The Survey Says: Digital Print Image Quality

By on May 14th, 2014

If you haven’t checked out The Digital Print Survey conducted by What They Think and Unisource (March 2014), it’s a fascinating read. While the results are not projectible to the industry at large, the results are drawn from nearly 400 responses and provide a compelling look inside the shops of a representative cross-section of digital print providers.

To me, among the most fascinating sections are those relating to digital print quality. This was such a hot button for years, and if you ask PSPs today if the issue still exists, you’ll hear a resounding “No!” But that’s not what the data says. Do you agree with these results?

When asked, “In your opinion, in general, how does the output quality of your digital color production presses (HP Indigo, Xerox iGen, Xeikon, Nexpress) compare to the output quality of offset presses?”

  • 53% said “about as good as offset”
  • 8% said “slightly better than offset”
  • 2% said “is much better than offset”

In addition, 86% said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the image quality coming off their presses.

However, only 67% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color matching and 63% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color consistency. Even fewer (43%) were satisfied with color matching.

When asked about their production challenges, “getting consistent print quality” was in the top three challenges, with 30% of respondents giving this answer. “Getting consistent color” came in fourth, with 29% of respondents giving this answer.

When asked which job elements reproduce “fine with no problems,” relatively low percentages of respondents agreed with the following:

  • fine lines / detail (47%)
  • solids (36%)
  • gradients (22%)
  • custom colors (18%)

What I take from this is that, in the end, printers are satisfied with the overall print quality on these presses, but especially when it comes to fine detail and color matching, it still takes a lot of work.

Would you agree with this data?

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    2 Responses to “The Survey Says: Digital Print Image Quality”

    1. Andrew Copley Says:

      It’s amazing to think 20 years have passed since the introduction of digital print, but it’s also difficult to imagine our industry without it now. Clearly digital has transformed print in ways no one could have expected! But there is still much to be done. The industry has come to a place where we all know that image quality isn’t an absolute, but improvement in quality is. New printing technologies, new ink innovations and new substrate capabilities are more than inevitable – and they are happening every day at Xerox and other companies around the world. Be sure to check out our latest blog on image quality with inkjet and direct mail: http://digitalprinting.blogs.xerox.com/2014/05/14/can-inkjet-do-direct-mail/ -Andrew Copley, President, Global Graphic Communications, Xerox

    2. David R Spencer Says:

      When we talk with manufacurers they feel that 63% saying they are as good or better than offset is pretty good. Remember that SWOP and GRACOL limit gamuts to achieve standardization; with increasing RGB content, digital presses often can render larger, more desirable gamuts. Newer digital presses with embedded spectrodensitometers are doing a better job at color consistency. Color matching is another story, relying on the art of making color profiles as well as the art embedded in each tool – I say art because it is still rare that two tools yield exactly the same result, and when different digital presses have different gamuts, getting similar visual appearance is still and art. Perhaps that’s why SpencerLab is still in the print quality test and analysis business…

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