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Tell Right From Wrong With All These Types of Printing Proofs

November 14, 2019 | High Velocity Printers

When it comes to design, copywriting, or really any sort of creation during your job, there is likely an approval process that goes along with it. When it comes to printing, however, the stakes get a little higher. While it’s embarrassing to find a typo on your website copy, you can easily fix it. Not so much the 500 brochures you just printed and are handing out at a major event. 

That’s where proofing comes into play. As a print shop, it helps to have the complete confidence of your clients, and the way to do that is with the transparency of the proofing process. 

Why Proof?

When it comes to printing, you want to get the job done well – and that means checking over the designs before going to print. Errors popping up after printing can strain relationships with customers, and cause you a lot of grief to hurriedly reprint an updated version. It’s easiest to avoid that by providing a proof and receiving feedback prior to printing. 

There are some proofing questions that are unique to print proofing and some that are more universal. When it comes to prompting your clients, however, we have a list of concerns that you can bring up with them, so that they get the best possible proof. 

When looking at a proof, clients should ask themselves: 

  • Are any photos placed correctly? Have they been cropped and scaled as desired? 
  • Are content blocks and graphics placed accurately?
  • Are there any grammar issues or typos?
  • Are bleeds, perforations and folds indicated properly?
  • Are any borders and trim correctly sized and placed?
  • Is pagination correct?
  • Are the colors correct?
  • Are the screen values correct?

There are different types of printing proofs, and some of them lend themselves better to some of these questions than others. Below, we’ll talk about what some of those different types are and what they can be used for.

Types of Proofs

Soft Proofs

Soft proofs are one of two overarching types of printing proofs. Soft proofs are digital. Usually, a soft proof refers to a PDF. Because no printing is required, they can be inexpensive and quick to produce, leading to a quick turnaround for the project.

Good for: image placement, text placement, typos and grammar

Bad for: color checking – PDFs don’t maintain color on different screens

Digital Prepress Proofs

Another type of soft proof, digital prepress proofs are created using the files that will be sent to print. This means they’re going to be high quality and color accurate. 

Good for: color accuracy, seeing what the final product will look like

Bad for: sending over email – usually a large file size

Hard Proofs

A hard proof is one of the other main types of printing proofs. Hard proof refers to a printed proof, a physical version. Usually, when referring to a hard proof, the object will be printed in a lower quality and lack certain characteristics of a final product. 

Good for: understanding dimensions and the final product

Bad for: having an exact idea of the final product or knowing final print quality

Press Proofs

Press proofs are one of the most expensive types of proof. The proof is printed on the final paper or surface, with the press and other equipment fully set up to do the final run. Any changes at this stage of proofing sends the proof back to prepress.

Good for: a final look, seeing what the actual product will look like

Bad for: the budget (if you do multiple rounds of press proofs)

Plotter Proofs

A plotter proof will be printed relatively cheaply, on something like an inkjet printer. This type of printing proof can also be trimmed or bound up to convey what the final product will look like. However, not all issues will show up on a plotter, such as color accuracy.

Good for: understanding sizing and dimensionality of final product

Bad for: color accuracy, image quality


Bluelines exist only to show pagination. These are most often used for book printing. You can check for typos or grammar on this type of proof, but because they are generally entirely blue, color accuracy is not the goal. This type can also be sent digitally as a soft proof.

Good for: layout, pagination, books

Bad for: image quality, color accuracy

Soft Proofing Your Way to Print

A good portion of business today is done digitally. Soft proofs save a great amount of time, and many clients prefer that quick turnaround. A simple PDF can easily get the job done well, especially when perfect color accuracy isn’t an issue at this stage in the process. Of the two main types of printing proofs, soft proofs also have a lot of online support – software made just for proofing and keeping track of comments and versions. 

Ashore, as an online proofing software, isn’t going to be much help with your press proofs. However, we’ve got the toolkit you need for any type of soft proof – from a quick PDF, JPEG, IMG or a larger digital prepress proof. We offer markup tools, contextualized comments and version control to make your soft proofing a snap. Sign up for a free account today, and start hailing your proofs ashore!

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