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Do You Have a Proof Approval Policy?

May 1, 2020 | High Velocity Printers, Productivity

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the things that get printed incorrectly every year? Now, if you’re a print shop, you should already know, but if you’re a designer or agency, you likely haven’t given it much thought. 

When something comes out the wrong color or contains a misspelling, it unfortunately cannot be used by the customer. Sometimes, if the end product has a purpose (journals, rulers, drawstring bags, toys, etc.), these items can be donated or sold at a discount. In fact, there’s a whole online industry for selling incorrectly printed products. If your finished product is something like a banner, flyers or other custom products that cannot be used by anyone else, then those usually end up being thrown away or recycled. 

No matter what happens to the botched end products, the proof still needs to be sent through production again – hopefully with the appropriate corrections. It’s never fun when work you have already completed has to be redone; that’s why there’s a proofing process to begin with. Once a design has been sent to print on products, it costs a lot of money to fix a mistake. To make sure things are done right the first time, all parties – customers, designers and printers – should have the opportunity to carefully review proofs and give their approval. 

Even though that’s what everybody should be doing, it doesn’t always mean that that’s what everybody is actually doing. By implementing a proof approval policy, you’ll be able to ensure that all approvers understand what their responsibilities are during the proofing process and cover your business in the event a mistake makes it to production. 

The Essentials of a Proof Approval Policy

Much like any other policies you already have on the books, your proof approval policy will be similar to those of other businesses, but also specific to your own needs and processes. In general, this is a basic breakdown of what your policy needs to be successful. 

A Statement of Responsibility

The purpose of a statement of responsibility is to make it clear to your customers that you cannot be held liable for sample errors that make it to production if they’ve given their approval for a proof. While it’s the responsibility of professional designers and printers to ensure that everything is done correctly on their end, they can’t be expected to know if the address that will be printed on business cards is correct or if the colors used do or don’t align with a customer’s new brand colors. The statement can be something simple such as: 

“[Print company] cannot be held responsible for any errors on proofs that you sign and approve. In addition, we cannot be held responsible for any damages that may be incurred as a result of the error or mistake after the order has been printed and accepted by the customer.”

Delineate Responsibilities

 You may be thinking that the above statement of responsibility actually states what you aren’t responsible for. It may also be wise to clearly articulate what each party is responsible for in regards to a proof, as well. 


  • Responsible for submitting correctly prepared artwork to printers
  • Responsible for understanding the printing process well enough to prevent any obvious issues


  • Responsible for flagging up any potential issues that are beyond the obvious
  • Responsible for printing, trimming and packing the job to an acceptable level


  • Responsible for supplying text and images that are without fault
  • Responsible for checking the text and images of any artwork the designer sends to them

Explain How to Proof

For those of us who are lucky enough to have the proofing process as a daily fixture of our lives, the act of proofing may seem obvious. For amateur proofers though, they may not know what to do with all of this power. That’s why you need to be clear in your proof approval policy about why customers need to look over proofs as well as the specific design elements they need to focus on.

Depending on the kind of products you create, they may need to check for:

Spelling: Misspellings are one of the easiest mistakes to overlook, so approvers need to pay careful attention, lest they end up like Notre Dame’s “Figthing Irish”. 

Colors: Approvers should be sure to check that both image and item colors match those initially provided in the project brief. However, since digital proofing is an online activity, and all monitors are a little different when it comes to colors, digital colors on a proof may not be a perfect match. 

Sizing: The size of everything in relation to one another is both simple and complex. Approvers should check that logos and images are not too big or blurry, but there are smaller things too, such as the size of fonts, page breaks and the bleed around a proof.

Placement: The placement of things may be something that requires a keen eye, especially if approvers zoom in or out on a proof. Obviously, you should check for the placement of images and logos on the item, but don’t forget to consider other placement issues such as the spacing between letters and lines of copy. 

How to Report Errors & Mistakes

Your approval policy should also consider how customers will report errors or mistakes, should they find them. If your proofing process involves a lot of emailing back and forth, reporting changes can get pretty confusing. You wouldn’t be learning about proof approval policies if that wasn’t true. 

Make sure your policy gives customers a clear understanding of how giving feedback and approval will work. Will it be by email? Do you have a software program, and will they need to make an account somewhere? Make sure these questions are answered before their neck-deep in the process. 

If you have a software that allows for easy digital proofing, easy markups and commenting features, all feedback will be received and documented. If not, then your policy should also explain how feedback will be documented to prove your due diligence in ensuring all mistakes were corrected. You want to do what you can to avoid a “he said; she said” scenario in which they claim you were made aware of an issue and failed to fix it before production. 

The Best Way to Bolster Your Proofing Process

A proof approval policy will introduce regularity and accountability into the back-and-forth process of reviewing and approving samples headed for the printer. It won’t solve all of your problems, though. 

By adopting a proofing software, you’ll finally be able to leave the long email threads behind. Ashore – with its array of features from automated workflows to version control and real-time proof timelines – will revolutionize your approval process. Our users have seen their proofs approved 50% faster and with less rounds of revision than typical email-based proofing. 

And, with our E-signature feature, you’ll know that your approvers have checked and double-checked for spelling, images, placement and anything else you add to your checklist. 

To get the exclusive, inside scoop on all Ashore’s capabilities and start learning your way around Ashore, create a free account today!

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