The Ultimate Guide to Flexographic Quality.

The Ultimate Guide to Flexographic Quality.

FIRST 6.0 book cover

Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) 6.0 provides all members of the flexographic supply chain with the technical information needed to produce high-quality and consistent print, pressrun after pressrun.

FIRST seeks to understand customers’ graphic requirements for reproduction and translates those aesthetic requirements into specifications for each phase of the flexographic printing process, including: customers, designers, prepress providers, raw material and equipment suppliers, and printers. Its intention is to provide all participants in the flexographic reproduction process with a common set of guidelines, tutorials and data to be used as communication and production tools.

FIRST Is a Set of Specifications, Not Standards

When followed, these specifications facilitate producing a predictable, consistent result. The process and specifications supported intend:

To improve quality and consistency through improved communication and measurement procedures.
To reduce cycle time and minimize rework through improved process control methodology.
To control production costs through streamlined raw materials and process improvement methodology.
To grow the overall flexographic printing industry through increased market share of an expanding market.
To outline key flexographic procedures and guidelines to be used throughout the process, including during implementation, design, prepress and printing.
To enable CPCs to obtain optimal flexographic print quality, which equals or exceeds offset lithography and gravure printing.

What’s Inside FIRST 6.0?

Communication & Implementation

Communication is the foundation of FIRST. Using agreed upon terminology and a defined workflow, FIRST seeks to minimize miscommunication and promote the manufacture of consistent, conforming flexographic materials. To that end, the communication and implementation section of FIRST provides the reader with a solid understanding of what they will find throughout the rest of the FIRST Document. They will learn more about internal and external communication practices, while focusing heavily on FIRST Methodology—optimization, fingerprinting, process control, characterization and process improvement.


Graphic designers will find value in FIRST‘s design section, as it was assembled to assist in producing packaging graphics specific to the flexographic industry. This section teaches designers the basics of getting started and recognizing the attributes of flexographic printing. It also educates them on specific type and design elements, digital photography parameters, document structure and format, specific file formats and their usages, as well as preflighting tips for the final design prior to release to the printer. In addition, FIRST offers a free Design Guide, available to download and share with design partners.


The prepress section provides graphic artists with the tools necessary to perform their daily job functions at their absolute best. Throughout this section, prepress experts will find data, tutorials and common practices that will help enhance their daily workflows. These practices include electronic/digital file formats used, as well as job assembly practices to include image trapping, text and graphic elements, vignettes/gradations, bar code considerations and template layout. The prepress section also covers process color calibration techniques, file output parameters, color proofs and general printing plate specifications.


The printer is responsible for reproducing a design accurately and consistently, both throughout the pressrun and between pressruns. The ability of the printer to measure and control their process directly impacts the quality of the printed piece, the efficiency of the pressrun and the overall time-to-market of the new product. Throughout this section, the printer learns more about print evaluation and the measurement tools used to control process color print characteristics, and develops an understanding of press component print variables and job-specific print variables, including substrates, inks and other pressroom consumables. The printer will also determine the best operating parameters for its ink metering system, plate package and press settings, all while learning common testing procedures performed during the production process.


From “abnormal color vision” to “Zahn Cup,” FIRST 6.0 features an all-encompassing glossary section which includes concise definitions for more than 400 common industry terms, acronyms and other flexography jargon.


The appendix section includes vital contact information for other industry organizations, a completely revamped reference standards and specifications section, a quick-reference section for the control and test targets used throughout the book, as well as other useful information.

What Do People Think About FIRST?

FIRST is the most comprehensive printing document on the planet. It provides communication tools and best practices to align an entire supply chain with customers expectations. FIRST is why the flexo industry is growing globally, as the best printing process known to man!”

Steve Smiley, SmileyColor & Associates LLC

“Before you go about re-inventing the wheel with a new and unique flexo procedure or specification, check the FIRST document to see if such a procedure or specification already exists. Doing so will save you time and money, and will enhance your credibility.”

Mark Samworth, Esko

FIRST 6.0 further perfects the industry-leading format of bringing flexo best practices to the masses. In addition to updates in implementation, design, prepress and print, FIRST 6.0 takes the beginning steps to better organize and present industry standards directly tied to flexography.”

Robb Frimming, ColorDrive

“The way I describe FIRST is to say that, simply put, FIRST is a process control manual for flexo. If you want to establish baseline targets or procedures for virtually any portion of the flexographic printing process, then you absolutely need to start with FIRST.”

Richard Black, Techkon USA

Buy FIRST 6.0

Print Edition

  • FIRST 6.0
  • Printed on paper
  • With a soft cover


Kindle Edition

  • FIRST 6.0
  • Electronic
  • For an e-reader


Branded Edition

  • FIRST 6.0
  • Your company’s logo
  • On the cover


Comments? Changes? Suggestions? Feedback?

FIRST is a document created by the flexographic industry, for the flexographic industry. Your comments, opinions and input are essential to maintaining FIRST as the ultimate flexographic resource. Visit the FIRST Comments page to suggest something for a future edition of the document, make a comment on an existing portion of the latest edition and to have your voice heard.

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Discussing 20 Years of FIRST

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of FIRST, Fall Conference 2017 featured the release of FIRST 6.0 and a panel discussion of the document’s creation. On that panel were a number of individuals heavily involved in its inception and evolution over the last two decades: Mark Mazur, FTA Hall of Fame; Al Bowers, RR Donnelley; Arleen Neustein, New Excelsior; Jeff Randazzo, Controlled Displacement Technologies LLC; Eric Ferguson, Datalase Ltd and Lon Robinson, Tension Corp.

“I had two very demanding customers… They insisted that they have a process in place, so they could be confident that when they tried to implement a new design, it would be executed faithfully, match the target and be able to be reproduced by multiple companies across the country and around the world. It was their insistence that we develop procedures and processes that enabled that to happen, the first and each and every time. That’s how it all began.”