Printing & Design Tips: December 2001, Issue #5

Reviewing a Blueline Proof

What should you look for when reviewing the blueline your printer sends you?

Remember that this proof has been made from the final film from which plates will be made. Keep changes to a minimum. They will be expensive.

First, compare everything in the blueline with the laser proofs you provided. Isolate the items you are checking (complete copy, accurate line breaks, photo cropping, etc.) and then check each in a separate pass. You will be less likely to miss errors this way.

Make sure all pages are complete (no dropped copy or images). Make sure typefaces have not changed due to missing fonts, and check line breaks for accuracy. Don't forget to check folios to make sure all pages are in their proper order.

Check margins; alignment of type on facing pages; and crossovers of type, rule lines, and photos on facing pages.

Review the photos to make sure they are in their proper place, cropped accurately, of pleasing contrast with crisp focus, and with no visible flaws or blemishes. If you have flopped any photos, check one final time to make sure you have not flopped type (nametags with backward names and logos, for instance). If the photos do not show sufficient contrast or detail on the blueline, you can always request a white print (Velox), also created from the final film from which the job will be printed.

Check color placement (the printer should have noted areas that will be in PMS colors, and the blueline should show color differences as different shades of blue). If color placement is complex, consider requesting a color proof (digital or film-based).

Measure the trim size of the final proof and check all folds for accuracy. Also look for hand-written notations from the printer showing placement of perforations, diecuts, embossing, foil stamping, etc.

Ensure that all changes to the prior proof have been incorporated.

Circle any blemishes (broken type, dust spots, etc.). It is better to be excessive in noting flaws rather than to assume the flaws are just in the blueline.

Directly on the blueline, write any instructions to your printer in clear language in a contrasting ink color, and include any questions you have as well.

Check the sign-off sheet that accompanies the blueline to make sure the colors to be used, the press run, etc., are as you expect.

Check the entire proof from the point of view of the reader. Is everything clear? Does it flow smoothly? This is not the time to redesign the piece, but it is cheaper to fix a major flaw even at the film stage than to reprint the job later.

Proofing Options Beyond Bluelines

What proofing options exist beyond bluelines for reviewing color work?

Digital color proofs based on dye sublimation, thermal wax, ink-jet, and toner (laser) technology are constantly being improved. For direct-to-plate work they are essential (since no film exists), but for pleasing (as opposed to showcase) color work, they are often acceptable and are much cheaper than film-based proofs. For critical work in which plates are created from film, depend only on laminate proofs.

Laminate proofs are created from film and are composed of dyes or toners on transparent film sheets bonded (laminated) together to form one piece. Often they can be bonded to the paper on which your job will be printed. Since they do not show dot gain, and since many laminate proofs are glossy, these proofs will usually look slightly better than the final printed piece. Use these proofs for critical color work.

They are far more accurate than digital proofs. Of course, for direct-to-plate printing, these are not an option.

Overlay proofs, which are cheaper than laminate proofs, adequately show trapping and color placement. However, colors are not always accurate if you have included PMS colors in your project. Overlay proofs are composed of separate sheets of transparent film, one for each color, taped together at the top of the proof. You can lift up each sheet to see how the colors will look individually and together.

For absolutely critical work, the only proof that shows what the final print job will look like is a press proof: actual ink on paper. This is the most expensive alternative, but it will accurately show how the paper will affect the colors, folding, etc., of your job.

[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.]