Why professional printers need to use ISO 12647-2 for digital printing

ISO 12647-2 is a printing standard which print suppliers and customers can use to ensure that print processes comply with a set of parameters which guarantee quality and consistency. 

The digital printing industry has changed massively since 1993 when Xeikon and Indigo introduced the world’s first digital colour printing presses. Perhaps the biggest change over the last three decades is that today’s digital devices are more than able to match offset printing’s output quality. Advances in imaging, print processes and colorants have made digital colour printing quality concerns a thing of the past.


Consequently, the industry has embraced digital printing as part of its response to changing market requirements. Brand owners and designers want more colour, more frequent updates to jobs and to produce them in shorter runs. Often working with print service providers, they have developed an amazing array of new applications. Many of these, such as variable data printing, are only possible with direct digital output devices.

ISO 12647-2 provides colour quality printers can trust in

But for long or short runs on conventional or digital presses, colour output quality must still be managed. And for jobs produced using several different printing systems, process and colour data control are absolutely vital. It’s the only way printers can ensure that the work they produce looks identical across print methods and production sites. Print buyers who use multiple printers to produce the same job, or versions of it, need to be able to trust that all prints have a common colour appearance.

That’s not easy, especially in commercial markets where digital printing systems stand shoulder to shoulder with traditional offset litho. But markets are dynamic and clever, and they respond to opportunities. When it comes to proving that digital printing system output is comparable to that of offset, savvy digital print companies have turned to ISO 12647-2 (Graphic technology — Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations, proof and production prints — Part 2: Offset lithographic processes).

This international standard defines requirements for a general printing condition based on:

  • The substrate
  • Colorants
  • Screening
  • Tone Value Increase (TVI otherwise known as dot gain)
  • The ink sequence

This information is the characterisation data that describes a given printing process, so the stringent requirements of ISO 12647-2 summarise expectations for accurate, high quality colour production.

ISO 12647-2 is a universal reference

ISO 12647-2 was first published nearly twenty years ago, and over the years it’s become the universal quality reference for offset printing across the globe. Of late it’s been embraced by digital printers as well.

The adoption of ISO 12647-2 by digital printers may seem curious, but the standardisation of digital printing has so far proved elusive: the range of digital printing method and colorants is just too diverse. In a highly competitive market it makes sense for digital printing companies to conform to ISO 12647-2. Conformance demonstrates that a properly set up digital printing press can match offset output quality.

This means that print buyers do not have to discuss colour quality with their service providers: conformance to ISO 12647-2 confirms it. Printing companies can instead focus on delivering jobs, confident in their ability to match supplied proofs and output from other ISO 126747-2 compliant printing systems.

Customer satisfaction guaranteed with ISO 12647-2

Brand owners and print buyers can use ISO 12647-2 compliance as a convenient means of qualifying print service providers when asking for tenders. The standard provides a value add to a printing company’s business that can lead to a wider range of work coming in. It’s a tool that helps printing companies to guarantee colour quality and common colour appearance across print runs, leading to less uncertainty, more throughput and improved margins.

For more information on this specialist subject contact Ricoh directly to advise on your first steps into gaining compliance. Connect and contact us on LinkedIn, Twitter or call 08457 44 55 65.

You can find the other posts in this series below:

Laurel Brunner

Laurel has been in the graphic arts industry for over 30 years. She works with several ISO working groups and is the convenor of ISO’s Working Group 11. She is also a Visiting Professor at Shenzen Technical University in China and one of a small cohort of Women of Distinction selected by US publishers Output Links.