Resources/ Graphic Design - Press Checks

A press check is a visit to the print shop where your job is being printed at the beginning of the press run. For spot color print jobs, press checks are primarily done by clients and/or their designers to see if the selected PMS color(s) appear as expected on the specified paper. Press checks are also done for first-time print runs of stationery as well as large (high quantity) and full-color CMYK press runs. They are not often done for second runs and reprints that use the same colors as prior jobs.

Why do a press check for spot color work?
Why do a press check for full-color (CMYK) work?
What is involved in a press check?
How to have a successful press check.

Why do a press check for spot color work?

With so much effort going into making color and paper selections that accurately reflect your company's image to clients, it is only natural to follow through with a press check to ensure your project's success.

A press check saves the cost of reprinting a job if you aren't happy with the color. Say you don't do a press check but are unhappy with the color and want your job reprinted in another color. If the ink the printer used is the PMS ink you specified and is a match with the PMS book, you will be responsible for reprinting costs. Alternatively, if you do a press check and find you don't like the color, the paper hasn't been used and the printer hasn't spent time completing the job yet. You will likely only be charged for the ink washup charges if you want a color change.

Why do a press check for full-color (CMYK) work?

PDF files, your office printer and your monitor will all represent color in a different way than an offset commercial press. Commercial printers use different processes than wet inks to produce color in photographs, illustrations and logos, so the results will be different. In addition, the paper you select has an impact on saturation and density.

A press check saves the cost of reprinting a job if you aren't happy with the color on any photos or want to change paper. If you stop the job, you will still have to pay your designer to edit the photos (although some adjustments can be made on press), new press plates may need to be made and your job will be slowed down. But you won't have to buy the paper twice (unless you stopped the job to change papers), so some money is saved.

What is involved in a press check?

First, you have to request one. They are not automatically done as they do hold up presses and slow down other jobs. But printers are happy to do them to prevent unhappy customers! Generally, press checks are not done for small jobs (less than $300 or so).

How to have a successful press check:

Be as sure as possible about your PMS ink selections and paper choices that you have communicated to the printer in advance. This will lessen the chance that you will be unhappy with the initial outcome of the press check.

Be sure that you have proofed final versions of your document very closely — changes after a job gets on the press will slow everything down by at least a day and will cost money to reprint new plates.

Request a proof for all jobs, and consider paying extra for a match print on CMYK jobs (if the price is not included in the print estimate).

Be prepared to make a decision — do you want to see the job proceed as is, or if you want to see a change? Understand the time and monetary costs if changes are requested, but do not be overwhelmed by them. Changes at a press check are less expensive than reprinting a job!

A final note... Printing is a custom manufacturing process on a small scale and can be prone to problems if communications between all parties involved are not solid and clear. A press check is face-to-face communication — the most direct kind.

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