as are PDF transparency and optional content. Files can be prepared for use with gray, RGB and CMYK printing characterizations.
Specifies the use of the portable document format (PDF) version 1.6 for the dissemination of digital data intended for print, where all elements necessary for final print reproduction are either included or provision is made for unique identification of externally supplied graphical content or n-colorant ICC profiles.
Colour-managed, CMYK, gray, RGB or spot colour data are supported in any combination; as are PDF transparency and optional content. Files can be prepared for use with gray, RGB, CMYK and n-colorant printing characterizations.
Prepress digital data exchange – Tag image file format for image technology (TIFF/IT). This International Standard, which replaces ANSI IT8.8–1993, specifies a media-independent means for prepress electronic data exchange. It defines image file formats for encoding colour continuous tone picture images, colour line art images, high resolution continuous tone images, monochrome continuous tone images, binary picture images, binary line art images, screened data, and images of composite final pages.
ISO 12641:1997 (R2003)
Prepress digital data exchange – Colour targets for input scanner calibration. Encompassing the content of ANSI IT8.7/1–1993 and ANSI IT8.7/2–1993, this International Standard defines the layout and colorimetric values of targets for use in the calibration of a photographic product/scanner combination. One target is defined for positive color transparency film and another is defined for colour photographic paper.
IT8.7/1 – 1993 (R2003)
Colour transmission target for input scanner calibration. This standard defines an input test target that will allow any color input scanner to be calibrated with any film dye set used to create the target. It is intended to address the color transparency products that are generally used for input to the preparatory process for printing and publishing. This standard defines the layout and colorimetric values of a target that can be manufactured on any positive colour transparency film and that is intended for use in the calibration of a photographic film/scanner combination.
IT8.7/2 – 1993 (R2003)
Colour reflection target for input scanner calibration. This standard defines an input test target that will allow any color input scanner to be calibrated with any film dye set used to create the target. It is intended to address the color photographic paper products that are generally used for input to the preparatory process for printing and publishing. It defines the layout and colorimetric values of the target that can be manufactured on any colour photographic paper and is intended for use in the calibration of a photographic paper/scanner combination.
ISO 12642-1:1996 (R2001)
Prepress digital data exchange – Input data for characterisation of four-colour process printing. This International Standard defines an input data file, a measurement procedure and an output data format for use in characterizing any four-colour print process. The technical content is identical to ANSI IT8.7/3–1993.
IT8.7/3 – 1993 (R2003)
Input data for characterisation of four-colour process printing. The purpose of this standard is to specify an input data file, a measurement procedure and an output data format to characterize any four-colour printing process. The output data (characterisation) file should be transferred with any four-colour (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) halftone image files to enable a colour transformation to be undertaken when required.
This standard defines a data set of ink value combinations that are intended to be used to characterize four-colour process printing. This data set is not optimized for any printing process or application area but is robust enough for all general applications. The needs of publication, commercial, and package printing with offset, gravure, flexography, and other printing processes have been considered. While it is primarily aimed at process colour printing with CMYK inks, it can also be used with any combination of three chromatic coloured inks and a dark ink. It is an alternate to the ISO 12642-1 data set where more robust data is required. Forms the basis for the revised 4-colour process printing target – IT8.7/4
Printing is one of the most rapidly changing production environments in the world. It no longer stands apart from other sectors of the industrial community as an exclusive, craft-based skill.
The development of electronic forms and processes for capturing, editing, imaging and distributing information has forced new modes of practice upon the participants while opening up new market opportunities. Printed matter can be dispatched to almost any part of the globe within seconds via the telecommunications network. The contents may be distributed in a dedicated form over that same network through a rival medium – the Internet.
These technological developments have also increased productivity and reduced the number of participants in the production line while raising the level of quality and sophistication of the product. In a world where technology allows us to achieve new heights the demand for consistent quality across the global market has been growing.
These factors has spurred the growth of industry based organisations and associations whose aim is to develop achievable standards as goals for consistent colour reproduction.
Some of the major International Standards bodies are listed below. For a full listing and web site links go to “Contacts” on this site.
Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS)
The goal of CGATS is to have the entire scope of printing, publishing and converting technologies represented in one national standardisation and coordination effort, while respecting the established activities of existing accredited standards committees and industry standards developers. CGATS writes standards only where the need exists and no other committee is undertaking the writing.
Specifications for Web Offset Publications – was originally developed in the mid-seventies for the publications industry. There have been eight revisions to the original specifications, and the SWOP Review Committee meets regularly. The ninth edition, SWOP for the New Millennium: 2001 focuses on the digital workflows now implemented.
The mission of SWOP is to continually raise the level of quality of publication printing by setting forth specifications and tolerances by providing specifications to everyone in the graphic arts production process, for all forms of magazine advertising and editorial input, whether analogue or digital.
The primary focus of SWOP continues to be, the specifications of those parameters necessary to ensure consistent quality of advertising in publications.
Data compression used within files should comply with the provisions of the TIFF/IT–P1 and PDF/X–1a file format standards. The color guide should be an offset press proof made to SWOP specifications or an off-press proof made by using only a SWOP Certified Proofing System and made according to the manufacturer’s SWOP Application Data Sheet.
Dot Gain or Tone Value Increase (TVI) is measured at the midtone. Print Contrast is measured at the threequarter tone. Total Area Coverage (TAC) is the total of dot percentages in the four colour file at the shadow tone. The SWOP recommended colour sequence is: KCMY.
Specifications for Non-Heatset Advertising Printing – A set of guidelines that specify colour standards, film densities, screen rulings, reverses, surprinted type, proofing, color bars, and proofing stock for the printing of advertising by non-heatset, offset presses, generally on newsprint or similar substrate. The specifications were originally published in 1984 and has been updated several times, most recently in 2000. SNAP is designed to improve the reproduction quality in newsprint production and provide guidelines for the exchange of information. It is intended for advertisers, advertising agencies, publishers, prepress managers, material suppliers, and commercial and newspaper printers. The specifications pertain to proofing and coldset (also called non-heatset) printing for all newsprint production on webs of paper, including offset lithography, direct lithography, letterpress, and flexography for a wide variety of printed productions (eg, newspapers, preprinted advertising inserts, and other printed materials). SNAP is not intended for magazine, catalogue, packaging, or direct mail printing, nor is it intended for sheetfed, gravure, or heatset web offset printing.
The SNAP recommended colour sequence is: CMYK.
With this sequence, Ink Trap percentages are: blue, 69%; green, 80%; red, 50%.
Reference Values for substrate: L* 82.00, a* 0.0, b* 3.0; Brightness: 60.
Continuous tone images should have a minimum input resolution of 200ppi at the final image size when a 100lpi screen ruling is used for output.
Images should include Grey Component Replacement (GCR) of between 40% and 60%.
Graphic Arts Technical Foundation – A membership organisation for the printing and graphics arts industries. Founded in 1924 as the Lithographic Technical Foundation, GATF supports offset lithography and other mechanical press technologies as well as the digital printing industry. Its divisions include: reseach, training, consulting, process/quality controls, and publications. In 1999, it merged with the Printing Industries of America (PIA) association. The combined web site is known as the Graphic Arts Information Network (GAIN), a portal to the graphics arts industry.
Technical Association of the Graphic Arts – TAGA focuses on graphic arts systems, software and computer technology developments, as well as the more traditional areas of press, ink, and paper engineering applications.
The Association of Graphic Solutions Providers – Formerly the International Prepress Association
The Flexography Technical Association – is dedicated solely to the flexographic
printing industry with an emphasis on developing and maintaining standards of quality
The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress – Located in Switzerland, the association encourages computer based integration of all processes in the graphic arts industry, in particular the specification of standards. CIP4 is the successor of CIP3, which developed the Print Production Format which is today implemented in many applications. CIP4 developed and promotes vendor independent standards for the graphic arts industry, such as the Job Definition Format (JDF).
The European Color Initiative – is a group of experts dedicated to advancing media neutral colour data processing in digital publishing systems
Graphic Technology Research Association – The purpose of FOGRA is to promote research into, and the development and application of printing technology and to make the results available to the printing industry. The association has its own institute with a staff of engineers, chemists, physicists and other experts.
IFRA a is an international association for newspaper and media publishing.
PIRA is a commercial consultancy, testing and media business specialising in packaging, paper, plastics, printing and publishing. In 2004, PIRA International was acquired by Swiss owned Ciba Specialty Chemicals.
Association for the Promotion of Research in the Graphic Arts Industry. They operate the Swiss Centre of Competence for Media and Printing Technology. UGRA works on standardisations in the printing industry
The German printing industry representative body has been a significant contributor to the instigation and development of standards based printing in Europe. It has work with FOGRA in the development and promotion of the standard to ISO level. It has also been instrumental in developing the Process Standard Offset (PSO) methodology of achieving compliance with the ISO standard 12647-2.
Lithographic Institute of Australia – A leading Australian technical body for graphic communication within the publishing and communications industry.
Digital Data Delivery for Australian Publications – 3DAP is an industry group committee formed to address the needs of a totally digital production environment for the magazine publishing industry, in particular, the workflow required for computer-to-plate.
To view a full range of International Organisations, their links and other references and resource materials go to “Contacts” on our Colour Standard web site.