The Pre-Press Proofing Process for Printing

What types of Pre-Press Proofs are available?

First off… What is a PRE-PRESS PROOF? A pre-press proof (or proofs, if you are dealing with multiple documents) is a physical or digital copy of your final print project, provided to you BEFORE the final piece “goes to press,” or gets printed in final form. A proof is created to ensure the client and their printer are in complete agreement with all aspects of the print project and the final desired outcome of the project.

Whenever you are doing a printing project it is CRITICAL to request a “proof” of the work you are having professionally printed.

It’s so easy to gloss over this stage! You have been looking at the project, perhaps for months, and it’s tempting to rush, just to finally see it done and completed. You might believe there is little value to proofing. After all, the piece has been reviewed and edited (probably MANY times, by many eyes!) by the time it finally makes its final trip to the printer.

But skipping (or blindly signing off on) the proof, will slide you right past a very real Point Of No Return! The proofing stage is your last safety check-point, a valuable chance to review the entire project — from a fly-over view of the whole thing, right down to every apex, ascender, and ampersand (see what I did there?) — to give you a chance to catch any error or omission; and to ensure the file was built and processed properly so that the final print result is exactly what you are expecting.

Every business owner, designer (and yes, even professional printers) have had the experience… There are times where this last final review gets less attention than it should get – and as a result, the project had to be painfully reprinted because of a mistake that could have been caught at the proofing stage.

Having a hard-copy proof is a nice luxury. It makes a big difference to hold it in your hand. However, with advanced colour management technology, and cutting edge PDF workflows, a hard-copy proof is often an unnecessary expense. Depending on the project, electing for a PDF proof can save you a big line item on your final bill. Let’s go over those options in a little more detail.

Common Pre-Press Proof Options

The most expensive combination, contract proofs are colour calibrated and extremely accurate proofs produced on an Epson (or equivalent) inkjet printer on specially formulated proofing paper. They are called “contract proofs” because they are actually legally binding. The colour is accurate enough to serve as a promise of the end result and will be used to match the colour calibration on press.

Mockup proofs are often produced on a digital printer, using the actual paper stock your final job will be printed on (or very similar), and then trimmed, folded, glued, and/or bound like the finished product in order to give you a close idea of the final physical format. This can be an important “dress rehearsal” to bring the materials and techniques you have only so far imagined, into reality. This extra step should be considered, especially for any project with fancy pockets, intricate folds, and any item that needs to fit inside another piece (like a wrap-around sleeve, or insertable tab, for example). It can be hard to predict how materials will behave and interact.

You can opt for either Contract or Mockup proofs… OR both of these options, depending on your project. For example, a postcard or poster shouldn’t require a mockup, but could certainly benefit from a contract proof if the colour is critical. Alternatively, a mockup proof is ideal for a magazine that isn’t colour critical but you’d like to get a feel for its size and feel. You can always also elect to do both; for a high-end art book for example.

A very common option is to bypass the cost of the hard copy proofs described above, and get a PDF proof instead. The printer will process your files and prepare them for print, outputting and a Post RIP PDF for you to review before proceeding. It is the client’s responsibility to compare the proof with their original art to make sure nothing was lost in translation, like font problems, missing or altered imagery, or formatting inconsistencies. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to get different technologies to play nicely together.

Speaking of which, make sure you are working with a print professional that has a good handle on colour management and calibrates all of their output devices to universal standards such as Gracol or G7. This way you can be confident that the finished product will meet universally accepted colour standards, which really just means you will get the finished product you are expecting… and paying for!

We hope we have impressed 😉  upon you the importance of the proofing stage in any print job! The method you choose will depend on many factors. We would be happy to discuss the specifics of YOUR project to help you navigate this imposing industry with confidence and to guide you through the process to a beautifully printed piece.

If you are ready to consult a print professional about your print project CLICK HERE to start the conversation.


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