Remote Press Approvals: Meeting the Challenge in a Time of Travel Restrictions

In this time of uncertainty, with travel constraints and strict visitor policies, it has become increasingly more challenging to deliver services in the manner to which clients are accustomed.

Undoubtedly, one of the first questions our clients had for us, at Olberding Brand Family, was how we were going to execute press approvals in this environment. Press approvals, with standard physical press attendance, had to be significantly reworked. Though many redesigns were halted due to COVID-19, which one might expect, there were still many others that had to get to market. This required that we virtually approve printed material without physically having it in our hands.

COVID-19 has spurred the need for a change, one that emphasizes communication and a new way to review color in a remote environment.

Request that the printer supply digital files or screenshots of all color matches to the intended or requested colors on the production material, as indicated in the artwork file.
All photos courtesy of Phototype

Eliminate Ambiguity

Clear communication on expectations, watch-outs, objective quality criteria, the review process, timing and personnel are crucial to the success of a remote press approval. Having these details documented, approved and sent prior to the scheduled run date sets the stage for success.

Here are some items to ensure alignment on:

  • Printer’s print condition
  • Equity or custom color targets
  • Colorimetry (illuminant/degree)
  • Delta E formula and weighting factors
  • Measurement condition
  • Compliance factors
  • Quality thresholds
  • Viewing conditions
  • Basis of reference

Confirmation of Control

There are many advanced process control tools utilized by major print suppliers today. Leveraging these tools provides the ability to validate printed material during a remote press approval. Several core considerations are outlined below.

Print Condition: Confirm with the printer that they are running under the same operating conditions as established on the fingerprint or profile that was used to separate and proof the artwork. A review of the spectral or L*a*b* values can quickly indicate whether or not a printer is targeting the correct print condition. A review of additional metrics and qualifiers, such as dot gain, gray balance, overprints, etc. will indicate if the printer is operating in, or within, acceptable quality parameters. Digital files, reports or screenshots of their preferred tool(s) can be cross-checked with data collected from the prepress agency, used to separate and optimize the file.

Target Colors: Request that the printer supply digital files or screenshots of all color matches to the intended or requested colors on the production material, as indicated in the artwork file. There may be a misalignment in reference color, the illuminant/degree, the Delta E formula, weighting factors or in the measurement condition. A misalignment in any of these attributes can falsely report color difference.

Quality Criteria & Thresholds: Many brand owners today specify the required attributes and thresholds that define compliance, especially when that brand owner has implemented a formalized print quality management program. While those expectations may be known, oftentimes they are different than a printer’s in-house quality parameters. When reviewing material on behalf of a brand owner, it is imperative that the printer understands these requirements and provides reports that indicate conformance accurately. Some of these metrics may be solid color Delta E and/or density, dot gain, minimum dot, overprints, gray balance, UPC scan-ability, registration or visual assessment—to name a few. Each of these criteria should be coupled with objective quality thresholds, where possible.