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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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: Things to Consider When Checking a Proof

A book printing client of mine reviewed the hard-copy proofs of her job today, and a few issues came up that I thought you might find interesting and instructive. She found four pages that needed simple text edits and one correction on the back cover of the print book.

My client also noted a comment from the book printer that four of the graphics were of lower resolution and might be objectionable when printed (i.e., visibly pixelated).

Who Makes the Corrections, the Book Printer or the Client?

Let’s start with the first issue: the text corrections. My client asked whether the printer or the designer should make the corrections. That is, which would be the more economical and expedient choice.

I said that the designer should make the corrections in InDesign and then only upload those specific pages as press-ready PDF files, under a revised name to make it clear that these were corrected files. I told my client that this particular printer preferred to receive uneditable PDF files (rather than editable, native InDesign files). Therefore, this particular book printer wanted the client make all corrections himself/herself and then submit corrected PDFs.

I also noted that other printers I have worked with preferred to receive native InDesign files instead of PDFs, just so they could make changes themselves if necessary. (So such preferences do vary from printer to printer.)

For the sake of time, accuracy, control over the process, and in deference to the book printer’s preference, I asked my client to have her designer make the corrections and resubmit the files.

What About the Pixellated Graphics? What Are the Rules?

It appeared that the designer had saved bitmapped graphics (black and white only, with no shades of gray) as 300 dpi bitmapped TIFFs. Normally one would save a photograph (grayscale image with tones, not just black and white) as a 300 dpi image, but one would save line art (black and white only) as a 600-1200 dpi image. Using such a low resolution as 300 dpi risked having visible pixels (known as pixelation) in the image, and this is what the offset printer had flagged.

In most cases I would have asked the designer to resubmit those particular print book pages with higher resolution images. However, these were hand drawn images made to resemble woodcuts. They were supposed to be rough. Moreover, this particular print book will be produced on Sebago Antique Vellum stock, which has a pronounced texture. Rough paper is more forgiving of minor flaws within the art and type than a gloss coated press sheet. I believed that with all the peaks and valleys of the rough paper surface, the slightly jagged simulated woodcut images would not be a problem.

Finally and more importantly, the client liked the proof “as is.” So I confirmed with the printer that once the book had been printed, the images would not be more jagged than they were in the proof. Then I asked my client to approve the digital proofs. As they say, the customer is always right.

That said, if you are a designer, I would still advise you to save photographic (grayscale) images in a resolution of twice the printer’s line screen (300 dpi if your printer uses a 150 lpi halftone screen). And I would encourage you to save any bitmapped images (black and white only, with no levels of gray) as “digital line art” at 1200 dpi.

“Confirming-Only” F&Gs or “Approval” F&Gs

After my client’s designer has uploaded revised print-ready PDF files for the pages with “Authors’ Alterations,” the next step will be for my client to review PDF proofs of these pages (as provided by the printer). This is almost instantaneous on-screen proofing, and it will not require any hard proofs to travel to and from my client (i.e., this last approval step will not compromise the schedule).

After my client has approved the revised proofs, the book printer will print all signatures of the book. He will then send a collection of the stacked (but not bound or trimmed) signatures plus cover to my client for review. However, the printer will not wait for my client’s approval before completing the binding process. Therefore, these F&Gs (folded and gathered print book signatures) are known as “confirming-only” F&Gs.

My client could have requested “approval” F&Gs. In this case, the book printer would have taken the book out of production to wait for client approval of the F&Gs. This would have added at least five days to the production schedule (based on the printer’s current workload).

Since F&Gs only reflect printing problems (i.e., any problems would be the printer’s responsibility, and there would be nothing visible in the F&Gs that would not have been visible in my client’s hard-copy proof), I advised my client to accept “confirming-only” F&Gs in this case.

I stressed that printing problems such as scumming, slurring, or any other defects in the application of ink to paper would be the printer’s responsibility (he had a contractual obligation to match the proof exactly). In addition, any problems that would be visible in the F&Gs would probably come and go during the course of the press run (i.e., they would not be problematic throughout the entire press run).

My client needed the books fast. I told her that “confirming-only” vs. “approval” F&Gs came down to a trade-off between time and absolute accuracy. My client agreed with my assessment and requested “confirming-only” F&Gs.

In your own work, if you are a graphic designer, you may want to consider both of these options when requesting F&Gs as one final review prior to book binding.

3 Responses to “Book Printing: Things to Consider When Checking a Proof”

  1. admin says:

    You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful.

  2. Gable Boxes says:

    Thanks for the nice and insightful post. Really helpful tips.


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