Adobe PDF Print Engine 6 Targets Full Colour Gamut Rendering

New features aim to control and expand colour possibilities

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06/10/2022

Priya Gohil

 

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Walking into the FESPA press conference room last week ahead of an Adobe presentation, I was reminded of how the now ubiquitous Adobe PDF workflow blazed a trail in prepress during the mid- to late-1990s. As a young production controller working in my first role at a scientific journal publisher, I would bundle up stacks of pasteup artwork on press day, later receive four colour separation films from the repro house and send them on to the printer, and finally inspect 16-page imposed printer proofs. All this thankfully went out of the window once Adobe got a firm foothold in the publishing process with its more streamlined PDF technology.

 

Nowadays, Adobe has a hand in the creation of most print jobs—whether it’s using industry-standard graphics arts packages (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign) or files being managed by Adobe Acrobat and, eventually, printed by Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE). This end-to-end workflow will use the same core technology at every stage for tasks such as handling transparencies, handling colour management, and parsing. The obvious win is, whether you’re a graphic designer, print service provider, or end customer, you will get a high degree of predictability and consistency. What you see in Acrobat is what gets printed.

 

Fast forward 26 years later, I’m witnessing the official launch of Adobe PDF Print Engine version 6 at FESPA 2022 in Berlin.

 

APPE 6 Unveiled

Building on a heritage that spans 16 years, APPE 6 boasts a raft of new features that Adobe said, “Will empower all print segments...delivering exceptional print quality, maximum efficiency, and increased automation with print-time decisions based on job intelligence.”

 

Adobe’s Senior Product Manager Mark Lewiecki took us through a quick tour of the headline features, starting with new technology that’s sure to add fire to the bellies of print service providers (PSPs) operating CMYK+ presses—streamlined expanded colour gamut (ECG) processing.

 

Mark Lewiecki, Senior Product Manager at Adobe, announcing the release of
Adobe PDF Print Engine 6.

 

The popularity of colours beyond CMYK (inks such as orange, green, violet—or a combination of the three) is gaining traction in the market thanks to rapid growth of inkjet technology, where spot colours were typically discouraged, not available, or too expensive. Lewiecki explained that this shift had been putting pressure on the packaging space, where flexographic printers need to compete with digital printers by reducing their make-ready times and so on. And, by going to a single ink set that can print all the spot colours available is key for a more efficient process.

 

Whereas previous versions of APPE involved two stages—CMYK for spot colour, then colour managed in separate plates—with APPE 6, you have colour conversions done in a single stage. The advantage of a single stage verses two is clear: each conversion has a trade-off with a loss of precision and less accurate colours. Streamlined ECG processing, however, translates to more accurate and vivid colours. And by not going through CMYK, you are taking better advantage of the full available colour gamut volume of the press.

 

Single-stage colour conversion for more efficient CMYK+ printing.

 

New Spectral Spot API

Next up, we learned that V6 offers a new module spectral spot application process interface (API) that will process spectrally defined spot colours (embodied in an IS0-standard CFX file) so that they can be seamlessly colour managed just like any other colour in the print job with input profile and an output profile.

 

Why is this important? Lewiecki cites the increasing adoption of numeric ways for leading brands to communicate in colour as opposed to, say, selecting a colour swatch in a book. And corporate brand colour integrity matters. What this new spectral module provides is the means for operators to ensure consistent and accurate brand colours at all times whenever and wherever a job is printed, regardless of substrate.

 

 

Image Resampling

Designers and pre-press operators will breathe a collective sigh of relief thanks to APPE 6’s image re-sampling technology, which helps offset the issues around a lack of data/pixels when resizing image files. APPE 6 utilizes a highly sophisticated algorithm from Photoshop which will generate optimized colour values. So, in essence, it averages for interpolation (scaling up images and the need to create new pixels) and down sampling. The net result is a better reproduction of resized images.

 

Lewiecki covered more new features, including advanced methods to manage as well as automate post-press and inline embellishments, enhanced variable printing to aid just in time manufacturing process for food and pharma packaging amongst others, and derived plates that enable varnishes and white underprints to be dynamically auto-generated from job elements at run-time.

 

 

Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

All in all, it was an illuminating press conference and APPE 6 is bound to be well-received by Adobe’s OEM channel partners and others. APPE 6 especially targets the two fastest growth segments in the print industry: digital packaging as well as labels and digital textiles. With that in mind, our own Johnny Schell posed the final question of the day at the FESPA press conference: whether Adobe is working with DTG vendors, especially considering the APPE 6’s white underprint features. The response back was to try the question again next year! So, roll on FESPA 2023 in Munich!

 

PDF Print Engine 6 will be distributed to Adobe’s print partners in June 2022. Products built on version 6 are expected to become available later this year.

 

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