In order to save time and money, more and more printing organizations are investing in on-line customer portals to allow uploading content and giving formal approvals based on soft proofs before the final production process (plate making and printing) can be initiated. The approvals are typically made on soft proofs of pages whereas, obviously, the images used for plate making are so-called imposed flats (a combination of pages rotated in such a way that the printed matter can be obtained after folding and cutting). The main goal of a soft proof of a page is to simulate accurately on a display device how the page will be finally printed. The quality expectations of a soft proof are very high since a formal approval implies contractual obligations from the printing organization. This quality, however, can be influenced by many parameters. By definition, soft proofs will be displayed on a monitor (being a light emitting device), whereas a print on paper can only be seen as the reflection of a light source. As a consequence, monitors can be described by an additive color model
whereas printers or presses will be modeled by a subtractive color model. Other differences relate to how the image is generated: presses can only output binary information (ink or no ink) and continuous tones are simulated by using screening techniques whereas, on a monitor, a multi-level signal can generate different shades of a specific color. The differences described above are addressed by many color management systems available on the market today. An
upcoming requirement in this area is that people do not only expect the color management software to behave well but also expect this software to validate its behavior. Another range of problems with soft proofs relates to the rendering (converting vector-based page data into bitmaps) and separation process. These can be divided in two classes: spatial issues (related to resolution differences, high-frequency patterns, aliasing problems etc.) and issues related to object layering (overprint and transparency issues). Also when
optimizations are carried out for plate reuse across versioned products, many things can go wrong. In this paper, we will categorize the different potential problems occurring with soft proofs and examine in detail how these problems can be avoided. It will turn out that this can only be realized if one knows the details on how the printing plates will be generated in prepress production.