When you’re designing something for print like a brochure, flyer or business card it seems like a simple process.  When creating a file for print you design things up so that they look good on screen, you take the file in and the printer will hand over a final product that matches the artwork you supplied perfectly…..

Stop! Check the proof!

That rarely happens…

There are two distinct concepts that will undoubtedly leave you disappointed if not respected and checked over before giving the printer the go ahead:  An error made by you or an error made by the printer.

So consider asking during your initial chat “can I please see a color correct proof before printing?”, here’s why from a few angles…

The Error Made By You

Let’s face it, nobody is perfect and I guarantee you will make an error at some point in your graphic design endeavour.

The only major hurdle is once you send off that file and get 1,000 business cards or 10,000 flyers everything will be ‘set in stone’ – unlike a website you can’t go back and fix up typos.  The worst part, you created the file and supplied it, so you have to pay for the reprint – this can be costly if it happens on a regular basis.

Having a printed proof gives you a convenient way of checking and spotting your own errors.


An Error Made by the Printer

This one you may not necessarily have to pay for, but it can make things awkward or tense if you spot something the printer has missed which could have easily been avoided.

As a designer in a print shop I’ve heard many people complain that the color printed was not correct and ‘it doesn’t look like that on the screen!’.  To some degree there is a standard of color you should be able to aim for, but ultimately with the vast amount of different between printers and monitors out there you can never rely on  a monitor as a accurate display of color.

On the other hand, the printer may simply misinterpret your order and produce the wrong product entirely.  Most printers would be willing to replace a product if the error was theirs but when time is a factor this may not work well for you.

Mistakes will happen!

What to look out for on a printed proof.

The first thing you should do is check all of the content of your job – text, phone numbers, etc.  You can do this on your monitor but it always pays to check the printed copy and this is also a good time to make sure that what is being printed is legible in terms of size and font.  You’ll get more accurate results if you have someone else read out the original copy while you read the proof (or vice versa)

As mentioned earlier, you may be able to check the colors depending on the print process.  If the printer is offset the chances of getting an accurate proof are minimal with paying a fair chunk of money.

A digital printer (which is what most print shops are getting into these days for smaller jobs like business cards and brochures) is much easier to produce a color accurate proof as they print one sheet of your job out on the exact same printer the final product will be printed with.  Just make sure you check with the printing company whether or not the color is accurate on the proof.

Check your images for general quality.  This means the resolution of the photos (they should be 300dpi or more), as well as skin tones, and the overall look and feel of them.  You still have the opportunity to make adjustments before the job is printed so checking the proof for this is a prime opportunity.

Check the job details – this less about the proof and more about signing off and being absolutely certain  that you’re getting what you want.  The proof can be an obvious indicator of error in job details, if a proof is delivered to you in black & white as opposed to color, at the wrong size or even the wrong file altogether you have the chance to remedy the error.  The paper may also be worth checking but most proofs may be printed on a different stock to the final job.

Everyone makes mistakes!

If possible, retain a copy of the proof.

Once approved, it’s always good to hold onto a copy of the proof.  If you receive the final product with a mistake on it, check against the proof – you may have missed it or something may have happened during the printing process.  Either way, this proof will help you determine where the error was made so you can get a free reprint if needed.

Another good reason may be that you find an error after approval and you may just be in time to get it fixed before print.  Be certain to check and double check before approval though, as a lot of printers find it very irritating when a job is approved and then having to wait for changes to be made to it.  This is because they may have to reconfigure the print run or schedule with the job being pulled out of the print queue. The smoother things run the better!

You may still miss errors in your file…

…as the proofing process is designed to minimize error, and cannot guarantee an error free print.  So if you do receive a print job with an error on it, don’t beat yourself up.  You’re only human!