Paper Matters Blog
What is a Press Check and When to Use it
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Back in the old days of digital prepress and printing, when proofs bore no resemblance to what would show up on press, the designer would be invited to a “press check” at the printing plant. This was so that the designer could approve and sign off on the actual job in addition to already having signed off on proofs (I use the term proofs loosely, compared to what we have today they were stabs in the dark. It’s a whole other post, but there’s a difference between a proof predicting how the printed job will look and the proof showing what the file looks like when printed to SWOP standards. Like I said, it’s another post.)

So you might be invited to do a press-check. Or your boss might say, I need you to press-check every job that prints, or agency standards may dictate mandatory press-checks. The reality is there are only a few circumstances today that warrant a press-check. After learning what those circumstances are, you can decide if you want to tell your boss whether or not you need to be out of the office for half a day, I will leave that up to you ;-).

So when do you need to be at a press check? What’s changed since the dawn of digital prepress? Today we have contract proofing that really predicts what the printed job will look like. We have drawdowns made by very precise ink mixing technology. We have papers with plate curves loaded into press control panels with scanning densitometers built-in! I mean, wow, what can go wrong?

If it is a routine printing job probably nothing will go wrong, but not every job is routine.

These situations call for a press check:

  • If your printer’s workflow is Gracol certified and you are uneasy about the way the proof looks, do a press check. If you are uneasy about the proof and your printer is not Gracol certified and says “We will make sure it looks like you want on press” demand a press check.
  • If you are printing on colored paper
  • If your design calls for overprinting
  • If the paper is “unusual,” or you are working with synthetic papers, suede finishes, etc.
  • If your printer said, “We haven’t done this before, but let’s give it a shot.”
  • If your printer wants you there.
  • If you are mixing a spot color with process colors, such as Hexachrome, hifi or touch plates.
  • If you will get fired if the color is not “perfect.”
  • If you are using a printer for the first time.
  • If you are using a printing method you have never used before, or you are experimenting.

If you choose to be at a press check for a job, then you MUST take responsibility for decisions made there. It’s best to be aware of your responsibilities during a press check. So what should you be doing at the press check? Really, all you have to do is look at the proof you signed off on, compare it to the press sheet and make sure they are very similar. Sometimes an exact match is unrealistic.

Marina Joyce, an author and print enthusiast, recently published a book titled “Designing for Print”  a welcome resource for designers who work on print projects.  The book covers the topic in great detail and with Marina’s permission, we are sharing some of her thoughts on the idea of a press check. This blog is the first of a three-part series and suggests the circumstances that require a press check.

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