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ISOM 2017 Colour Test

ISOM 2017 digital presss colours

ISOM 2017 colours for digital printISOM 2017 cover

In July 2017, OCAD Inc added their ISOM2017 orienteering map template. When you File > New and select an ISOM 2017  template, you can read in the displayed Map Notes;

ISOM 2017 – International Specification for Orienteering Maps
CMYK color values optimized for digital printing with Heaven Soft paper on Xerox Versant by frey-print & design, CH-Birr. Copyright OCAD AG 2018-01-18

With a continued move to digital print of orienteering maps, OCAD had decided that it was time to explore a CMYK colour range suited specifically to that medium. (Note that templates are still provided with the original colour table which is more suited to offset CMYK printing). In conjunction with leading Swiss O map printer, Frey Print, they  optimised the CMYK colours for Heaven Soft paper printed on a Xerox Versant digital press.

Heaven Soft is a high white paper and thus very similar results will apply on any high white stock. I found no change is required for printing on Pretex.

Xerox Versant is these days as common in medium to large print centres as Konica Minolta 6000 was 10 years ago. These two appear to still be the key brands in such print centres throughout Australia. As in the past, it is likely that little, if any, CMYK change is required to print ISOM 2017 on a Konica Minolta.

ISOM 2017 colour naming
ISOM 2017 colour naming

I must mention that I really like the naming of the ISOM 2017 colour table. Instead of colours specific to a use the colours are

according to what ISOM 2017 allows and they are ordered for appropriate use. I suspect this will help avoid that map you inherit having a long and oft puzzling list of myriad duplicated colours assigned specific uses.

Test results

In preparation for the VIC MTBO Champs, I prepared some tests using my current colour table (as tweaked for digital by Jim Russell and myself some years ago) and the ISOM 2017 colour table. These were printed by Stay in Control (Jim Russell) on an older Xerox (not a Versant) but one that many Vic clubs use.

My report was;

ISOM 2017 digital print colours  vs current
I also submitted the Creswick Forest map with the colours that OCAD Inc developed specifically for digital print. These are the OCAD colours when you select a new ISOM 2017 O map.
Those  greens, blues, and 401 yellow appear more intense which is worthwhile for MTBO. However the blues don’t  make any difference to the legibility of the very small ponds previously mentioned.
Brown appears slightly darker – it is noticeable on some blocks of contours and on others only slightly so.
Contours appear through rideable orange although stronger is both desirable and achievable judging by other maps I have seen. Will test strengthening contours both overall and just under the orange.

In most colours there was not a significant difference but enough for me to assess the ISOM 2017 colour table as worth adopting.

The exception was the brown. It appeared weaker under the rideable orange than I am used to and also had a slight orange tinge.

So I then tested the brown that Jim Russell and I had developed some years ago and which we used for MTBO maps and trail maps – see 2016 Barkstead MTBO map if you rode there. The result was exactly what I hoped for – contours stand out better and are  clearer under the rideable orange.

So why this concern with brown for MTBO maps? Well, MTBO maps have to be read at a fixed and greater distance than foot-o maps. Contour legibility is arguably as important as track legibility on an MTBO map. The darker brown is a noticeable assistance in that respect.


From the tests I have done, admittedly confined to three MTBO maps, I would definitely use the ISOM 2017 colour table for new maps. However, at least  for MTBO maps,  I would substitute what I term as Bitter Brown – C10 M56 Y100 K25.

In my opinion, the work of OCAD Inc and Frey Print has indeed been worthwhile.


Talking of brown contours – last year in discussion of colours, OCAD Inc sent me printed  JWOC maps. The relays were printed on a digital press, the other events on a CMYK offset press — except that the Long event contours were printed with Pantone brown (PMS 471) to provide greater clarity in a detailed area.

7 station press
Heidelberg offset press 7 stations

But isn’t PMS offset printing more expensive than CMYK offset printing? Yes – however these days many larger CMYK offset print centres have print stations on their press additional to the four needed for C, M, Y and K. Station 5 is used mainly for finishes such as matt, satin or gloss. If there is a 6th or 7th it may well be used for PMS colours to provide a brilliant colour in a brochure. Thus it is relatively inexpensively available to deal with what one European expert believes is orienteering’s most problematic colour along with grey. I rather think brown and yellow are the most problematic on a digital press.

Converting a map to ISOM 2017

ISOM 2017 swatch
Changing the colour table via ISOM 2017 swatch

Converting older maps is not as onerous as I expected. I converted the three 2018 Vic MTBO Champs maps to ISOM 2017 using the ISOM 2017 swatch method. I didn’t use OCAD’s ISOM 2017 utility because the maps’ colour tables bore the fingerprints of a long history of mappers. It took only 30 minutes per map including checking afterwards.

Ensure you turn off at least Options Overwrite overprint and Overwrite opacity. These, because the sequence of some colour instances you are changing is critical to that map, as is the opacity.  I also turned off Overwrite colour name as the existing names were clues to how that instance of colour is used in the map.

Then taking each ISOM 2017 colour in turn I sought related uses in the current map and made the change. In some cases I had to resort to the ISOM 2017 document for correct colour application to a symbol. I didn’t change any existing colour where the percentage value does not exist in ISOM 2017 — the purpose of these updates was not to get ISOM 2017 conformance but to get better colours.



2 thoughts on “ISOM 2017 Colour Test

  1. Intresting that you used the ISOM2017 colour table for the MTBO maps. The latest OCAD tables I have for MTBO are ISMTBO2010 versions. I’ll check to see if there is a later version for MTBO maps.

  2. Thanks Ken for your observatipns and suggestions. I have just converted two maps to ISOM2017. Both FootO maps with a MTBO base. Woodlands for an upcoming MelBushO event and Lal Lal for this year’s Maxi. The process was easier than I thought it would be but still time consuming. Time consuming in the case of Lal Lal because previous versions had a hotch potch of non-standard symbols. I haven’t printed any copies yet but the PDFs show the brown as being the darkness required. The previous OCAD colour table for older ISOM maps had to be adapted for Laser printing.

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