When you place your job for printing, you want to be confident that what you’re seeing on screen is what you’re going to get in your finished product. Proofs are the closest you’re probably going to get before you see the finished printed item dropped on your desk. So here we look at the options available.
The issue here is that throughout the design phase of your project, the chances are you’ve probably not been viewing the project in true-colour anyway. If your project has been designed on a computer, the monitor of the computer needs to be pantone-true and calibrated to ensure very close colour reproduction of the finished item. So if you’ve been viewing on your non-calibrated PC or Mac monitor, then the chances are the colour you’ve been viewing (and are probably expecting from the finished job) is wildly inaccurate from the off.
It’s also worth noting that an image viewed on any monitor screen, even a calibrated one, is from a transmitted rather than reflected light source, which is how the eye views colour on paper. So there will always be some difference between colours on-screen during the design phase and after printing, on-paper.
However, assuming you’ve managed your own expectations and have the pantone references for key colours (such as your company branding and the most important colours/pages in your printing project), then here are the type of proofing options available to you.
Low-resolution or Content Proof
These are typically created on an inkjet printer and aren’t at all colour accurate. They’re very useful to get an idea of the overall impression and the integrity of the pictures and text – and to check the layout. But they are not true representations of the finished printed colour quality.
Used in the design process – these proofs are 90% colour/image accurate. They display areas that are of particular importance to the customer placed randomly on the paper (hence the name) and are useful in checking colour integrity
These are very rarely used in commercial printing due to cost/time constraints, but worth a mention. A wet proof (see below) whereby the four process colours used in a job are printed out to allow the client to see the exact colours of the final job.
High-res Digital Proof (aka Cromalins)
A ‘standard’ proof that’s 90% colour accurate and used by the client to get a sense of what the finished printed job will look like. Digital proofs can proof any number of colours but Pantone colours don’t always reproduce accurately.
The most accurate (and costly!) proofs with can be used to proof both four colour and special colour jobs. Wet proofs use the exact paper and inks to be used in the final job and therefore give an exact representation of the finished job.
It’s worth noting that high-res digital & scatter proofs are generally deemed as colour accurate within the constraints of the printing equipment/process/substrate/inks used – all of which vary from the final printed copy.