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How has proofing changed in the past year?

How has proofing changed in the past year? Are print buyers expecting something different from their suppliers regarding proofing than they have in the past?

Proofing is in the process of a dramatic change! The big change is in soft-proofing, and it makes a lot of sense in several ways. With the broad acceptance of color management and printer and monitor profiles it is no more difficult to proof with a computer monitor than to proof on a sheet of paper. In fact, when proofing to paper, an additional variable enters the equation. With monitor proofs, you are seeing a first generation digital copy.

Of course tight calibration and consistent process controls are vital to accurate soft-proofs, but that is no different from "hard" proofs. All of the elements of room lighting and other viewing conditions that conspire to give inaccurate color representation for proofing are actually easier to control with monitor proofs. The viewer will be much more likely to see the file under improper conditions if they are free to look at it under the florescent lights in their office, then carry it out to a client who might be using incandescent lights while the pre-press and press departments view the same proof under color balanced lighting. The difference can be extreme!

Several soft-proof systems have now been certified by SWOP (Standards for Web Offset Printing) and other standards organizations. They really are that good. You will want to make sure that any soft-proof system you use is certified and that all monitors used are calibrated on an ongoing basis.

Of course the biggest reason to use soft-proofs is the savings. Those sheets of paper most people are still using for proofs cost a lot of money to produce. If you are still hesitant, consider that many printers are actually using monitor proofs in the press room.

Soft-proofing is still used for a very small fraction of proofs, and not all printers are equipped to offer the service. But those numbers are growing rapidly.

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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