Isn't it reasonable to expect a proof in less than two days?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre-Press manager and industry writer

What’s a reasonable timeframe to expect to get a proof from a printer? I have several printers that are getting proofs back to me in less than 48 hours, but another that usually sends the proof in three to four days – which drives me crazy. In today’s fast turnarounds, isn’t it reasonable to expect a proof in less than two days?

It is all about turn-around these days, but what are “reasonable” expectations? It really depends on the nature of the job, the capabilities of the service provider, and the demands of the customer.

Many service providers spell out the terms of service up front, and that can include how quickly you get your proofs. The question implies that the jobs your printers are proofing are similar in nature, but one of your providers is significantly slower than all of the others. Perhaps that printer lacks the firepower on the front end to turn the work around, but it might also be that he’s simply not aware he’s not meeting your expectations. The stumbling block could even be in the order entry department. You have probably heard about jobs that are printed before the job ticket is even filled out. The company may have a “standard” turn-around that is below your standards. Then again, you might be comparing a single shift plant to printers running two or three shift operations.

While there may be lots of legitimate reasons your printer is slower than most, it is generally true that digital workflows have no problem turning out proofs out in 48 hours or even less. All jobs are not equal, and not all printers can handle the same files in the same amount of time. Sometimes, the proofing process itself can take longer than all the rest of the pre-press processes combined. If you don’t already know, you might want to find what type of proofing system that each of your printers use. But the bottom is whether your printer is meeting your needs. If not, take your work to printers that perform up to your expectations.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at
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