About SWOP from www.swop.org
Over the last thirty years SWOP has become a major factor in the success of the Publication Printing Industry in the United States. This has been a result of a combination of attainable goals, dedicated people driving the process and an industry willing to improve itself. The resulting recommended specifications are for the use of all those involved in the production of publications - including the advertiser, publisher, printer, advertising agency and prepress service supplier.
History of SWOP
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as web offset printing of publications started to become popular and then predominate, it became obvious that the supplied input materials (proofs and film) were difficult for printers to match on press. Under these circumstances prepress service providers did their best, but without any specifications they merely were guessing at what the printer required. The situation was chaotic and getting worse. Printers were unable to run advertisements supplied from various sources in line with each other on the same press form and found it difficult to satisfy the advertiser's quality requirements.
In late 1974 a group of concerned industry experts met informally to explore the possibility of forming a committee to write specifications for material supplied to web offset publications. This is where the initial set of specifications that would become Specifications for Web Offset Publications - and its acronym, SWOP - were first envisioned. Several key dates stand out in the publication printing industry during the evolution of SWOP. In 1986 the SWOP Specifications booklet included guidelines for web printing of publications. In the 1993 edition of the booklet, SWOP addressed specifications for electronic fi le preparation and transfer of graphic arts data in a digital workflow. In 1997 and 1998 SWOP addressed the emergence of computer-to-plate as an important production method for publication printers across the country. This was addressed in the booklet's eighth edition and in a subsequent brochure, "Digital Specifications and Requirements." Here the issues of standardizing fi le formats and digital proofing were first introduced. Throughout its history, SWOP has played a key role in helping the printing industry adapt to new technologies while continuing to ensure quality.
SWOP as part of IDEAlliance
In 2004, SWOP and IDEAlliance formed a coalition to support print media through the coordinated development of standardized specifications and guidelines, certification programs, software tools, educational seminars, and peer support networks. In 2005, SWOP, Inc. merged with IDEAlliance. The merger provided new resources to support SWOP modernization.
In February 2006, IDEAlliance announced the adoption of a new #3 grade paper (such as Fortune Gloss) favored by many as their proofing stock of choice for monthly publications as an approved SWOP paper stock in addition to the traditional #5 grade groundwood publication printing paper. Errata, updating the SWOP Specifications to include the #3 grade paper, were published simultaneously. The inclusion of a brighter #3 grade paper was a significant move toward SWOP modernization.
At the same time, IDEAlliance announced that SWOP would adopt the new G7™ calibration, printing and proofing process control methods. The G7™ methodology grew out of the recent research and development efforts of the IDEAlliance GRACoLâ Committee. It defines gray balance and target neutral print density curves for three-color gray and black as the primary method for color control as opposed to the current SWOP methods that focus on ink density and TVI (formerly known as dot gain) on a prescribed paper stock. This shift in digital calibration methodology represents a significant step toward SWOP modernization because it establishes a new foundation upon which to update the specification.
As part of IDEAlliance’s commitment to support the update of SWOP specifications, the Print Properties Committee initiated a series of research and development efforts to provide a scientific basis for modernizing SWOP. These efforts included a series of press runs on web presses to develop an idealized characterization data set for both the #5 and #3 grade papers. These runs are noteworthy because for the first time publication press runs on web presses will serve as the basis for defining the specifications for both SWOP proofing and SWOP printing. Following the G7™ methods using spectrophotometry and CTP, the outcome will be a new visual-appearance-based SWOP specification designed to enable printers quickly and accurately replicate the visual appearance of imagery from proof to press.
The initial web press runs were conducted at Rochester Institute of Technology, Quad/Graphics and Brown Printing in Spring 2006. The final data from these press runs has been used to mathematically derive ideal neutral print density curves for three-color gray and black that will be published as the new SWOP 2007 Specification. These new characterization data sets are also being submitted through the IDEAlliance Print Properties Committee to CGATS for consideration as a new Technical Report TR 003 and TR 005.
The mission of SWOP is to continually raise the level of quality of publication printing by setting forth specifications, tolerances and functional, experienced-based compliance procedures. In order to compete and create value for print media, as of 2006, SWOP will concentrate on business and education dynamics rather than technical to advance the transition of the print media industry to any new mode of content creation and dissemination.
To keep up with industry trends, IDEAlliance has introduced an updated version, called SWOP 2013, which is nearly identical to SWOP 2006. The few minor changes are barely visible in most subject matter and should not signicantly affect printers, designers or print buyers.