The GWG 1v4 specifications from the Ghent Workgroup have long been the de facto standard for exchange of PDF documents in graphic arts. Evolving from such a standard is always difficult, yet we feel it’s necessary to keep up with changes in technology. The GWG 2015 specifications were born as the result of that evolution.

The 2015 specifications aren’t the first round of improvements done; in 2012 we already released significantly different specifications. Those were used a lot in testing and in some countries were used as the basis for national standards. In most cases however, the specifications themselves and the technological and business landscape were not ready for widespread adoption.

While the 2012 specifications exist and will continue to exist, we don’t expect them to be widely implemented.


Because of the fundamental differences between the 1v4 and 2015 specifications, we don’t expect an instant transition. We expect that the 2015 specifications will be picked up as acceptable specifications and that only after a (long) transition period 1v4 will no longer be accepted. A number of national organizations already announced plans to that effect.


Change is easier if it is clearly explained what changes, and why it changes. The following white paper does do exactly that: document the changes between 1v4 and 2015 in clear and easily understandable language. Each chapter highlights one particular area that has changed and discusses the reasons behind the change and the repercussions that change may have in today’s workflows.

Specifications document

The Specifications document is intended for associations and vendors who want to examine all settings in detail. This document describes the details of the 2015 specifications and what the rules are for compliant PDF documents. This document uses plain English language to give the guidelines to which compliant PDF files have to adhere.

Market segments

Different workflows require different PDF documents; examples are easy to find:

  • Advertisements are typically single-page PDF documents, books always multi-page
  • Newspapers often accept the use of spot colors, magazines often don’t

To cover such differences, the Ghent Workgroup has always released different variants for its specifications.

No more restrictions to only CMYK

New in the GWG 2015 specifications is the availability of ‘RGB’ next to ‘CMYK’. The different workflow approaches is extensively explained in the GWG2015 PDF/X workflow document.