Four color conversion technologies
for PDF

In my new seminar PDF Color Management I discuss four different color conversion technologies:

  • Pure ICC color conversion (ICC)
  • ICC color conversion with exceptions (ICC-Plus)
  • DeviceLink conversion (DVL)
  • Smart color conversion (Smart)

Which PDF tools do support these technologies can be seen in the following table:

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Quality loss after color conversion
in Acrobat

In preparation of my new seminar PDF Color Management I have tested the image compression before and after color conversion in the most popular PDF tools.

In highend PDFs destinated for quality printing the images are usually compressed using JPEG maximum quality. Before color conversion the images must be decompressed and afterwards compressed again. Acrobat always uses JPEG medium quality for this recompression. The consequence is that there is an (unexpected) loss of quality of the color converted images (see table).

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ZePrA 6 from ColorLogic with PantoneLIVE integration

Version 6 of the ColorLogic color server features an integration with PantoneLIVE. This allows to online access spectral definitions of spot colors.

There are additional improvements in the area of spot color iteration and better administration of spot color libraries. In addition there are improvement in handling queues and configuration.

In the online help for the ZePrA the new features are covered indepth.


eciCMYK (FOGRA53) as new CMYK exchange color space

ECI has released the ICC color profile eciCMYK.icc. It’s based on the printing condition FOGRA53 defined by Fogra. The goal is a large gamut exchange space which covers all printing technologies (offset, gravure, digital). The eciCMYK profile can be download for free.

Since the gamut of eciCMYK is larger than any real printing gamut and the profile allows a high total ink coverage (TAC), this profile is not suitable for printing.

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Impact of PDF 2.0 on Print Production

Martin Bailey, CTO of Global Graphics and member of serveral ISO committees regarding PDF standards, talks about the impact of PDF 2.0 in a whitepaper (19 pages) and a webinar (YouTube, 40′). He also covers the risks and gives some recommendations for the transition to PDF 2.0.


PDF 2.0 (ISO standard 32000-2)
is (finally) published!

After nine years of (hard) work the ISO has published PDF 2.0 as ISO standard 32000-2:2017. This is the first PDF specification which was completely developed by more than 30 PDF experts from all over the world in an ISO working group. ISO 32000-1:2008 was basically a takeover of PDF 1.7 from Adobe. PDF 2.0 is more an evolution than a revolution. An important goal was compatibility to older PDF versions.

Seven chapters of the specification (971 pages in total) have been completely rewritten (e.g. transparency, tagged PDF). The goal was not to introduce new features but to eliminate ambiguities and errors of old specifications.

Beside other new features there are also some enhancements for digital prepress data:

  • Setting to activate black-point compensation (BPC) for each object. This allows to define predictable color conversions.
  • Output Intent per page (optional). E.g. Coated for the cover pages and Uncoated for the body pages of the same PDF.
  • Use of spectral data for spot colors (using CxF/X-4).
  • Definition of the printing order (e.g. for sheetfed offset).
  • Enhanced halftone features (origin, halftone dot shape).

Is JPEG2000 compression suitable
for PDF files for prepress?

For the new Adobe InDesign export settings V2.5 for PDF/X-4 CMYK+RGB from PDFX-ready the technical committee of PDFX-ready has investigated if a change of the compression method from the traditional JPEG to the newer JPEG2000 would be useful.

JPEG2000 uses a completely different compression technology (wavelet transformation) than the old JPEG (discrete cosine transformation). The new technology promises a better quality together with smaller file sizes. JPEG2000 also allows images with more than 8 bits per channel and up to 256 channels. That sounds promising…

We already knew from tests of the Ghent Workgroup that not all PDF viewers (especially on mobile devices) can handle PDFs with JPEG2000. With other PDF viewers (including Acrobat/Reader) displaying JPEG2000 images is much slower than JPEG images.

But after all we wanted to know if we could recommend JPEG2000 compression for prepress data. That’s why we decided to perform a series of practical tests with a calendar with highres images in different color spaces (Device-CMYK, ICC-CMYK, ICC-RGB). Peter Kleinheider has done the output tests with two different RIPs and I did the export tests with Adobe InDesign CC2017.

When comparing the test results we noticed some unexpected surprises!

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PDFX-ready Preflight profiles
V1.5 / V2.5 released

PDFX-ready has update their preflight profiles for Acrobat Pro. The latest versions feature the following changes:

  • V2.5 (for PDF/X-4):
    • Removed check for single-color hairlines (< 0.125 pt) since these lines are no longer problematic in modern CTP and Digital workflows.
    • Check of multi-color objects (text < 8 pt; lines < 0.25 pt) also for Digital Printing.
    • More details in explanation for spot color check.
    • Compatibility with PDF/X-4 created by QuarkXPress 2016/2017.
  • V1.5 (for PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3):
    • New checks for recognition of black texts and vektors which most probably were re-separated (was alredy in V2.4).
    • More details in explanation for spot color check.
    • Removal of check “Annotation of this type not allowed (GWG)” (alignment with V2.x).

Most important problem
in PDF workflows

The biggest problem in PDF workflows for print production is certainly the topic of color. Often there are surprises after printing because the printed colors do not meet the expectations.

PDF/X files have a mandatory output intent but often the color spaces of the objects in PDF/X documents do not match the output intent.

This can be checked very easy with the Color Preflight of the PDFX-ready Online Tools.

Since this happens frequently and the reason is often lack of know how I have decide to create a seminar entitled PDF Color Management (for now only in german). This will be offered at the usual places in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The first seminar will take place in Olten on 31.8.17.


Enfocus PitStop 2017
with new technology

Enfocus has released version 2017 of PitStop Pro and PitStop Server. It’s the first bigger update sind April 2015 (version 13).

Enfocus has used the time to develop some innovative new preflight features. I have waited for these since longtime.

These features are based on the new PDF Geomapper technology. This makes ist possible to check objects based on their position on the page in relation to other objects at this position. This was not possible with any preflight tool since only properties of single objects are checked.

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Meaning of PDF 2.0 for printing industry

Mark Lewiecki, Senior Product Manager at Adobe, talks in a short interview (4’16”) with WhatTheyThink? about the meaning of PDF 2.0 for the printing industry.

For him the follwing features are especially important for printing industry:

  • Black point compensation
  • Output Intent for every page in a multi-page document
  • CxF standard for defining spectral data of spot colors.

PDF/X-6 will be based on PDF 2.0.


Reluctant transition to new printing conditions

At the end of last year I have conducted a survey regarding the transition to PSO Coated v3 / PSO Uncoated v3 FOGRA52. Only 16% are already using the new profiles. An additional 13% is currently in the middle of the transition. Almost half of the users are planning a later transition. A fifth will not change.

These results are better than the results of a simular survey of Deutscher Drucker some month ago. There 90% have answered that they don’t intent to switch to the new ISO standard.

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PDFlib 9.1 with new color features

Version 9.1 of the well known PDFlib from the developer by the same name in Munich contains new features for color handling. This is very important for highend prepress files:

  • Support for DeviceN and NChannel color spaces with an arbitrary number of colorants
  • PDF/X-5n for exchange of n-colorant production files, e.g. in the packaging industry
  • SVG color extension for ICC profiles, spot and DeviceN color as well as Gray/RGB/CMYK device color for increased usability of SVG for print production
  • Pantone Extended Gamut Coated (XGC) spot colors and Pantone Plus 2016 update
  • Color gradients with an arbitrary number of stop colors for flexible color blends
  • Color gradients between different spot colors, e.g. blends of Pantone colors
  • Default color spaces can be specified for pattern, templates and Type 3 font glyphs
  • Extended treatment of color-related topics in the PDFlib Tutorial and Cookbook

PDFX-ready Online Tools released

PDFX-ready has annonced the immediate availability of the PDFX-ready Online Tools. This is a new innovative service for the members of PDFX-ready and also (in a limited version) for non-members.

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The PDFX-ready Online Tools allow performing interesting analyses and conversion on a server in the cloud with the help of a free PDFX-ready Connector. PDF Preflight checks the PDFs with the well-known preflight profiles of PDFX-ready and a comprehensive report is created. Color Preflight can determine the original color spaces of CMYK images in a PDF. The ISO<–>PSO Converter converts PDF files from FOGRA39 (ISO Coated V2) to FOGRA51 (PSO Coated V3) and vice versa. The results are sent via e-mail with a download link.

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New color profiles for sheetfed offset since one year

One year ago ECI has introduced the new ICC color profiles for sheetfed offset printing PSO Coated V3 (FOGRA51) and PSO Uncoated v3 (FOGRA 52). Recently BVDM has published Media Standard Print 2016 which is based on the new standards.

My latest survey also covers this topic:

What's your status regarding the transition to PSO Coated v3 / PSO Uncoated v3 FOGRA52?