Should I specify the type of digital proof that I want my printer to use?

Answered by the experts at EU Services and PBM Graphics

Should I specify the type of digital proof that I want my printer to use? If so, what should I request to be sure I am seeing the best match to what will actually run on press?

[Note from the Editor: We asked two of our experts to answer this week’s question. Both offer some great advice.]

There are a variety of digital proofs on the market, and some printers offer more than one choice. Your print supplier may have more than one digital proofing system. At PBM, for example, we use several including Indigo, HP, Creo Spectrum and Kodak Approval. Ask your print supplier why they offer more than one and the difference between them, for instance the cost, speed, color quality, etc.

The larger printers will usually offer some type of inkjet proof (most commonly HP or Epson). Inkjet proofs can be good proofs for color match, are faster to produce and more economical. If your job has a lot of halftones and vignettes (graduated screens) it may be better to ask for a high end digital halftone proof. Two problems with inkjet proofs are that they tend to build black halftones out of four color process and vignettes tend to show banding, so the proof is less accurate for these specifications. If you are aware of the fact that this is a deficiency of the proof and understand that your printed piece will be okay then this may not be an issue. It depends on the individual. The high end digital halftone proofs such as Dupont's Digital MatchPrint or Kodak's Approval are more expensive and take longer to produce, however they have smoother blends and the halftones are represented in black only.

It is also helpful to ask if your print supplier adheres to industry quality standards, such as SWOP (Specifications Web Offset Publications) or GRACoL (General Requirements in Offset Lithography). If so you should have a good match between the digital proof and the press sheet. Many printers have digital proofing systems that are SWOP certified. These proofing systems are designed to match their press conditions. These proofing systems have been tested and the results are posted on the SWOP web site at Also many print suppliers print to GRACoL standards and have their proofing system setup to these standards. You can reference GRACoL standards at

It is always a good idea to talk to your print supplier about their proof to press match system before the job is started so that together you can decide what works best for you.

Answered by the experts at PBM Graphics, Inc.

The number of digital proofing options available today are almost too numerous to list. Each printer has chosen digital proofing solutions to suit their particular printing capabilities and client needs. Instead of asking for a particular type or brand of proof, you should communicate your expectations for the proof and ask the printer to help you choose a solution to meet your requirements. As you are aware, digital proofs vary greatly in cost and ability to represent the final printed product. For instance, a wide format inkjet proof may suit your needs as a content proof (digital blueline) but not meet your requirements for contract color approval. On the other hand there are digital halftone dot proofs that very accurately represent color and content but are cost prohibitive for certain projects. Today most contract grade color proofing is accomplished using hi-end inkjet printers. These proofs strike a balance between accurate color reproduction and cost effectiveness. Your printer will be more than happy to discuss your options and recommend a proof that is right for your job.

Answered by Forest Wathen, Prepress Manager, EU Services
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