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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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Book Printing: Checking the Final, Delivered Print Job

I just received advance copies of a print job I had brokered. It’s a 6” x 9” perfect-bound textbook, but it actually could have been any printed product. My approach would have been the same. I did what I always do first, whenever I receive samples. I checked them thoroughly for any flaws.

What to Look For When Checking Your Print Job

(For this kind of a job–a print book–this is how I always proceed):

  1. First I checked the overall physical status of a sample copy. That is, I checked to see if the print book had been trimmed evenly and squarely. I made sure all pages lay flat with no ripples in the paper. I made sure the binding glue had been evenly applied and was secure. Fortunately this was a sheetfed offset job, so there was no chance of web growth. (This is a flaw that occasionally appears when the web-printed interior pages of a book begin to grow beyond the flush-trimmed, sheetfed-printed cover. This is due to the heat of the web-offset ovens removing all moisture from the text pages and then the pages reabsorbing moisture after the text and cover have been trimmed.)
  2. I opened the book and flipped through the pages, first checking to make sure the pages all aligned. To do this I checked the running headers to make sure they didn’t jump up and down (like the pages of an old flip book) when I paged through the text.
  3. I checked the cover coating, and was pleased that it was of a high gloss, evenly coated, and without cracks at the folds. It made the 4-color imagery on the print book cover really “pop.”
  4. I checked the extensive reversed copy on the back of the book. Fortunately the background was a single PMS color, so there was no chance of any color plates being out of register. This would have potentially made the small reversed type hard to read. Reversing the type out of a single PMS color averted this potential problem. All text was crisp, and the bounding rule of a text box was clean (no ink spatter in the areas that should be white).
  5. I noted that the 4-color imagery on the front cover had a a good range of tones, from light to dark, and the photos were crisp and in focus. Even though the cover was a montage of three separate images, all of them looked good together in terms of highlights, shadows, overall value, and color.
  6. When I opened the print book again, I made sure the pages were tightly held in the binding and that they turned easily (i.e., the paper grain was parallel to, instead of perpendicular to, the binding).
  7. I checked the screens, bleeds, halftones, and text “color.” The text was all black throughout the book, but it was also evenly inked, so the overall “grayness” of the type was consistent on every page. The halftones had a good tonal range from highlights to shadows, and the area screens (on page dividers and within charts) were even and smooth. Overall, there was a sense that all halftones in the print book had a similar look, with no halftones overly light or dark. The same held true for changes in tone within maps and charts. I could see adequate distinction between the 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc., screens.

I expected this level of quality from this book printer, and I was pleased to see it. I felt confident when I contacted my client to see how she felt about her print job.

I Checked a Flaw My Client Had Identified

My client had initially reviewed a hard-copy color proof of the cover. She had then made changes and had requested a revised PDF virtual proof (or screen proof). Unfortunately, the type on the screen proof appeared to have thin rules around all type elements. Understandably, this concerned her. There wasn’t time in the schedule for her to see a revised hard-copy proof, and the printer assured me that the apparent rule lines were only an anomaly. They would not appear on the final, printed covers. They existed only on the virtual proof. So when I saw the final printed book, I checked all type on all covers.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. The first thing to remember is that when the cartoned print job arrives, it is your responsibility to check closely to ensure its high quality. If there are unreasonable flaws, this is the time to address them with your print rep to determine whether a reprint or discount is in order. Check a number of random copies in a number of randomly chosen cartons. In most cases everything will be fine, but in the few instances when it’s not, you need to address the issues immediately.
  2. Approach all jobs this way, not just books. Look closely at your printed newsletters, screen-printed t-shirts, posters—everything. Make sure they are exactly as you had expected.
  3. Check both the physical properties (size, paper, folding, trimming, etc.) and printing qualities of a job.
  4. Look critically at all color work. Check trapping and register and the overall look of 4-color imagery. Check the evenness of screens and color solids. Make sure any repeating elements, like color bars, are consistent throughout the job. And make sure the overall appearance of full-color photos is lifelike and consistent with the original artwork.
  5. Make sure that any issues identified during proof reviews have been corrected to your satisfaction.
  6. Take the time to do this thorough review immediately upon receipt of a print job. The job is not yours to distribute—or pay for—until you have taken delivery and accepted the product.
  7. Keep in mind that in most cases you will be pleased with the job as long as you have chosen the printer wisely, checked references, and reviewed his printed samples carefully.
  8. If something does go wrong, a good printer’s rep will do everything in her/his power to remedy the situation to your satisfaction.

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