What to Look for on a Press
The following is a short list
of what to look for when reviewing press sheets at a press
inspection. An entire book could be written on this subject;
this is by no means a comprehensive list, just a brief overview.
- Make sure the paper is what
you ordered (weight, color, and finish).
- Make sure no images or copy
have been dropped, and check your last blueline against
the sheet to make sure all corrections have been made.
- Make sure all colors are
in register (spot colors as well as process colors). Start
by checking the registration marks, then check the rest
of the sheet with a loupe (linen tester, printer's glass).
- Fold the sheet to check crossovers.
Ask the pressman to fold and trim the press sheet by hand
into a signature. Make sure colors, as well as other elements,
match on crossovers.
- Check the proof for pleasing
color (particularly colors of such "memory"
elements as skin and grass).
- Match the sheet against the
last color proof.
- Check for broken type or
- Check for uneven color, particularly
in solids. Make sure color is consistent across the sheet.
Check screens and color builds.
- Check neutrals for any color
cast. Match the colors of the printed piece to the colors
of any companion pieces in a marketing package such as
brochures and envelopes.
- Look for printing errors
such as slurring, doubling, scumming, hickeys, ghosting,
mottling of colors, etc.
- Check everything one final
time for glaring errors and the overall look of the piece.
- Ask the printer to number the sheets
as pulled and ask that ink densities be noted on the sign-off
sheet. Remember that color will still vary slightly even
after you sign off on the job. Your sign-off sheet is
the goal, the "contract proof" to which the
printer will run the rest of your job. Keep a sample of
the final sign-off sheet so you can match it to the piece
once it has been delivered.
Defining Spot Colors in Page Layout Programs
Your color ink-jet printer can easily
produce a lovely color proof that will bear no resemblance
to what an offset press can print. Therefore, before you
hand off your disk and composite proof to your print provider,
check the following:
- If your job is to be printed
in process color (4CP), make sure you have defined your
color model as CMYK (not RGB). This option is usually
in the color definition dialog box in your page composition
software, usually under the edit menu. In the same box,
deselect spot color. Then print separations as well as
a 100 percent to-size composite of your file. You should
get four separate sheets of paper, one for each of C,
M, Y, and K (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black or "key").
- If your job is to be printed in
spot colors, make sure you have defined your color model
as Pantone Coated or Uncoated (or whatever other spot
color formulation you use). In the same box, select spot
color. Then print separations as well as a composite of
your file. You should get only as many pages as your spot
colors number (for example, one for black and one for
If your spot colors show up on process plates (sheets
of paper), or vice versa, the same will happen at your
printer. Using your ink-jet or laser printer, resolve
these issues before submitting your job.
As a final note, if you create vector
art in an illustration program and apply the same colors
to your drawing as you used in your page composition software,
your placed eps art should separate properly when you print
proofs. However, if the names of the colors given by your
illustration software and your page composition software
differ even by one character, items in these differently-named
colors will print on separate pages. Again, it is best to
see these problems in your separated proofs so you can correct
them before submitting the job to your offset printer.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]