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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: Making Changes at the Proof Stage

I’ve been helping an entrepreneur prepare her color swatch book for about a year now, give or take. I have spoken about her project numerous times in PIE Blog articles.

At the present moment, the art files have gone to press, and a set of trimmed proofs of 22 print books (22 originals) has been sent to my client for her final review.

To provide a bit of background on the subject, the color swatch books are approximately 1.5” x 3” in dimension. They are 114 pages long (plus cover), and all pages are attached with a metal screw and post assembly. They fan out like a PMS color book. I saw photos of the proofs. They are quite nice, each with a model’s face on the cover along with a title (each related to a different season). The print books will help my client’s clients determine what make-up and clothing colors will match their complexion.

The Proofs

My client loved the colors. She had built the colors in the 22 master InDesign files using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, preparing for digital printing on an HP Indigo press. Her proofs were, in effect, a single copy of each of the master files. Unlike a digital proof provided for an offset print run, these proofs would exactly match the successive copies of the print books that would be produced after proof approval.

My client had only one concern: durability. She had no issues with the color, text, bleeds, trim, or resolution of the cover photos. She knew the only thing that would be different in the final copies would be the rounded corners on all books, which would be produced with a metal diecutting rule on a letterpress.

(“Round cornering” only the 22 proofs would have been time consuming and expensive, and would have added nothing to the proofs.)

Regarding the durability issue, I told my client about a PMS book I had owned that had lasted far beyond the shelf life of its colors. I had treated it well, so the pages weren’t folded or dog-eared. In contrast, I mentioned that PMS swatch books I had seen in print shops were often dog-eared and manhandled. Her fashion color book would be no different. In fact, the pages of her book were thicker than the average PMS swatch book, and the covers would be 18pt. (much thicker than the PMS book covers).

My client assumed that when the books were closed, their 114-page mass would keep them protected (like the strength of a handful of arrows in contrast to the brittleness of only one). By now she had also found a source for little vinyl cases for the fashion color swatch books. At this point, we both assumed the books would last as long as they were treated well.

But the Pages Mark

However, there was the issue of marking pages. Even though the printer had UV coated the front of each page, my client could scratch the solid color swatches and the face of the model on the front cover with her fingernails. She sent me a copy. I tried the same experiment. She was right. You could mark the pages. This would not render the book useless; however, a durable book would appeal more to her audience. After all, times were tough, and the color swatch books were expensive.

My client had a sample from a prior year. Instead of a UV coating or a varnish, it looked like the sheets had been coated with a film laminate. In fact, it had a ribbed texture, which may have made any fingernail scratches less apparent (rather than actually minimizing the scratches). Nevertheless, the film laminate was more durable than the UV coating. When I tested my copy of this sheet with my fingernail, I came to the same conclusion, so I sent the sample to the printer.

What About Synthetic Paper?

At the same time, the printer and I considered the option of synthetic paper. A paper based on plastic rather than wood might just offer the durability needed. So we checked the sample my client had provided to see if this was what we had in our hands.

Both the printer and I (in different locations) tried to tear the paper. Unlike synthetic paper, this sample tore easily. So the sample my client liked so much was regular paper—just with an additional laminate coating.

The printer then suggested a 1.2 mil lamination on the front of the press sheet to protect the color swatches and the cover of my client’s color swatch print book. The back of each page was black text, so it really didn’t need to be laminated.

The printer sent a sample of the lamination to my client (a laminated postcard), and when she received the sample, my client went to work on it. She scratched and scratched, and was satisfied it would be durable enough. She also liked the price (an extra $320). I did also note that this portion of the job would need to be outsourced, which would add a little time to the schedule.

With the durability issue solved to my client’s satisfaction, we can now proceed. At the moment, she is using photos she took of the proofs (fanned out to show the colors) in a newsletter. She’s trying to get pre-orders for the color swatch book before the actual print run. Hopefully, this will increase the press run, which will benefit both my client and the printer.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study?

    1. The purpose of a proof is to to highlight problems so adjustments can be made if necessary. I’m glad my client wanted her color swatch book to be perfect, and I’m grateful the fix will cost only $320. In your own graphic design and commercial printing work, if you see something, take the time and spend the money to fix it.


    1. Cover coatings are not all created equal. There’s varnish (low end, which can yellow over time, and which can alter the color beneath the coating), UV coating, aqueous, and laminate. Some printers have only one or another. Many will need to outsource this portion of the job. Ask your printer about durability, potential color changes of the inks under the coatings, time needed for coating the job, and cost. It’s smart to request samples as well.


  1. Consider the purpose of your job. Is it something to look at and throw away, like a brochure that will arrive in the mail? Or, like my client’s color swatch book, is the project a “tool,” to be used repeatedly for years? If it’s the later, don’t skimp on the coating. Your clients will see the difference.

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