During a proof print review, designers, proofreaders, and clients take a final look at a document before committing it to final production. This is the last line of defense against potential print errors.
Usually, teams can perform several different kinds of proof printing, such as low-resolution proofs (to check for content), digital proofs (to analyze the color, graphics, and images), or, most costly, a hard or wet proof (to see the end result).
Throughout this process, ensuring a detailed and meticulous inspection of the print reduces the risk of errors that can lead to expensive reprints.
In this step-by-step guide, we’ll cover how to effectively review proof prints, common issues to look for, collaboration best practices, and some insider tips.
The Importance of Proof Prints
Proof prints minimize the risks involved during the printing process. Any errors or mistakes are locked in once committed for a full printing run. Only by carefully reviewing the document beforehand can companies make the best use of their time and resources.
During the proofing process, all parties should check:
- Verifying Color Accuracy: Ensuring the colors match the original design.
- Text Clarity: Checking for any typographical errors or font issues.
- Image Quality: Assessing the resolution and placement of images.
- Material Feel: Feeling the paper or material weight and texture.
- Overall Design Assessment: Confirming the layout, margins, and bleed are as intended.
It’s not just about cost. Some industries, like magazines or newspapers, don’t have time to perform a reprint. Instead, by proofing, they guarantee the final product meets the desired quality standards and doesn’t reflect poorly on the company.
How to Review a Proof Print
Reviewing a proof print isn’t a quick process. Too often, professionals breeze through a review, seeing it as a waste of time. However, the proof is the final representation of the design and should be approached systematically to ensure accuracy and quality.
Indeed, the proofing process should be standardized, and the checks should be ticked off methodically to prevent any mistake from going unnoticed.
Follow these steps (depending on the type of proof print):
- Compare with the Original Design. If you’re dealing with a hard copy, compare the printed version against the original digital design. Look to see if the layout, text, and images align precisely. Moreover, see if the colors have been translated accurately into the real version.
- Check the Text. Reading all the text isn’t just about typographical errors (or, worse, grammatical mistakes); it’s also about font consistency and spacing. Pay close attention to line breaks, paragraph alignment, and kerning.
- Assess Color Accuracy. Confirm that the color in the proof matches the original color specifications. Using a specific calibrated color-proofing system may be necessary for color-critical designs. Otherwise, ensure the colors work as part of the overall design and that there are no errors in the printing process.
- Inspect Images and Graphics. Evaluate the resolution and quality of the images and graphics. In particular, look for blurring, pixelation, or any other printing problems.
- Examine Paper Quality. Feel the material to assess its weight and texture. Will the paper hold up to the task? Does it meet the client’s specifications?
- Final Layout Check. Last, ensure the margins and trim areas are correct. All design elements should be within the safe zone to avoid being cut off during the final print.
In addition, as you’re going through each step, some common issues often go overlooked. These include:
- Color deviation from the expected colors, either due to monitor calibration or the printing process.
- Font replacements can occasionally occur if they aren’t embedded or provided to the printer.
- Low-resolution images can appear blurry or pixelated during the hard proof print.
- Confirm that bleed and crop marks are present and accurate to ensure a clean final cut.
- Check that the pages are in order and numbered correctly (especially important for lengthy documents).
How to Collaborate During a Review
Reviewing a hard proof can only be done in person, or else a copy must be sent to a client for final review. To avoid constant back and forth, a rigorous soft copy stage can highlight the majority of changes.
Online proofing software can rapidly speed up this process, streamlining feedback and expediting approvals. Not only do these platforms allow multiple stakeholders to annotate directly on the digital proof, but they also centralize all changes and feedback in real-time. That means no long email chains, no vague feedback, and no working on the wrong version.
Users can also highlight areas of concern, add notes, and even discuss changes collaboratively. Pinpointing issues directly in the proof print means no confusion over suggested alterations.
Oh, and with reviews allocated within the system, everyone (including clients) must complete their review on time.
Top Tips for the Proof Print Review Stage
Proofing the print is only as successful as the review process. Unless you’ve got a clear system in place, it’s easy for it to turn into a complicated cacophony of opposing opinions. Set clear goals and keep to a checklist. Try these top tips for your proof print:
- Prioritize Critical Elements: For extra scrutiny, identify key components such as logos and contact details.
- Cross-Reference Originals: Always have the original design at hand for direct comparison.
- Use Proofing Checklists: Develop a checklist specific to the project to ensure all aspects are reviewed.
- Engage Multiple Reviewers: Different perspectives can catch issues that one person might overlook.
- Note Environmental Factors: Consider how lighting or display context might affect the final appearance.
- Clarify Changes: Use clear, concise language to communicate any revisions needed.
- Be Systematic: Work through the proof in a logical order to ensure no part is missed.
- Check Legal Compliance: Verify that all required disclaimers and copyrights are present and correct.
- Mind the Bleed: Ensure images and backgrounds extend beyond the cut line to avoid white edges.
Ashore is an online proofing platform designed to centralize the proof print review process, enabling easier collaboration and quality control. Sign up today to try out the platform for free.