Guide to Print Proofing

By January 16, 2022

The final stage of a print project is reviewing a physical proof for color, format, and design accuracy.

This is your opportunity to fine-tune any details and ensure quality. When we schedule a print project, we build in up to 7–10 days for the proofing process.

Once the design and editing process are complete, we’ll complete the following steps.

Proof and approve the final file

Be sure that the piece has been thoroughly reviewed for all text corrections and design revisions. Print proofing is only for adjusting colors and making minor text corrections if needed. Extensive edits at the print proofing stage can incur hourly fees.

Request a proof schedule

The printer will estimate the time needed to deliver physical proofs to you and the design team and receive feedback. If you have a strict deadline that the final piece needs to be delivered by, be sure to inform the printer well in advance. The proofing process may need to account for shipping time, which has extended due to Covid-19 delays.

Good communication about timelines will help to establish realistic expectations and ensure that rushing does not introduce mistakes so everyone can feel confident in making the final approval.

Receive and approve proofs.

You and the design team may be mailed imposition proof, which approximates the binding and trim of your piece. You may also receive single-sheet color proofs, which designers check for color accuracy. Your edits to these will be compiled onto a final digital PDF proof, which is the last stage of approvals.

Reviewing Imposition Proofs

Check the format

  • Are all pages present, ordered, and numbered correctly?
  • Do all elements extend (bleed) to the edge without gaps?
  • Do all elements appear aligned?
  • Does each page appear consistently trimmed and folded?
  • Is the finish (staples, folds, binding, etc.) correct?


Check the text

Review closely for typos, type legibility, information that may no longer be accurate at time of printing, and other editorial changes. Create a list of changes, and carefully note both the location and nature of your edits.


Sample Edits:

Page 1, col 2, para 2, line 2: delete the word “current”

Questions about your physical proof?

Keep in mind your proof may not be produced on the final paper stock choice and may be hand-folded and trimmed to size. Contact your printer directly for questions about how to judge your proof.

Reviewing Color Proofs

Color proofs reflect how final ink colors will appear. You do not need expertise in this area: it is the design team’s role to compile and communicate color edits to the printer, although your notes are appreciated.

  • Note global color issues, if you see too much or too little saturation or contrast throughout the entire piece.
  • Note individual color issues, if you see inconsistent colors, tints that are too light, or photos that need additional retouching.
  • Note legibility issues where text may be too small or appear too thin on top of a dark color field.


Sample Edits:

Page 1: remove magenta; skin tones appear too red

Page 2: increase the saturation; image look faded

Page 3: darken blue box: white text doesn’t read clearly

How to compile proof corrections

After these steps, meet with your designer to collect color and content corrections into a comprehensive list. The design team may need time to conduct any design changes and re-upload; the printer will then make text or layout changes. Extensive corrections may require more time in the schedule.

Reviewing Digital Proofs

  • Check each PDF page against your final list of edits compiled between the designer and printer.
  • Compile a new list of any have been made incorrectly, or require a subsequent revision. These will result in another digital PDF.
  • Once all changes are approved by client and designer, the client is responsible for the final sign-off to the printer.
  • The printer can now provide a final estimate for printing, shipping, and expected delivery. Now is the time to confirm addresses, mailing lists, and any outstanding invoices.

Tight on time?

If your project is time-sensitive, you can request to skip the print proofing process and approve a digital proof only. This is generally not recommended, because onscreen RGB pixels cannot accurately represent printed CMYK ink. What you see may not be what you get!