But, now that the vast majority of graphic design is done on RGB screens, there’s no way to get a colour-accurate representation of what a press will produce without either, (a) installing some middling-to-fairly expensive proofing solution, and faffing around with ICC (International Color Consortium profiles) and calibration; or, (b) sending out for expensive ‘contract’ proofs. So, if Adobe told you that this same PostScript RIP – which costs less than £100 and works with your desktop ink-jet – could also produce a very reasonable simulation of the printed result, you’d be even more interested, wouldn’t you? Too right you would. PressReady, Adobe’s first shrinkwrapped PostScript RIP, started shipping in the UK last month – as you read this, graphic designers all over the country will be queueing up to pay their money, and turn their sub-£200 desktop ink-jets into high-end proofers. There are other PostScript RIPs on the market – notably Epson’s StylusRIPs, and those from Birmy and EFI – but nothing else is quite so, well, cheap. PressReady is a Chooser-level, ‘host-based’ (meaning it doesn’t need its own computer to run it) PostScript Level 3 RIP. You specify the printer to which it’s linked as part of the installation process, and PressReady appears as two drivers – one if you’re using the serial port, one if you’re using ethernet – in the Chooser. Calibrate your monitor if you haven’t already, using the included Adobe Gamma control panel. Then use the Adobe Print Color control panel to specify the ICC profile that matches your final output method. The out-of-the-box list includes Euroscale coated and uncoated, Japan Standard and a whole set for US off-set presses, but you can add your own profiles as well. Also, a source colour-space for the RGB components in your document is included. True plug-&-play Back in the application – under theapplication-specific sheet in the Page Set-Up dialogue box – specify the printer’s PressReady variant as a printer type. Then, in the Print dialogue box, choose PressReady Settings to specify paper type, quality setting and ink cartridges installed – in case your printer supports multiple-ink sets. And, that’s all there is to it: this really is a plug-&-play solution. After 90 seconds’ clicking in dialogue boxes followed by ten minutes’ RIP-and-print time, my Epson Stylus Color 850 turned out a print that was virtually indistinguishable from an Iris digital proof I paid £50 for. It’s probably a matter of judgement whether or not you could use a PressReady proof as a sign-off proof for the client, although it remains to be seen how ready your printer will be to accept it as press-matchable. RIP-roaring success
Installing PressReady also gives you the Create Adobe PDF ‘virtual printer’ – a PDF-generation tool that works with Acrobat Distiller 4.0 – and Adobe Circulate, a hot-key launcher for your email application, so you can send your newly created PDFs to a client. Create Adobe PDF – accessible as a printer type through the Page Set-Up and Print dialogue boxes – allows the resulting PDF to be optimized for desktop ink-jets, presses and on-screen display – according to the ICC profile choices made in the Adobe Print Color control panel. Once a file has been set up for printing, the same parameters can be used to RIP a PDF file, which can then be sent to a pre-press bureau for output – providing a theoretically fail-safe way of duplicating the in-house proof version in the output files. One of the beauties of PressReady is that when it comes to colour management, Adobe has done all the hard work for you: PressReady ships with a list of drivers for supported ink-jets that have ICC profiles ready-embedded. One minor complaint concerns the separation of the ICC profile-choice into a system-level control panel – designers will find it too easy to forget that settings made in the Print Color control panel apply to all documents.
If you’re already an advanced PostScript RIP user already, you might find PressReady slightly inflexible – there's no support for Pantone, Hexachrome or separating spot-colours for CMYK. Plus, there’s no queueing facility over and above that provided by the Mac OS Desktop Printer utility. Also, non-PostScript trapping won’t work, which means QuarkXPress users are stuck. Right now, the list of supported ink-jets is tiny – the Canon BJC-8500, the Epson Stylus Colours 800, 850, 1520 and 3000, and the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 895C, 1120C and 2000C – although Adobe is expanding that list as you read this. Registered users get a free 18-month subscription to the PressReady Internet Update Web site, to download new drivers as they become available. What self respecting designer could resist the chance to turn a cheapo ink-jet into a high-end proofer for a hundred quid? Buy it.