Discover how a dedicated digital proofing system can accurately represent your production prints and save you money at the same time.
By Mike Ruff
Most proofing devices today are very predictable and have a very good color gamut. Selecting the right digital proofing device for your production facility involves price (and what the price includes) and acceptance.
What the price includes
Prices on digital proofing devices range from about $3000-150,000. The largest price differential is related to the dot quality. If you believe you must have a perfectly clean and sharp rosette pattern (Figure 1) that a pressman can look at with his 20x lighted microscope and let out deep, guttural sound of approval, then you need to buy a $150,000 digital proofer. As the print samples in Figures 2A-2D show, dot quality varies from machine to machine. In general, as dot quality increases, so does the price of the proofing system. You must decide whether the dots are worth the extra cost.
Other pricing considerations are mostly related to speed, reliability of the manufacturer, RIP options, calibration, and support. As a rule of thumb, inkjet printers (Figure 3) are lower in cost and slower than toner-based devices. Inkjet proofing systems that use pigmented inks are also able to print graphics that reduce metamerism (color changes in variable light conditions). If speed is important, first identify a device that will produce a proof acceptable to the client and the production department at a speed you can live with. Remember that producing a quick proof that no one trusts or uses is not the objective. You might even consider using two slower devices rather than one faster and less accurate system.
Another pricing consideration is that resellers of most digital proofing equipment make very little profit on a typical proofing device. The seller plans on making a profit from media and ink, not the printer. Consequently, the quality of calibration and training provided by the seller will often be just as low as the price. Also note that stock profiles offered with digital printers are only good for providing pleasing colors. They will not accurately simulate other printing devices without first being calibrated and profiled for each device.
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