The 411 on Your Prints, Your Proofs, and You

Have you ever sat down at your desktop printer to print something out, only to find out after the fact that it looks nothing like you thought it would? Maybe the shade of yellow you used wasn’t quite right, or your alignment was just a little bit off. When you’re printing 5 or 10 flyers on your home printer that isn’t that big a deal. You just cancel the print job and try again. When they’re being printed by the thousands on a professional press, however, it’s a completely different story! That’s why it pays to carefully check over a prepress proof before you commit to having your products produced en masse.

What is a Prepress Proof?

A prepress proof comes in two forms: A digital form available on-screen (which is great for projects when you have multiple options and you’re not sure which it is you want to do) and a printed proof that’s been digitally created using various inks and finishes to simulate what your product will look like after it’s been printed. This simulation allows you to make changes easily to a digitally printed project before you have 50,000 of them printed and you can’t use any of them, and to request those changes, in the case of a project that needs to be done using the offset printing process, before the printing plate has been made.

Types of Proofs

As previously mentioned, there’s more than one type of proof available to you to proof your project. It is important to note that a proof is just that-a general idea of what the finished product will be. Since the processes used to create these proofs vary, some types of proofs are more accurate than others.

Electronic/PDF Proofs-As mentioned previously, often an initial proof can be provided in PDF format on a digital interface. We create a PDF file to match your specs, then allow you to view it in its electronic format. This is a good way to check the accuracy and layout of your files, but as the color of your PDF files can be affected by monitor calibration it’s still good to see a hard copy before you agree to mass produce.

Digital Color Proofs-These are a reasonable facsimile of the finished product used when proofing direct-to-plate printing projects (also known as computer-to-plate), in which a printing plate is produced directly on the computer. There is an inevitable variation between the digital color proof and the finished plate; however, that variation is usually small enough to be deemed justifiable in light of the cost savings involved.

Laminate Proofs-If color matching is of the essence, a laminate proof is the best option. These proofs are made from the films that will be used to create your final product and provide an accurate color representation of the finished piece.

Press Proof-A press proof reproduces your finished copy from step one to done. This allows you to compare colors, accurately verify layout, folding, trimming, etc. on your final project. A press proof is both time consuming and expensive, but it’s the best choice for projects where it is mission critical that you have 100% certainty of colors and accuracy before your project goes to production.

As a general rule of thumb, those proofs which are more detailed, require a more intricate production process and place a greater demand on the printer’s resources are going to be associated with a higher cost. We’ll be happy to discuss the costs of various proofs with you, as we provide custom quotes for each project that steps through our doors.

What Prepress Proofing Means for You

As printers, it’s our responsibility to provide you with a proof before the job is finished. As a customer, it’s your responsibility to carefully inspect your proof, ensure that the text, font, colors and alignment are exactly as you pictured them and give us the final go-ahead before the project goes to press. This is the time to make any changes you might want to your project. It is infinitely easier (and much less expensive) to make those changes at this point in the production process than after your entire order has been produced.

See our Prepress Proofing Checklist for a list of factors to check when you’re evaluating your proof.