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Everything You Need to Know About Printing Proofs

If you’re new to printing products, you'll get to learn an important step in the process called “proofing.” It's the part of the process where a proof of concept is produced so that changes can be made before an item goes into mass production. Especially when you are printing overseas, this is a vital part of the process, and one you want to understand and fully take advantage of. You have options for different types of proofs that may be offered for your products. Here’s a quick guide to 3 forms of proofs that can be produced for paper items.


This is the most basic kind of proof, and it is completely free. It is a digital (as in not a hard copy) PDF document containing your printed pages as they will be laid out for production. It will include crop marks, bleed lines, and a color block on the side to show the color ratios. It will also include markings for required hole punches, points at each corner for measuring whether or not your text is centered, and other design cues.

Typically, these proofs are generated by the plants right after receiving initial product files. They are a great way to verify alterations to the text and design before mass production, because they are generated quickly and you do not have to wait for transit time. These are not meant to match color, as the color on screen will reflect color in RGB format, but printing will take place in either the CMYK or PMS format.


Don’t let the name fool you—while this may sound similar to the PDF proof, the digital proof is actually physical text pages printed with your designs. It bears that name because it is a digital printout of your product's artwork. This proof will contain the same crop, bleed, and hole punch marks as a digital proof and can be very helpful, especially if your project contains fold out pages and ultra specific formatting throughout the text.

While the digital proof can sometimes be printed on the actual paper that will be used in mass production, it is important to note that the color may not be exactly the same as the one that is used in mass production. So for the particularly color conscious, the next proof is for you...


Wet proofs involve printing your actual colors (either CMYK or PMS) on the actual paper that will be used in your project, so you can see exactly what the final product will look like. Consider this #1 out of the thousands you would be printing in mass production. This is the most definitive way to check your proof for all text, design, material questions. You can hold it in your hands to see and feel what the final product will actually be. The only problem is that it is very expensive to run the printing machines when you are only producing one item. But it can be very helpful if you are producing items like color-packed planners, coffee table books, or other image-heavy products.

The point of the proof is to give you the opportunity to make 100% sure that everything is perfect before mass production begins. The PDF proof is where you'll want to make most of your necessary changes because there is no cost to produce it. It is simply editing and manipulating the digital files. A digital proof can give you a good idea of the final product, but won't be exact. The wet proof is the final step you'll want to take when proofing because you don't want to make a bunch of changes and produce multiple proofs for sake of the costs of production.


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