Printer Proof Review Tips. What to Look for in your printing proof

by The Campaign Workshop

Woman looking at a printer proof

Printer Proof Check: 8 Tips for Checking Political Printing

So you send your final political direct mail file off to the printer and breathe a sigh of relief—until you get your printer proof. Now what? The political printing process continues long after you finalize designing and proofing your direct mail file in-house. After you send off your final political direct mail file, the printer will send you back something called a print proof that you need to approve. A print proof is an exact mockup of what your piece will look like when it prints so it’s important you take the time to look it over carefully. If you don't like how your piece looks on the printer proofs, you won't like how it turns out when it's printed. Below are eight tips for checking your political direct mail printer proof: 

  1. Clear, crisp images
    The first and most important thing to look for in a printer proof is that your images are clean and crisp. Sometimes, when you get a proof back, you will notice that your images look dull or low resolution. Often, this is just because the photos are, in fact, dull or low resolution. However, even if you think that’s the case, it’s important that you flag it with your printer, because the chances are they will look even worse in print form.
  2. Union bug in place
    In most cases, political direct mail for Democratic candidates should carry a union bug. And for some items, like the printer’s individual union bug, the printer will have to place these minor items into your final file for you. Thus, the other item you need to be on the lookout for is to make sure your union bug or anything that you have put in your final file FPO (for placement only) has been placed by the printer and that it looks exactly like it should when you have it physically in your hands.
  3. Make sure there aren't unnecessary lines or shapes
    Every once in a while, the printer will add a stray line or shape when they are creating your printer proof. In most cases, these lines will only be a function of Adobe or whatever program you are using to view the PDF, but it's always worth flagging these items to make sure they won't show up on your final political printing piece.
  4. Colors are how you expect them to be
    This is an oversimplified view of how it works, but essentially when a printer gets the final file, they convert it into the colors that they have the ink for. In most cases, the colors on the political printing proof will be exactly how you intended for them to look, but in other cases (particularly if you use the color orange) these colors can turn out to be slightly different than what you had intended. Be sure you are taking a close look at all of the colors and that they are how you wanted them to look. If you need exact colors to meet branding standards, you should send the printer the color codes to make sure you get the exact colors you need.
  5. Check the text and font
    Though it is unlikely there would be a spelling error in the printer proof that wasn’t in your final direct mail file, it is important to check in on font and spacing. Sometimes, you may notice that the text is too think or too thick, or that the spacing is messed up in some way. Be sure to take a close look to make certain everything is clear and readable.
  6. Double-check sizing
    Be sure to check the size of your proof to make sure it will print in the size and format that you intended. If it’s a folded piece, make sure the panels are correctly placed. Some printers will add crops to the proof that will increase the sizing of your piece slightly, but generally your printer proof should be pretty much the exact file size that you had send them originally.
  7. Have a coworker take a second look 
    It’s not enough for only one person to take a look – especially if this is the same person that has been designing and staring at the piece throughout the design process. When you’ve been looking at a piece for so long, it can become even harder to catch an error, as you may subconsciously start seeing things the way you expect to see them. Enlist a coworker who hasn’t looked at the piece yet to go through the printer proof review process and make sure everything on the printer proof looks like it does on the final direct mail file. 
  8. Clearly communicate your errors to the printer
    After you are done proofing the piece, be sure to clearly convey any errors or potential issues that you saw when proofing the piece. Even if you assume that they aren’t a big deal and won’t be reflected in the final product, it is important to get a response or confirmation from the printer before you give final approval. 

The key to political printing is making sure you take the time to look at the proofs closely and that you are not afraid to flag any issues you see. Most printers will push you to get a printer proof approved quickly so they can get it on the press and out the door, but it's important that you take the appropriate time to review the proof and make sure it looks the way you want it to. It’s better to have your materials go to print a day late and be correct than to print thousands of pieces with errors that are too late to fix. At the end of the day, you spend a good amount of time and money on your direct mail so it should print exactly how you had intended. For more campaign tips, check out our blog or drop us a line below!