Violet Is the New Black: Epson SureColor P-Series for Commercial Printing and Packaging Proofing
By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst
One of the perennial challenges in any printing workflow is accurate proofing. Back in the day, when prepress workflows were still largely analog and film-based, proofing was not foolproof, so to speak, but color proofs generated from color-separated films gave a pretty accurate representation of what was going to come off press.
As prepress, and then printing itself, became increasingly digital, getting one digital machine–a proofer–to accurately show what another digital machine–a platesetter or digital press–was going to produce became fraught with difficulty, especially when the common frame of reference was often a computer monitor–essentially another digital machine. So the refrain “why doesn’t the print match the monitor?” was an oft-heard complaint from many graphic designers and print buyers.
Generating an accurate, representative color proof is difficult enough when working just with the four process colors. The challenge only becomes magnified when you expand beyond basic CMYK. Not only are there spot colors, aka “Pantone colors,” but also so-called “brand colors” that are specified using the Pantone Matching System (PMS). If you are working with brands, be they major or minor, matching logo colors (such as the Coca-Cola red, the Home Depot orange, or even the Epson blue) is of paramount importance. In fact, they may be the only colors you really need to match with 100-percent accuracy, as they are an essential part of a brand’s visual identity. And while these are important color considerations in general commercial printing, they are especially acute in packaging printing, which is really all about printing brand logos and colors.
Matching those all-important spot and brand colors on press has been a pain point of proofing since the advent of digital printing and proofing, but new developments in inkjet ink are reducing some of those traditional agonies.
A pioneer in the world of digital inkjet proofing is Epson, whose StylusÂ® Pro series of inkjet wide-format printers and proofers set the standard starting back in the late 1990s. The successor of the Stylus Pro is the SureColorÂ® P-Series, which Epson launched in 2015. The new series includes the 24-inch SureColor P7000 and 44-inch SureColor P9000, both of which use an Epson UltraChromeÂ® HDX 10-color pigment-based ink set. (The SureColor P-Series also includes the eight-color SureColor P6000 and 44-inch SureColor P8000, which are geared more for the photographic imaging markets.)
The new printer series includes a reformulated black ink that is 1.5 times denser than Epson’s previous blacks, as well as a yellow ink that boasts a higher degree of permanence, which is a boon to professional photographers and others using the SureColor as a high-end photo printer. (The SureColor P-Series covers many graphic arts market segments.)
In its standard ink configuration, the SureColor P7000 and P9000 is said to match 98 percent of Pantone Formula Guide Solid Coated colors. Getting that last two percent–going that last mile, as they say–gets progressively more difficult, but the SureColor P7000 and P9000 models are available in a Commercial Edition that has an ink set designed especially for commercial printing and flexographic proofing. Specifically, the Commercial Edition’s ink set replaces light black with violet. Adding violet ink thus allows the SureColor to hit 99 percent of Pantone colors. “That’s the broadest gamut of any aqueous printer on the market today,” said Larry Kaufman, Product Manager, Professional Imaging, Epson. “This offers users the ability to proof extremely accurately.”
Also helping automate color management and matching is the optional SpectroProofer UVS in-line spectrophotometer developed through Epson’s partnership with X-Rite. The Commercial Edition also supports all the leading digital front-ends, such as those by Agfa, CGS, EFI, Esko, Fuji, GMG, Kodak, and others.
The SureColor P-Series will be on display at Graph Expo 2016 in Orlando. If you’re at the show, be sure to stop by Booth #2649 to see how adding violet ink can expand the color gamut–and get that much closer to matching 100-percent of Pantone and brand colors, easing even more proofing pain points.