This is a very rough order of things that to look at when on a press check. While these are put into order, I usually don’t go through it like a list. It’s usually just all merged together and I check lots of things at once.
But there are some general things that I like to follow. Like I will focus on major issues like color/registration/paper before small details like hickies. Granted hickies or small boogers may indicate a larger problem with paper or ink. But unless if the boogers are really bad, I’ll focus on larger issues first:
Before you get to the “press checking” stage, be certain you are totally satisfied with the final digital proofs. Once your job is on press, you are limited to what the pressmen can do, and re-making plates can be costly.
- Obtain overall impression: slowly scan the entire press sheet. Does the color overall look good? Anything super funky popping out?
- Number the press sheets as you receive them.
- Check the paperstock, making sure it’s the stock your ordered
- Proofread the text to make sure nothing weird happened. Check headlines, captions, and body text for type reflow throughout. Make sure italics, bolds, etc. are used where you wanted them.
- Verify that the finishing elements; such as foilstamping, diecutting, embossing, drilling and perforations are properly indicated.
- Make sure that the CMYK plates are in register (get out that magnifying loupe). I like to check registration before fine color, because the color may look a tad weird if the things aren’t in proper register.
- Confirm that all corrections from previous proofs have been made, if applicable.
- Side note: as you request changes, the pressman will tweak the press here and there and you’ll stand by waiting, looking over the sheet for more changes. This might be a good time to do additional stuff. See below #7 ADDITIONAL PROOFREADING.
- When color is really critical, I’ll cut the press paper with a pair of scissors. And then lay the cut press sheet up against the digital proof to make sure the color matches.
- Or if I’m using Pantone colors, I’ll lay the chip against the press proof.
- Make sure color matches throughout the sheet. Again, cut up the press sheet to compare color. Or if the printed piece will be folded. Actually fold it up, to make sure color matches.
- Look at fleshtones. Those can be tricky.
Get the loupe out again:
- Check to see that the ink dots are laying down nice and sharp.
- However, if you are printing on an uncoated stock, expect the dot to spread a bit.
- A good example to check would be if the type looks crisp. Make sure that they don’t look hairy.
- Examine the dot gain targets and dot shape (those are off to the side on the press sheet).
- For solids, all inks should be laying down smoothly. Densities should be even across the sheet and match between forms. Is there any mottling? (any mottling might be paper…)
6) PAPER DETAILS
- This might be moved up in the process. It would stink to get far into the press check, and then find out the paper is just bad.
- Check that the paper doesn’t have any funky qualities (my last press check, the paper had some weird brown streaks on the backside even before it was printed on)
- That the opacity of the paper is holding up well (by looking at the other side of the paper to see if the ink is leaking through)
7) ADDITIONAL PROOFREADING
(stuff to do while waiting for the pressman to fix stuff)
- If the piece is to be folded into something, actually cut it up and make a dummy. If I do this, it (I’ve probably only done this once or twice, and it was for color–see color above.)
- Weigh the piece if it is to be mailed. I have never done this, but I suppose if you are right on the borderline, you would want to make sure how much it weighs with the ink applied to the sheet.
- Check imposition. That’s if the printed front and back are not upside-down.
8) MINOR ICKIES
- And then the general garbage. Check for flaws. Look for broken type, odd scratches, hickies, spots and ghosting. It doesn’t make much sense to be picky about hickies and little crap before the major issues of color, registration, etc.
Some of these notes came from:
- The Press Check by DT&G
- What should I look for on a press check? by Mohawk Paper
- What to look for on a proof, and on press by First Impressions Lithographic Company
- The Press Check by Weiser Litho
And a few other things of note…
When going on a press check, your printer sales rep will do one of two things.
A) They will put you into a customer room with a lightbox and couches. The press proofs will be brought into that room for you to view. (And you won’t go out to actual press on the floor)
B) They will bring you right to the actual press on the floor. And you will look at proofs immediately as they are brought out.
Either way if you get the chance to meet the pressmen, please please shake their hand and ask them how they are doing. Don’t ignore them and only focus on the sheets that are brought to you. It’s kinda rude to just look at the sheets and not thank the person who is working hard to make your job looks really good.
Also, be firm on what you believe should be done on the press. Many designers feel bullied around and are afraid to speak up. That’s why are you there. But also, don’t expect the pressmen to walk on water. It’s a fine balance to achieve, but with experience you’ll get the feel of it.