How do I find a good in-house proofing system?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre Press Manager and Writer

I have been asked to investigate in-house proofing systems. My company has two graphic designers and one production/print manager. We design typical association marketing materials, to include conference brochures, membership campaigns, and an assortment of products.

Are there programs that would allow my designers to distribute proofs to multiple users for review and have those users make corrections to proofs?


The key to this answer is based on your desire to submit proofs to multiple users for comment and correction. Depending on how sophisticated you want to do this, and how much money you want to spend, a full version of Acrobat Professional 7.0 and some copies of Reader might be all that you need. The program allows you to use color profiles (you will need to make sure all monitors are calibrated if you are looking at critical color). The program also gives you the ability to make comments with "sticky notes" for review. And it allows the comments to be read and responded to (but not created) in the free Acrobat Reader product.

More sophisticated systems like Kodak's (Creo) Synapse allow you to collaborate in real time with several clients in remote locations. But such systems run many thousands of dollars. You can also use a service like Real Time Images (also owned by Kodak now) and use the services through a standard web browser for a monthly fee and set up charge.

The size of your company and the nature of the work you do makes it sound as though a simple PDF-based system would be more suitable to your needs. You don't say what your design program is, or if you use more than one. Adobe InDesign and Quark 7.0 are very good/excellent in maintaining the integrity of your files when exporting as PDF. Quark 6 has some color management issues and PDF export issues (particularly with transparency) which may be problematic.

Remote proofing (using profiled inkjet printers at remote sites) is another possibility, but that brings a whole different set of issues. At this point, let it suffice to say that designers and printers are doing this successfully with relatively inexpensive proofers like the Epson 4800, but making and maintaining good profiles for printers and monitors is essential to making it work.

One important caveat: to use such a PDF proofing system, your designers need to be proficient at writing good PDF files. If you are already supplying PDF to your printers, you are already there. If not, you might want to get some input from your printer on how to make good PDF to start with.

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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