A guide to print proofing – An explation of proofing and the different options available
What is a printed proof?
A print proof is a printed representation of the artwork design which is produced prior to production (Prepress) Print proofs can be printed using various methods, resulting in different levels of accuracy to what the final printed item will look like.
Print proofs can be printed simply for checking content (low resolutions proofs) or can be printed for greater accuracy of colour, graphics and images (digital proofs) – or in addition, printing on the exact material specified for the end result (wet proofs)
Different types of print proofs
If artwork has been created using one of the various professional software packages, the chances are the colour and accuracy will be of high importance.
The issue designers have with artwork creation is that computer screens do not display true pantone colour. We discuss the complications of screen colour and working with pantone colours in more detail here Understanding Pantone and Colour, Avoiding the pitfalls of Pantone and CMYK reproduction and Using computer screens for print | Why colour and some images on screen are not accurate.
To ensure the best possible end result, accuracy can be improved prior to printing by requesting print proofs – with different options, depending on the level or accuracy required.
Printing proofs will give you the opportunity to check you are happy with your design prior to your main order being printed. There are varying levels of proofing options available, with pros and cons to each which we will explain.
Screen Proofs – Ripped PDF Proofs
Screen proofs use pre-press computer software to check the file has been set up to the correct printing standards. Checks such as image resolution, fonts, colours are set to the correct format, etc.
A report is generated which highlights any errors and allows the commercial printer to notify you to correct this. A PDF will usually be sent via email or a cloud link for checking, the technical term for this is known as a Ripped PDF.
Screen proofs allow you to check that the layout is correct and the fonts, images and indicative colours are as required. Since ripped PDF proofs are merely screen proofs the colours are not accurate, but with the assistance of any feedback corrections can be made.
A minimal set charge may be included in the cost of the printing estimate to cover this, however usually there is no charge.
Low Resolution Proofs – Content Proofs, Plotter Proofs, Inkjet Proofs, Scatter Proofs
Content Proofs, Plotter Proofs, Inkjet Proofs and Scatter Proofs as produced to the same standards as above. These are printed on paper using inkjet, toner or laser printers.
Some people prefer to see printed versions of proofs rather than screen proofs, for this reason most commercial printers will offer this service.
For printed jobs that have large page volumes – scatter proofs can be requested which results in just a sample selection of random pages being printed for spot checks.
These proofing methods are known as low resolution proofs since they will not print the exact high quality of graphics and imagery. Low resolution proofs are for checking the page positions – along with fonts, colours, lines, etc. They are not Pantone colour accurate.
A small charge per page is usually incurred for requesting these. Low resolution proofs will then be despatched to customer for checking, which requires additional time to be added to the production schedule.
High Resolution Proofs – Digital Proofs, Sherpa Proofs
High resolution proofs usually known as digital proofs are produced on Pantone calibrated printers – as such are highly colour-accurate (about 90%). They are produced using CMYK format but usually cannot reproduce spot colours.
Digital proofs allow the opportunity to check fonts, lines and page layout with good accuracy. Images, graphics are usually clear and crisp giving a true indication of what the final printed piece will look like once printed.
It may not be possible to print on the same material as is intended with the final printing job due to limitations of the proofing process and paper compatibility with the printing machine.
A cost per page will be incurred for digital proofs and a budget should be allowed for these. It is advisable to request digital proofs should the printing job be costly, colour important and a large volume.
Wet proofs are the most accurate proofing method available and will enable you to see exactly what the finished print will look like. They are also also the most expensive.
Wet proofs are produced on either a litho printing or digital printing presses, using the exact stock and inks as intended with the final finished product. This is ideal if you’re printing jobs that require special pantone colours. For this reason, they are totally colour accurate and an exact representation of the end result.
It is also possible in some instances to request a mock-up of the final printed job – the proof is turned into an exact one off copy of how the final printed job will look like.
This is a costly way to proof a job if using the litho printing process – plates must be produced, the press set up and then run to obtain the required result.
Press pass proofing
A press pass is a way to check your work on press as the commercial printer starts printing. It should only be used in conjunction with the above methods – any mistakes found at such a late stage can be timely and costly if the press has to be stopped and the job pulled off the press.
Press pass proofing does however allow one final check – ensuring colours are accurate, images and text is correct, whilst working under the guidance of the press operator.
This service is rarely used on a regular basis unless it is for high profile and volume-based jobs. Press passing is often used by corporates with marketing departments, design departments and by agencies who handle print on their client’s behalf.