During the design process, it’s hard to imagine what the finished work will look like. Some errors and design flaws can be ironed out before printing. But there’s no way of knowing how the colors, layout, graphics, and more will look in the final design – even the printing material can alter the color and accuracy. The solution is the printers proof.
A printers proof allows for final adjustments before mass production. Proofs are the closest thing to the real deal before it’s printed in all its glory. It’s the last chance to tweak, refine, and edit a design, potentially saving a company thousands of dollars if an error is caught before a design goes to print.
What is a Printers Proof?
The printers proof (or simply print proof) is a printed representation of the design prior to production. It’s used to check the contents, the accuracy of color, graphics, and images, or the final printing material.
Traditionally, the printer, designer, and client review this proof, allowing for final adjustments before full-scale printing commences. It ensures that all parties agree on the appearance and that the printed piece will meet the specified standards.
You’ll commonly find printer proof used for newspapers, leaflets, brochures, magazines, direct mail campaigns, and more. Designers supply a print to their clients to ensure satisfaction with the product before it’s reproduced on a larger scale.
Why a Printers Proof Matters
In a word, money. Few businesses can afford to waste money correcting print quality problems after going to the press. The proof isn’t just a preliminary print; it’s like the dress rehearsal before a play. It guarantees everything is correct for the main performance.
Designers, printers, and clients will want to ensure the following:
- Check for spelling, punctuation, or layout mistakes that might go unnoticed until the final print.
- See if the colors match the original design and align with the brand’s style. Depending on the print material, colors can appear duller or fail to provide a visual impact.
- By identifying errors early, the client saves the high costs associated with reprinting after a full run.
- Clients also want to physically review and approve the product. That helps ensure they’re happy with the final print and that all their requirements were met.
- Printers confirm their machines are correctly calibrated for the print job. A single technical issue could otherwise damage or affect the entire batch.
- As the final quality control (QC) step, it sets the standard for all subsequent prints, helping to maintain a benchmark throughout the process.
Digital vs. Traditional Proofing: What’s the Difference?
Not all printers proofs are the same. Broadly, there are two main types:
- Soft proofs (or screen proofs) are an electronic file, usually a PDF, created to see a high definition version of the printed piece digitally. These can be generated without cost and scrutinized for critical mistakes – like typos or layout issues. Then, after the mistakes are corrected, further soft proofs can be generated. They’re remarkably economical and commonly used for simple and straightforward designs.
- Hard proofs, on the other hand, are always physical, printed samples used to evaluate the design and printing firsthand. Often, they are used for complicated or large designs, e.g., a company brochure. Printers and designers will look at the pages, margins, and general construction for mistakes and see if the colors appear the same in the finished version.
Most significant printing jobs involve both soft and hard proofs. However, creating several hard proofs costs time and money. Soft or digital proofing innovations are faster and less expensive. Plus, with new proofing software, companies can get the document in front of more eyes, increasing the chance of spotting any mistakes.
A final hard proof becomes necessary only after a lengthier soft proofing stage (and only then for high-end print jobs where color fidelity is paramount).
How to Manage the Printers Proof Process
Managing the printers proof process involves balancing quality control with time and money. You want to catch as many errors as possible, ensuring the design meets the client’s expectations without spending weeks or months on a single brochure.
That’s where a clear, streamlined process can help:
- Pre-Proofing Check. The initial designers should rigorously review their design files. All elements, including the resolution of images, color palettes, and layout alignments, must be per the printer’s specifications and expectations.
- Complete a Soft Proof. You’ll want to create a soft proof for internal or external review. Using a digital proofing platform speeds up this process. Not only can everyone see the design, but they can annotate specific elements to highlight any issues or corrections. Clients can also add their changes prior to a hard proof. Revise and refine the document as necessary.
- Create a Hard Proof. Print out a hard copy of the design. Upon receiving it, inspect it in detail. Check for color accuracy, image clarity, and text errors. If possible, compare it against a calibrated reference.
- Final Approval. Once all changes have been remedied following a soft and hard proof, send it to the client for final approval. It’s time to proceed with a complete print run.
Soft or digital proofing saves companies valuable time and money. But don’t just rely on a PDF sent via email. Ashore is an online proofing platform created to allow easy collaboration and feedback. Designers can gather feedback from internal teams or send over a printers proof to the client.
Plus, individuals can annotate or comment on designs directly. No more confusing email threads or vague feedback. Pinpoint the exact error or change required.
Get started for FREE today – proofing has never been easier!