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The Power of Neutral Gray

(March 2009) posted on Sun Mar 08, 2009

This article will explore how to harness neutral gray to benefit print production.

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By Mike Ruff

There is a way to confirm who’s right. Figure 2 is a proof a client submitted and a proof the printer has proofed and confirmed that his press will match. Which one is right? Neutral gray’s power eliminates subjective opinion a-bout whose proof is accurate. In Figure 2, there is no way to tell whether the client’s proof or the printer’s proof is correct. But what if they both had a neutral gray bar on them? Look at Figure 3. We could easily determine whether the original file had a cast or if it was just the proof that was wrong. In this case, you can see that the file does have a green cast. The client’s proof looks good, but it is not accurate to the file.

The worst thing a printer can do is unknowingly take a client’s proof to press without verifying that it is correct. You can take a measurement in L*a*b* or even with a densitometer in the All Densities mode. It is critical that you begin the print process with a color target that’s verified and accurate to the file.

Neutral viewing of the proof and the print

You may still see a color cast when you view graphics that you proof and print to neutral under lighting conditions that are not neutral. Standard viewing conditions for the graphic-arts industry specify 5000ºK lighting. Other important specifications, such as neutral-gray surroundings, light angle, etc., go along with the call for 5000ºK lighting. All these specifications are detailed in the most recent version of ANSI PH2.30 and ISO 3664 Color Evaluation for the Graphic Arts Industry.


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