TC130 WG 13 Printing conformity assessment requirements

TC130 WG 13 Printing conformity assessment requirements

By Paul Lindstrom


The history behind this workgroup goes back at least as far as 2007, when the graphic arts organization Intergraf created what was called “The Printing Standards Network” and hosted a meeting with standardization experts in The Netherlands that year. The objective was to promote the use of international standards in graphic arts production, to the benefit of printers and “other stakeholders”. However, by then it had already been identified that different certification bodies conducted print certification in different ways “that could result in differences in the final outcome”. It was felt that “common requirements for certification according to ISO 12647 Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations, proof and production prints” needed to be identified and established. A number of organisations were invited to a second meeting in 2008 to try and establish such a document, describing key criteria for a solid certification according to ISO 12647 and related ISO standards.

Although a taskforce had been set up to work on this, no document was produced. Meanwhile an interest grew in establishing a special workgroup inside TC 130 with a similar goal – to create a standard or technical specification for how to carry out print certifications centred around ISO 12647. In 2011 the group had its first meeting in Berlin, managed initially by Professor Bob Chung from the School of Print Media at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Later Bruno Mortara from Brazil became convenor and led the group until the work was completed. After several years the ISO 19301 standard, full title Guidelines for schema writers — Template for colour quality management was published in 2020. The standard combines the ISO 9001 standard for quality management systems with a number of other ISO-standards to achieve a robust quality- and colour-management system for publishers and printers.

ISO 9001 alone is not enough

There are many printers around the world who successfully use the quality management standard ISO 9001 to check the overall quality of their processes in a systematic way, but for different reasons do not apply the different standards for print production available from ISO. Some of the most well-known print production standards are those in the ISO 12647 series, specifying process parameters and aim values for different types of print production. Included in the series is the ISO 12647-7 standard for digital proofing processes, but there is a suite of other standards that are essential in order to establish and maintain a colour-managed print and publishing process from design to print or digital publication. 

The ISO 9001 standard for Quality Management Systems is at the core of the suggested certification schema, but a range of ISO-standards specific for the different sub-processes in print and publishing production have been added, for example which inks to use, colour-managed image retouching and soft proofing. There are also references to suitable standards for ensuring that the measuring devices used are compliant with the recommended technical specifications.


the PDCA-principle
ISO 9001 uses the systematic approach of the PDCA-principle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) to establish a quality management system, coupled with the use of established standards. (Right-hand click on the image to see it in full resolution)

When it comes to electronic file delivery, it is recommended that preflighted files according to the PDF/X-standard (the ISO 15930-series) are used.

TC130 cooperates with several other technical committees within ISO, as well as with established organizations in the industry, for example ISO TC42 (Photography) and ICC (the International Color Consortium), so standards have been developed for viewing booths and ICC-profiles are specified in an ISO standard. All in all, most aspects of print and publishing production can be quality controlled using a selected suite of ISO standards, to the benefit of both the printing industry and its customers – the print buyers and different types of publisher.

If you are interested in establishing or using a quality- and colour-managed print and publishing workflow, you can contact any of the national printing associations or federations in your region and ask which printing certifications they recommend for your type of business. There are certifications available that comply with the recommendations in ISO 19301.

Other ISO standards produced by WG 13

While ISO 19301 was the starting point for the work in WG 13, the group continued to write two more standards to complement this. The ISO 19302 standard ”Colour conformity of printing workflows” offers more details on how to set up the prepress part of the workflow, describing in detail how robust colour management can be established. This standard was actually completed in 2018 and published before ISO 19301.

Then there is the third standard, ISO 19303-1 Guidelines for schema writers — Part 1: Packaging printing, published in 2020. This is different to ISO 19301 in that it does not assume that a quality-management system according to ISO 9001 is in place, but offers a series of control points in a packaging print production process that need to be checked to ensure that the final product is of high quality in regard to colour accuracy over the whole print run.

WG 13 is at the moment dormant but will be re-activated if and when there is a need to update or revise the three standards that have been published.

Paul Lindström, Burwash, England, April 2022