Printing and Design Tips: August 2010, Issue #109

Non-Approval Proof

What is a non-approval proof, and why would you want one? It sounds like a contradiction in terms.

Let's say you requested a full set of proofs for a case-bound book. The screens of type and the background screens look darker than you had intended, and you are concerned about readability. You don't want a nasty surprise when the $25,000 job delivers (written in stone, as they say). Your printer says the screens really aren't that dark. It's just the proof. You want to trust him.

Let's say the first proof, which may well be a position-only proof, is not the printer's only option for you. A higher quality proof exists ("level-1" rather than "level-3," for instance). You want to make sure that the screens will be acceptable when the casebound books deliver, but you are concerned that adding another proof set into the schedule will compromise the press date. The schedule is tight, and even a day's delay could move the press date back a week or more.

What do you do? You request the level-1, higher quality proof (of three or four pages, to show various examples of the screened type and background screens), but you request them as a "non-approval proof." The proofs will be sent to you, but the printer will not wait for your approval before proceeding (if he considers the screens to be acceptable).

A client of mine recently did this at my suggestion. The client saw that the screens would be acceptable in the final printing, and the schedule was not altered. That said, the printer still planned to wait a few days prior to actually printing the job, so my client had the best of all situations. The schedule didn't change, but if the revised "non-approval proof" had been unacceptable, my client could still have stopped the printer from proceeding.

F&G's: The Last Chance Before Binding

Closely related to a "non-approval proof" is the F&G, which stands for "folded and gathered." Basically, this is a complete printed book (a stack of signatures) that has not yet been trimmed to size and that has not yet been bound into the hard-cover casing.

Why would you want one?

Another client of mine asked just this question about a yearly publication over the course of several years, although they still requested one at my suggestion. (Usually the printer provides F&G's for free.) One year the F&G's arrived, and an entire signature of the book had been printed lighter than the other signatures. It was clear that the printer had caused the error (not my client). Therefore, the printer went ahead and reprinted the signature (32 pages multiplied by the entire press run).

Had the F&G step not been in place, and had the books been delivered with this error, the printer would have needed to collect the cartons of books from my client, reprint the individual signature, and either tear off the covers to reassemble the book or start the printing process over again. Having my client review F&G's of the casebound book allowed the printer to merely reprint the signature and proceed with collating and case binding. In addition to saving the printer a lot of money, this interim proof saved the schedule, which would have been obliterated by a total reprint.

Backing Up a Sheet

When your printer produces a job on regular sheetfed equipment, the press sheet leaves the press with only one side printed. (This is not true for perfecting sheetfed presses and web presses, which print both sides at once.) Once the printed sheets exit the press, your printer sets aside the stack of paper so the ink can dry.

After the ink dries, your printer "backs up the sheet." That is, he prints the opposite side of the job (or the opposite side of the press form).

Backing up the sheet seems like a simple operation, but it actually reflects the tight control the printer has over all the moving parts in his huge press. If the back of the press sheet were not precisely aligned with the front of the press sheet, then folding the final printed job into a brochure would shift the text and images totally out of alignment. There might be too large a margin on one side of the brochure, and part of the "live matter" photos and text might be crooked or trimmed right through the middle of the type.

The vast majority of the time this doesn't happen, because your print provider can position the type and photos exactly, when he backs up the sheet—even on a press operating at 12,000 impressions per minute. That’s why working with a skilled print provider is crucial.

[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.]