Based on the production practices of a representative sampling of graphic arts professionals, a series of tests were conducted to determine the potential color variance incurred during specific production-based PDF workflows. The impact of key production variables--including the use of ICC profiles, methods and settings used for PDF distillation, and printer/RIP color management handling for PDF rendering--were examined for RGB, CMYK and select spot colors
to determine the potential magnitude of color variation under normal production conditions. The results of the study, quantified via paired comparison and delta E, showed that, while color variance could be kept to a minimum using very specific workflow configurations, significant color variation was incurred in many of the common workflow configurations representative of the production environments observed from the sample population. Further, even
compliance to PDF-X1a and PDF-X3 specifications allowed for unwanted variation depending on specific production activities that preceded or followed the creation of the PDF-X file.