Is there a way to proof color online electronically?

Is there a way to proof color online electronically? I understand that there is a press proof software package from Integrated Solutions. Have you heard of this? We are trying to proof content, format and color electronically with the goal of eliminating the expense of traveling out of state to our supplier.

J. S.

There are literally dozens of products out there for proofing color online. Surprisingly, the most commonly used one is free: Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Acrobat Professional, which is NOT free, allows printers to create PDF files that can be annotated with Acrobat Reader. That means you can put little stick notes on your proofs and send them back for the printer to follow. One complaint is that high resolution print production PDF files are not tiny like the ones that are low resolution files for web use. But they are a LOT smaller than standard CT/LW (continuous tone and linework) files. A typical print quality PDF page might range from 500k-5mb depending on the graphic content and amount of compression applied. Usually these are sent as vector files for proofing meaning the text will be very sharp.

With proper monitor calibration and profiling, you can actually use PDF to give a pretty good approximation of color. It's not something most people would want to do for color critical jobs, but the tools are there to create reasonable assurance of color match if you and your printer know how to use them.

Integrated Color Solutions offers a product called Remote Director which is several levels beyond an Acrobat PDF. It provides a server hosted web-based interactive collaborative environment with many layers of functionality including mark-up and instant feedback and email notification. They also offer Press OK, which is a wide format ink-jet printer that can be installed at remote locations to print digital "press proofs" generated through Remote Director. Remote Director is a subscription plan and a 120 proof per month license is $12,000 annually. It's a great product.

There are many similar products out there. Some are subscription plans and some are turn-key systems, generally hosted by the printer or service bureau.

For many users, these systems are a great value in the long run, and they are right for, you, by all means, check them out. But they are several magnitudes more expensive than Acrobat Professional (let alone Reader), and may be overkill particularly if you are not looking for critical color. Before spending big bucks for such a system, consider what it is you need to do that Acrobat can't handle.

And by the way, if you think sheet size is an issue, Acrobat 7 can happily accommodate a 30x40 press sheet.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at
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