A brief guide to print proofs: which proof do you need for your artwork design?
PDF proof? Hard copy proofs? Wet copy proofs? What’s the difference? And what is a print proof, anyway?
Here’s our quick guide to proofs; and which type you should be using for your print artwork....
What are proofs?
A proof is a recreation of how your design will look when it’s printed. Proofs are prepared by printing companies to check everything is in order before going to print; the proof is then sent to the client (along with any recommendations for changes) to make sure they’re 100% happy with the design as it will be printed. It’s basically the same as proofreading a novel before publishing it.
Proofs are important for catching any possible mistakes in the design - including any layout issues, spelling mistakes, typography errors and colour problems - so that they can be fixed before going to print. There’s nothing more frustrating than spotting a tiny mistake in your design after you’ve just received ten thousand printed copies of it.
What is a PDF proof?
A PDF proof (otherwise known as a soft proof) is a digital proof, which is typically saved in PDF format and emailed from the printing company to the client so they can see how their print will look on-screen.
The proof will likely include printer’s marks to indicate where your artwork will be trimmed, so you can check if your artwork has any potential bleed or safety margin issues before going to print. (Obviously, any printer’s marks on the PDF proof won’t appear on the final printed item.)
Do I need a PDF proof?
Absolutely! PDF proofs provide an opportunity to catch any errors with layout, page order, resolution, spelling and grammar. Most print shops (including us here at Better Printing) will always provide at least a PDF proof free with every print order. If your printer doesn’t send you a PDF proof before going to print, you’ll probably want to think about switching to a print provider who does.
However, keep in mind that you’ll be viewing the PDF proof on your own device’s monitor, and the settings and calibration of your monitor won’t necessarily match those of the printer’s computer.
That means it’s impossible to get a completely accurate representation of how your design’s colours will look in print by viewing a PDF proof alone. If colour accuracy is important for your design, you’re better off requesting a hard copy proof...
What is a hard copy proof?
Unlike a digital PDF proof, a hard copy proof (sometimes known as a paper copy) is supplied as a printed paper document. Hard copies are produced using a colour-calibrated digital inkjet printer and are typically printed on paper (which may or may not match the substrate material of the product you’re printing).
Do I need a hard copy proof?
A hard copy proof is not essential, but if you’re printing your product via digital printing, it can provide a much better representation of print colours (which may be important for photo-heavy items such as posters, magazines and brochures).
Most products at Better Printing can be printed on either digital printing technology or on litho offset printing presses depending on your print quantity, requirements and personal preference; if your product is being printed on the former, your hard copy proof will be almost identical to the final product.
If you’re printing on litho, a hard copy still offers a good representation of your design’s colours - but it still doesn’t offer 100% accuracy (particularly if you’re printing on a different material, such as uncoated paper stock). Thankfully, there’s another proof that does offer 100% colour accuracy for litho prints…
What is a wet copy proof?
A wet copy proof is printed on a lithographic press, using the same material and the same inks as the final printed product. This means the wet proof will look exactly the same as the finished item.
Do I need a wet copy proof?
Wet copy proofs are costly to produce, so they’re not really an economical choice for most printed marketing materials (especially as they often have a short shelf life and they’re typically produced in smaller quantities).
However, if you’re looking to print a high-profile item in large quantities, and colour accuracy is vital for the product in question, it often pays to get a wet copy proof before going to print.
Better Printing can provide all three types of proof; plus we provide a free artwork checking service for complete peace of mind. Get in touch with us on 023 8087 8037 to find out more!