A print proof is a prototype that provides an accurate representation of how your design will look when professionally printed. Since monitors don’t always tell the whole story, you want to be sure that what you’re seeing on the screen is what you’re going to get.

Print proofs are the closest you’ll get to reality before seeing the printed material in all its glory. They are quite essential for the overall success of your print campaign, so in this post we hope to answer any questions you may have about proofing.

When do I need a print proof?

When do I need a print proof
When do I need a print proof?

Print proofs are created to ensure that both you and the printer are aligned with the desired outcome before going ahead with the printing of your job. It’s something we recommend you do before approving and sending it for printing.

Proofs are vital when printing large volumes of brochures, magazines, or items for a direct mail campaign like flyers. You may discover that your trim wasn’t sufficient, or a Pantone color doesn’t convert as expected.

A print proof can be the difference between a straightforward print job and a costly reprint. Its main function is to prevent (and avoid) unforeseen issues with text, images, colors, and spacing before printing.

Identifying and correcting print quality issues before going to the printer not only saves valuable time but also helps avoid the expenses associated with a reprint. It’s common sense, really.

Which print proof do I need?

If you just need to check how the content and layout will look, then low resolution proofs on an inkjet printer are adequate. They are useful to give you a general impression, but they are not true representations of the final print colour.

This is where digitally printed proofs come in. If you need greater accuracy of colour, graphics and images, a high-resolution digital proof provides about 90% accuracy. Is your design as effective as you thought?

Whether it’s printed on luxury high GSM card or on FSC-certified uncoated paper, these proofs are as close to the real thing as you can get. Although they are more expensive, they save you a major expense in the future.

Which print proof do I need
Which print proof do I need?

Different types of print proofs

Here’s a list of different types of print proofs:

  1. Soft Proof: A digital representation of the print file displayed on a computer screen or monitor. It provides an approximate visual representation of how the design will appear when printed.
  2. PDF Proof: A proof generated in PDF format, typically sent electronically. It allows stakeholders to view the design, layout, and content of the print file without the need for a physical proof.
  3. Digital Press Proof: A proof produced using a digital printing press. It simulates the final printed output by using the same printing technology and process as the actual production run.
  4. Contract Proof: Also known as a “press proof” or “match print,” it is produced using a proofing system that closely matches the color accuracy, image quality, and paper characteristics of the final printed product. It serves as a contract between the printer and the client to ensure color consistency and overall quality.
  5. Imposition Proof: A proof that shows the layout and pagination of pages as they will appear in the final printed piece. It helps validate the correct arrangement of pages, folding, binding, and trimming.
  6. Wet Proof: A proof produced using an actual printing press, using the same materials and inks intended for the final print run. It provides an accurate representation of the colors, textures, and finishes of the printed piece.
  7. Blueline Proof: A type of proof created through a diazo or blueprint process. It produces a blue or black-and-white image of the layout, indicating placement, text, and images. Blueline proofs are primarily used for content verification and layout approval.
  8. Plotter Proof: A large-format proof produced using a plotter or wide-format printer. It is commonly used for verifying designs and layouts of signage, banners, posters, and other large-scale prints.
  9. Digital Color Proof: A proof created using high-quality digital printing technology to achieve accurate color representation. It is often used for short-run print projects and provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional press proofs.
  10. Mock-up Proof: A physical prototype or sample that simulates the final product’s appearance, including the materials, shape, and structure. Mock-up proofs are commonly used for packaging, product labels, and three-dimensional print projects.

These are just some of the different types of print proofs available, each serving a specific purpose in the print production process. The choice of proofing method depends on factors such as budget, project requirements, color accuracy, and turnaround time.

Print proof pros and cons

Here’s a table outlining the pros and cons of print proofing:

1. Visual Accuracy: Print proofing allows you to see the final print version of your design or document, including colors, layout, and overall appearance. It helps ensure that what you see on the screen matches what will be printed.1. Cost and Time: Print proofing can be expensive, especially for complex or large-scale projects. The cost includes printing, shipping, and potentially revising and reprinting if issues are found. It also adds to the overall production timeline.
2. Quality Assurance: Print proofs help identify and rectify any errors, such as typos, layout inconsistencies, or color mismatches, before mass production. It ensures a higher level of quality and minimizes the risk of costly mistakes.2. Limited Proofing Scope: Print proofs can only show a static representation of the final product. They may not accurately reflect the interactive or dynamic elements of digital media, such as websites or mobile applications.
3. Tangible Representation: Print proofs provide a physical representation of the design or document, allowing stakeholders to assess the texture, finish, and overall feel of the printed materials. This is particularly important for projects where tactile elements are crucial, such as packaging or promotional items.3. Environmental Impact: Print proofing consumes resources, including paper, ink, and energy. It contributes to waste generation and carbon emissions associated with the printing process. Digital proofing methods may be more environmentally friendly.
4. Collaboration and Feedback: Print proofs can be shared among team members, clients, or stakeholders for collaborative review and feedback. They offer a tangible medium for discussions and annotations, enabling clearer communication and facilitating the revision process.4. Limited Reusability: Once print proofs are produced, they serve a specific purpose and may not be easily repurposed or used for other projects. This limits their versatility compared to digital proofs, which can be easily duplicated and shared.
5. Client Satisfaction: Providing print proofs to clients demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail. It instills confidence in the final product, as clients can physically examine and approve the print materials before production.5. Inaccurate Representation: Despite efforts to ensure accuracy, print proofs may still have minor variations compared to the final printed output. Factors like different printing equipment, substrates, or finishing processes can result in subtle differences that may affect the overall appearance.

It’s important to note that the advantages and disadvantages of print proofing may vary depending on the specific context, project requirements, and available resources.

What is the difference between a soft proof and a hard proof?

A soft proof is an electronic file, usually a PDF, created for display on a desktop computer monitor. They simulate the appearance of the finished printed piece. Most likely, the printer you use to print the proofs will generate a report highlighting the errors detected.

Soft proofs are popular because they can be emailed for approval, greatly speeding up the review process. They are very cost-effective and are often used for simple and straightforward jobs such as flyers or postcards.

A hard proof is a physical sample and is usually used for printing projects that are a bit more complicated. For example, a hard proof can be created for a commercial brochure to ensure that the pages, margins, and overall construction are as you had imagined.

A printed proof is usually also provided for projects that include unique folds, embossed areas or any other printing technique that may require special review prior to production.

Production Details (Preflight)

The term preflight is borrowed from the field of aviation, where it is used to refer to the pilot’s control and inspection of the aircraft before take-off. In graphic production, this concept is used to mean the control of the artwork prior to its output as a print plate. It is also referred to as control, preliminary file review, checking, pre-check, verification, pre-checking, preflighting, preflight-check etc.

For this purpose, electronic checking programs are used, which are specific preflight utilities that step-by-step check the document against a series of predefined parameters.

Considering that graphic defects are common in digital documents submitted for production, preflight is a very important step.

Faults that are discovered as late as in film or printing plate outputs are costly to fix; it is even worse if the fault is discovered on the actual print run.

Preflight helps discover and correct the most common defects, thus reducing the risks of extraordinary costs and delivery delays.

Why is it important to check files and proofs before sending our artwork to the printers?

It is important to perform and review several proofs throughout the entire graphic production process, starting from the initial stages. File review and testing allows errors to be detected and corrected at a given stage, before moving on to the next one, saving time and resources.

Often people are too busy to spend time on testing, but if the work goes wrong, they will have to find the time to repeat the process.

During the graphic production process it is necessary to ensure, at each stage and before moving on to the next, that the result so far has been as desired. For this purpose, a variety of file review and proofing systems can be used.

For example, documents can be previewed on the computer screen, printed on a printer, preflight applications can be used, analogue or digital proofs can be made, and even press proofs can be made on a printing press.

During the course of the project, text, images and layout must be checked. Laser proofs are mainly used to check the text, design and layout of the pages before producing the films or plates for printing.

The later a problem is discovered in the production process, the longer it takes to correct it and the more expensive it becomes.

Common errors in the graphic production process

There are many possible errors that may arise during the preparation of digital documents used in graphic production. For the sake of simplicity, we will group them into five main categories:

  • Aesthetic flaws, for example, typographical errors.
  • Failures caused by applications, drivers, or operating systems.
  • Document failures caused by carelessness, inexperience, or lack of knowledge.
  • Failures caused by printing errors.
  • Mechanical failures caused, for example, by a poorly calibrated computer-to-plate.

The only way to control all these types of errors is by means of analogue proofing, but as this is done late in the production process, correcting the detected errors is very costly.

Therefore, it is preferable to follow a control plan from the beginning of the graphic process.


What is a press check?

This is when we are actually printing the job. Clients usually come into the press room and check that the press is working and that they are happy with a couple of sections or a specific sheet. Sometimes minor adjustments to the colour balance can be made, but most of the time the client will approve the colour as it comes out from the press.

Sometimes clients simply like the excitement of seeing the work in print and use it on social media to create anticipation among their audience.

Why is print proofing important?

Print proofing is important for several reasons. Firstly, it allows for verifying print quality and detecting any issues or errors before printing large quantities of documents.

This helps save time and money by avoiding the printing of defective or misaligned documents.

Furthermore, print proofing is especially important in the printing of designs or photographs as it allows for checking image quality and adjusting print settings if necessary, in order to achieve the desired results.

Another significant reason for conducting a print proof is to verify that printed colors are accurate and consistent. This is especially crucial for high-quality printing jobs such as publications, catalogs, and promotional materials.

Are print proofs free?

It will depend on the print shop you work with, but in most cases, a soft proof will be provided at no additional cost.

An actual printed proof may be provided for a fee if it includes many details or complexity, but a conversation with your print shop can give you a better understanding of your options.

It all depends on the level of accuracy your project entails. Your print shop will explain the costs associated with each proofing method and allow you to choose the one that suits you best.

Proofing is just one part of the printing process for which you should be prepared.

Professional printing for your business

A print proof is just one of the ways you can ensure that your printed materials will outshine your competition and impress your consumers.

And yes, we recommend seeking advice so that we can all reach the goal: a perfect print job.

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