Is the difference between GRACOL and SWOP really drastic?


I recently made a boo-boo. I sent a printer that usually receives documents prepared using SWOP a poster prepared using GRACOL.

The print part was managed by my client, not by me, so I could not see a proof. When I saw the final result I was devastated. Everything was very dark. The ink was cranked up to the point that mid values turned almost black. The print included photographs so they became very ugly. It was a CMYK print on coated stock but it almost looked like a B/W print on newsprint with a crazy 40% dot gain.

Now, I know I should have set the document as SWOP and not as GRACOL and that was my fault. I was wondering, though, if the difference should be so dramatic.

Is this a common result? If you print a GRACOL thinking it was SWOP, does everything look darker? Or was the print job just badly done with inks cranked up to absurd limits by the printer.

6/12/2015 4:29:00 PM

Accepted Answer

The short answer is yes. The GRACoL file will print darker under SWOP conditions.

The differences between GRACoL and SWOP depend on which GRACoL and SWOP you’re talking about. The main difference is the amount of ink being laid down on the paper.

Typically CRACoL has TAC of 320% and up to 340% depending on the destination of the GRACoL profile used. SWOP on the other hand is limited to 280% for SWOP 5 or 300% for SWOP 3. That can be a big swing.

Color Management comes into play as well on both the client side and on the printers side and whether they use embedded profiles, how the printer handles files with and without embedded profiles and what/if they convert to an ‘in-house’ profile for their press conditions.

Your reference to 40% dot gain on a coated stock is pretty dramatic but given that a GRACoL separated file was supplied, printing to the numbers could yield a much darker print than expected so that means the press operator didn’t make adjustments or pull the job from the press.

Printers today are ‘printing to the numbers’. That can mean different things to different printers but there is no mistaking a GRACoL proof for a SWOP proof so that responsibility lies with the printer, his print production staff and the press operator when the job started printing.

7/23/2015 3:37:00 AM