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Digital Proofing

One Graphic Service Provider Builds on the Strength of Proofing

By Kim Crowley

Everywhere you turn a new business crops up offering large format digital printing services. Whether a traditional print or copy shop expands into large format, or a new business appears down the street or online, elements like reduced hardware prices, third party inks and substrates, e-commerce, and increased demand have led them to newfound success.

Prepress and Beyond
Brothers Dan, Mike, and Ron Hirt started Primary Color in 1985 as a prepress company. Begun in the tradition of their grandfather, the owner of a Swiss printing outlet, Primary Color has grown into an industry-recognized graphic arts service provider to leading advertising agencies, entertainment companies, and corporate groups.

With two full-service shops in CA and revenue of $49 million dollars in 2006, Primary Color recently upgraded one of its locations to a new 65,000 square foot space. Services range from full marketing to scanning, color correction, ad prep, page assembly, digital asset management, offset printing, variable data printing, large format printing, giclée printing, contract proofing, remote proofing, and approval management systems. The company also has a state-of-the-art digital photography studio.

Primary Color customers can access global graphics management services as well. Through the separate Primary Offshore Services division, customers can have their project prepped by Primary Color and printed by one of their approved offshore vendors.

In addition to 250 employees, Primary Color has an array of equipment working for them. Devices include a Durst Lambda; five-, six-, and eight-color 28- to 40-inch Heidelberg units; a full bindery of cutters, folders, welders, scoring, and saddle-stitching units; and the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Indigo 5000. For large format printing, Primary Color uses the Epson Stylus Pro 44-inch-wide printer; Roland DGA Corporation SolJet; and VUTEk UltraVu 5330 and PressVu by EFI, Inc.

Over the years, as more services are offered and more technology is added to the mix, Primary Color stays focused on the importance of prepress. This ultimately ensures that customers are satisfied and return.

Proofing Needs
Digital proofing can save time and money for the print shop and buyer. It’s the last shot to catch errors and double-check color accuracy. Options range from soft PDF proofs on a calibrated monitor to inkjet and halftone prints. For some print customers, especially those requiring short-term installations, absolute quality and color precision are not necessary. For these print buyers, onscreen soft proofing is often more than adequate. Other customers have higher demands—they may need 100 percent color-precise output that represents an exact match of corporate branding elements. They may also need assurance that their output, often printed at multiple locations across the country or globe, will be consistent.

"We offer the highest level of color critical service for our clients," notes Jay Sato, manufacturing technology manager, Primary Color. Sato deals with company-wide prepress, digital printing, and color management research and development. He adds, "Because we do a lot of work for the fashion and automotive markets, color accuracy and consistency from proof to proof is very important."

Proofing Tools and Workflow
Sato shares a step-by-step look at Primary Color’s typical prepress workflow—from initial submission to finished work. Abundant preflight checks and tweaks coupled with high caliber proofing make for more customer satisfaction and less re-work.

"Once the digital assets enter our shop via FTP, SFTP, ASIP, HTTP, they are double-checked by our preflight technicians before they are given the green light to go into production. While this is happening, the images for the job are fine-tuned by our retouching and color correction department. Then our prepress technicians will prep the file, including the merging of the color correct high resolution images. The files will then be input into our automated PDF workflow, from which proofs, plates, and PDF/X files can be created," states Sato.

"We believe remote proofing, which cuts the time it normally takes to overnight or messenger a proof, is going to be an even greater force in the future," says Sato. With proof certification software, proofing devices are placed in remote locations where Primary Color checks for printer consistency, operator error, ink levels, or other issues. The Primary Color locations are set up for remote proofing with Epson America, Inc.’s Stylus Pro 4800 Professional Edition desktop printer.

The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 Professional Edition is SWOP certified and Pantone licensed, and it comes with a custom-designed PostScript Language Level 3 Compatible RIP from ColorBurst. It features a maximum resolution of 2880x1440 dpi and prints on roll or cut sheet media up to 17 inches wide. For remote and internal proofing, the printer has a high-speed 10/100 BaseT internal Ethernet card with built-in Web site configuration.

"Everything from the print engine to its paper transport mechanism is designed for reliable operation and trouble free maintenance," says Sato.

The Stylus Pro 4800 features eight-color UltraChrome K3 Ink, a revolutionary high-density pigment technology with three unique levels of black. "Due to the ink’s color gamut and color consistency, we rely on the printers like a traditional proofing system to create accurate and stable color, from the moment the proof drops from the printer, until days later," notes Sato.

Primary Color verifies color accuracy of the Epson Stylus Pro 4800 directly from the RIP. The RIP prints a color target that is read with a spectrophotometer by the operator. The RIP then does an analysis and gives feedback on the accuracy. Likewise, the RIP can test the color accuracy of a print. An Epson PrintCertification Color Bar is added to the page and printed, then the color bar is read by the operator with a spectrophotometer.

Primary Color also offers digital prepress halftone proofs with Fuji FinalProof technology. FinalProof uses ten colors to simulate many spot colors including opaque white and metallic colors. This high resolution option produces a maximum 21.5x32.2-inch, 2400 dpi proof with a higher price, but is considered exceptionally high quality.

Proofing Takes a Spin
Agency Rubin Postaer and Associates (RPA) approached Primary Color recently with a vehicle wrap project from their client Honda. Honda is a founding sponsor of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. The project involved wrapping a Honda Pilot SUV like a vintage California surfer car to help promote the aquarium’s Catch a Wave events that run from May through March. Catch a Wave offers a wide range of programs for visitors including exhibits and programs on tsunamis, surfing, and animal survival in the surf; music performances; guest speakers; film showings; sandcastle competitions; and hula demonstrations. "We feel that the Honda Pilot job is a really good example of using the Epsons for proofing jobs of this complexity," says Sato.

Prepress work involved Adobe Creative Suite 2 software and Kodak Prinergy. In-house proofing for this project was done on the Epson Stylus 9800 using GMG’s ColorProof RIP. The client proofs were done on the Roland SolJet on the actual final substrate. After receiving approval on the proof from RPA, the wrap was printed on the Roland SolJet using Roland Eco-Sol Max ink. Output was achieved with a Wasatch Computer Technology SoftRIP, an X-Rite DTP70 Spectrophotometer, and Monaco Color Management. The media chosen for the vehicle was a 3M adhesive vinyl with a 3M laminate.

True Proof
Primary Color’s longevity and success can be attributed to a clear focus on producing a superior product. A history of prepress focus, customer commitment, and the latest technology proves worthwhile to the Hirt family.

Sep2007, Digital Output

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