Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging

Posted March 04, 2016 by Ray Cheydleur

If you’re in the print and packaging industry, standards can help you set clear expectations for clients, solve problems in your workflow, and improve productivity. They can also bring an independent perspective to production.

The ISO an other standards organizations have been very busy trying to address the new technologies challenges that printers face. At X-Rite, we’re lucky to have Ray Cheydleur, our U.S. and international standards expert, to help us stay current.

Today Ray is providing some insight about what’s new in the world of graphic arts standards, so you can take advantage of them in your print and packaging workflow.

Controlled Lighting for OBAs

There are a lot of new standards coming out of ISO. Some of them have been around for a while, but are just being implemented. For instance, ISO 13655 and ISO 3664 – controlled lighting for OBAs – aren’t new, but they have had a significant impact on standards work this year. If you print to specifications, have brightened stocks, or do something other than on-press proofing, you have to be aware of them to deliver color consistency.


Judge QC offers UV illumination

The Judge QC light booth offers UV illumination that allows for accurate visual evaluation of OBA-enhanced materials.

Optical brightening agents have made printing and proofing more difficult in the last five or so years. Here’s an explanation of the four M-Series of standards to help deal with OBAs.

To learn more about the impact of OBAs on the print and packaging industry, check out a whitepaper I co-wrote with Kevin O’Connor.

Printing from Digital Data Across Multiple Technologies  

ISO/PAS 15339

ISO/PAS 15339 uses a gray balanced approach to describe standard practices for hybrid printing so printers can achieve the best reproduction across a range of substrates and technologies. It can also be used by brand owners and print specifiers to predict and specify the quality of requested work.

Part 1 provides better data exchange based on color quality and a colorimetric-based process control, plus provides a better way to achieve similar appearance results between printing processes with different color gamuts.

Part 2 provides seven different reference printing conditions, from small gamut to larger than standard analog printing gamut, to meet the criteria laid out in Part 1.

Implementing ISO/PAS 15339 shouldn’t be too hard if you already use a color-managed workflow, because these reference print conditions comply with GRACoL, SWOP, and ISO 12647-2. SWOP and GRACoL 2013 even use these exact characterized reference printing conditions.

Color Exchange Format

CxF communicates color data automaticallyCorrect and accurate color communication is critical to an efficient workflow, which is why communicating color data electronically has become a hot topic for printers. The Color Exchange Format (CxF) helps communicate all aspects of color, even when the application and the color communication features required are unknown. CxF is able to extend the information set to the needs of a new application without affecting general usability.

CxF version 3, originally developed by X-Rite, has now become an international standard that can be used by throughout production to share color data. ISO CxF/X (ISO 17972-1:2015) with additional parts ensures an accurate and efficient exchange of digital standards, measurements and metadata by providing the framework to exchange everything from target data to spot color tone values.

Many companies and products have already benefited from CxF as a communication solution, and now that it’s an ISO standard, many more can, too.


Still in process, PQX is another one that helps with unambiguous exchange of print-related data. In this case, the goal is to find a common
way to pass print quality data easily
between disparate systems. PQX uses XML to send data reports across the print supply chain—between printers and brands, publishers and content creators. It incorporates CxF/X to carry measurement data with additional metadata that CxF/X does not directly support.

Murray-Davies Formula is the traditional way to narrow band density

Spot Color Tone Value Test Form

Spot Color Tone Value

We’ve long had a reliable way to calculate tone value for process colors by using the Murray-Davies formula along with density values to calculate tone value.  Spot Colors, which often don’t conveniently fit filters used for process colors, have always been a bigger challenge.

The most traditional way to address this has been to use narrow band density with the Murray-Davies Formula. Other proprietary forms have also been used successfully. Now ISO 20654 – Measurement and Calculation of Spot Color Tone Value – is being readied to provide a new calculation that relies on colorimetry or spectral data to get tone value percentages that have better agreement with our eye. This work has been the result of a worldwide collaboration of experts analyzing both theoretical models and print runs to come up with this solution. Expect this to finalized later this year or in early 2017.

This leads to a host of new PDF standards which are being directed to both to the packaging industry and printers as a whole, trying to create better, more automated workflows, so there’s less questions about what happens if you transfer a file from one part of the workflow to another.

Staying Current with Standards

Keeping current with standards is a tricky job because standards are always changing. It really becomes a question of how you get informed, and how you stay informed.

One way is to be part of the process. If you have expertise in a particular area, there’s probably a standards or specifications working group for it that could be improved with your expertise, as well as give you a lot of insight into the process.

Another way is to work with one of the specification groups. For example, if you are a flexo printer working in a packaging workflow, being part of the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) would give you a lot of insight into applicable standards. If you’re in commercial printing, someone like Idealliance or Fogra can give you input into that process, and maybe even additional insight into how the standards are being implemented in your geography or within your brand users.

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