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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

Neutral viewing is important because we do not want an unbalanced lighting condition to add a color cast that is not in our proof or print. Some printers say that a client’s retail store is not neutral, so why does it matter whether they view the prints under 5000ºK light? The answer to this is simple: You probably cannot control this situation unless you only print for only one or two clients and you are their only printer. In real-world printing, the objective is for the printers to have their processes under control. That means producing neutral results. So, an important part of that control is proper viewing conditions (Figure 4). The power of neutrally lighted viewing conditions is the assurance that you’ll not see a color cast added by the lighting. This can save hours of press time, prevent a rejected job, and help retain a client.

 



Neutral on press

Once you produce a neutral color target and you are confident the color target is accurate, the next challenge is to pro-duce the file with no color cast: neutral. ISO 12647-5 is the specification for screen printing. ISO 12647-5 says midtone neutral gray is C=50, M=40, and Y=40. This refers to the tonal values of the file. If you output linear film from the file, the film would read C=50, M=40, and Y=40. There is no doubt that if you were to print film using these tonal values correctly on the right kind of paper with the right ink hues and densities, it would produce neutral gray. In the real world, we do not print on neutral paper. We some-times do not print with the ISO 2846-4 ink sets, we do not produce the TVI (dot gain) specified by ISO 12647-5. So how can we achieve and maintain neutral gray printing?


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