Pre press is an important part of the production process. It is usually handled by the printer, but is a discrete stage between artwork and the printing process. It takes the designer’s data and re-purposes it via software, into data suitable to make a printing plate.

Pre press involves a number of processes:
  • download the pre press checklist
  • treating the images for optimum printing (including retouching where necessary)
  • separating the colours to make printing plates
  • imposing pages so that large sheets of paper can fold to become book pages.
A proof is made of the new data. This needs to be checked for errors before approving to print.

Because the information has been processed through different software, digital proofs should be checked carefully to ensure that nothing has moved, typefaces have not defaulted, images are accurately placed.

It is not appropriate to make extensive corrections at proof stage. Small changes can be made by the printers.  Extensive changes should be made directly to the artwork to ensure correct version control. This adds time and cost to the production.

How to check a digital proof

By the stage the digital proof needs checking, you are often very familiar with the information and that makes checking difficult.

read all headlines and subheads – mistakes here are most commonly overlooked

do not ‘read’ the text but check first word and last words of lines and paragraphs

check first and last words of all captions

check every page has the correct footer

visually check the page proofs against the final laser proofs.

Best practice

If you are coordinating the printing, or getting print costings, it is important to ensure the printer has the latest software. Updating software is expensive and many small printers do not keep up-to-date. This means they may be unable to read files supplied by your designer. Files can be ‘saved back’ to earlier software versions but it adds another step into the process and may lead to errors. Good printers do keep their software up-to-date.

It's your responsibility to check the digital proofs and approve them for print. What you see will print. It can be a time consuming job so allocate time in the schedule. It may be better to share this responsibility with a colleague. Involve someone who is not too familiar with the project as they can provide a fresh pair of eyes and are more likely to spot obvious errors.