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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: More Info on Hard- and Soft-Proofing

A book printing client of mine, whom I have written about recently, just downloaded an InSite proof of the text of her and her husband’s print book. She also received hard-copy proofs of the photo section of the book and a color Spectrum proof of the cover. Some questions arose, and I wanted to share these with you. I think they may be helpful in your print buying work.

The InSite Proof

First of all, the InSite proof my client received was actually a low-resolution PDF of the 464 text pages. The InSite proofing portal would have allowed my client to review individual pages, spreads, or the entire book (which she could have paged through like an on-screen version of a book or magazine). However, InSite requires a bit of a learning curve, so the printer sent my client a low-res version of the text. This proof my client and her husband could review more easily.

Like the InSite version of the text, the PDF included a dashed rule line just outside the page trim. This reflects a 5.5” x 8.5” trim size for the text plus a 1/8” margin for bleeds. In my client’s case no design elements actually bleed off the edge of the page, but in other cases, this would be a very useful tool for confirming adequate bleeds.

The PDF also included a larger, interior margin noted with a dashed rule line. This margin, which seems to be approximately 1/4” from the 5.5” x 8.5” trim, reflects the limit past which no copy or other design elements should go unless the designer had intended them to bleed. Anything closer risks being trimmed off.

The PDF of the InSite proof also includes printers’ notes, such as the text dimensions, ink colors (black ink only), and, of course, all copy in its precise position.

As a position-only proof, this PDF doesn’t need to be any higher resolution. Low-res is fine. It works for checking line art copy (i.e., text) for accurate position, completeness, and accuracy.

My client can request a hard-copy version of this proof, and she and her husband have a few days to make this decision without affecting the book printing schedule. But it really is not necessary, and my client will incur postage costs for shipping the proof.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

    1. If you’re only checking a proof for position and not for color or image resolution, a screen proof, such as an InSite proof, is fine.


    1. In addition, if you’re concerned that an online proofing portal, such as InSite, will be too complex to use, you can always request a PDF proof of your job.


  1. In a position-only proof, remember to check any bleeds and make sure no copy is too close to the trim. Trimming operations are not perfect. Art or type placed too close to the trim may be cut off inadvertently in the finishing process. It is ideal if your on-screen proof includes both bleed lines and live-matter lines clearly marked along with the trim size of your printed product.

Proofing Paper vs. Final Printing Paper Stock

While my print brokering client was proofing her, and her husband’s, book, she emailed me, expressing concern about the Level 2 proofs of the photo insert (an 8-page insert placed between text signatures). In addition to the low-res version of the InSite proof, my client had received this hard-copy proof of the photos and a much higher quality Spectrum proof of the cover.

My client’s Level 2 proof had been inkjet printed on gloss stock, but my client had requested a matte press sheet for this 8-page photo insert. I told her I was certain it was just the particular stock used for proofing, but I also said I would have the printer confirm this.

(In addition, I wanted to make sure that there would be no difference between black-ink-only halftone images simulated on a gloss proofing stock and those actually printed on a matte printing stock. I say simulated because the Level 2 proofs, like other inkjet proofs, may well be continuous tone only, and may therefore not show the halftone dot structure that will appear on the final printing plates—and in the book itself.)

The printer did confirm that there would be no discernible difference between the proof and the printed photo signature other than the gloss sheen of the unprinted paper.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

    1. If something looks odd in the proofs, always bring this to your customer service representative’s attention. This includes any apparent changes in paper stock.


    1. That said, don’t be surprised if your printer does not plot a proof on the exact same paper on which your final job will print.


  1. If there is a difference, however, between the proof paper and the final printing stock, ask your printer how this will affect the final “look” of the printed piece. At the very least, make sure the proofing technology will accurately show the tone range of images (the lightest light and darkest dark, plus the tone levels in between). This kind of proof needs to reflect the detail you can expect in the final printed halftone images.

Final Thoughts: The Cover Proof

This is short and sweet: Never skimp on a cover proof. Buy the best you can. Make sure it shows accurate color, a good simulation of the paper stock, and ideally even the halftone dot structure of the final printed images. If your book printer cannot show the cover coating, paper stock, or anything else, make sure he can show you other printed samples reflecting the exact “look” you’re after. Leave nothing to chance.

2 Responses to “Book Printing: More Info on Hard- and Soft-Proofing”

  1. Nishant Shah says:

    Great Post, Very Helpful for My Company.


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