Should I Choose Hard Proofs or Soft Proofs?

Authors and publishers get a chance to see what their books will look like before they are printed by looking at a proof.  This is the often the first time they see what their books will look like in finished form.

What is a Proof?

A proof (as it relates to book printing) is a sample of what a book could look like after being printed.  It may sound like a customer will get a sample of exactly what the book will look like in finished form however that is often not the case with typical proofs.

The main purpose of a proof is to ensure that content as it is organized in print-ready files goes onto paper as intended.  Proofing is also used to see how colors will come out on paper, that images and other graphics are aligned correctly in text and to ensure that all content is transposed the way it’s supposed to be.

Different Kinds of Proofing

Depending on the printer, the type of book, and the equipment the book is being manufactured on; the proofing method may change.

Hard or machine proofs:  These are hard copy proofs printed on actual paper.  Machine proofs are the closest to what a book could look like in its finished form.  These often do not include a cover however some printers will do that for an extra fee.  Hard copy proofs are not the entire book but often a section or select group of signatures printed on the same type of paper the final book will be printed on.

Soft proofs:  These are also known as PDF or electronic proofs.  This is often a much more popular form of proofing because it is not as time consuming or expensive.  The drawback with soft proofs is that colors can look drastically different on a computer screen compared with the printed page.

Using this proofing method, authors and publishers also do not get a chance to see print on the paper they chose.

Wet Proofs:  A wet proof is industry jargon for a proof taken right off of a digital or offset press before the production process.  Normally these types of proofs are not seen by customers but are used by the press operator to check things like bleed marks, clarity, color accuracy, and other elements.

What is the best proof to use?

The short answer to that question is it depends.  Basically everything comes down to either a hard proof or a soft proof.  The time frame that you need the finished product by, the intricacy of images and content, and your own personal preference all effect this decision.

Hardcopy Proofs

It takes longer for a hard proof to be sent to a customer.  They must be physically shipped which adds cost and takes longer than electronic transmission.

Hard proofs are way better for seeing how colors will appear on paper and to view the paper stock itself.  They are also superior for viewing how printed text will read on the page.

Soft Proofs

A soft proof is accessible on your computer immediately upon posting.  Multiple copies of these can be sent without a major headache if revisions are made because they are electronic.

The major drawback of PDF or other electronic proofs is that color clarity is much different on a computer screen than it is in real life on the printed page.  This can have unintended consequences for photographs or artwork.

If you are under time constraints and your book is to be printed in one or two colors, a soft proof is the way to go.  A more complicated book involving more colors and designs may require a hard proof for you to be sure you are getting what you need.  Of course this assumes that you also have the time to wait for a hard proof to show up at your door.

Edwards Brothers Malloy provides both hard proofs and soft proofs to customers.  We can also offer shorter print schedules with no proof.  If you are still not sure what options you should choose we have many wonderful customer service representatives that are here to help.


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