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Soft Proofing: Fact and Fiction

Soft proofing saves customers money and cuts hours off the design stage of the production process.

November 2008 By Rick Wise
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SOFT PROOFING seems to be causing at least some degree of discomfort in the in-plant world. Should we be offering it? How do we do it? What exactly is it?

We use soft proofing a lot at the University of Missouri. Our designers and a good number of our customers really like it.

We send PDF proofs to customers during the design stage. Our designer exports the job file into a PDF as soon as it is designed and sends it to the customer.

Soft proofs save customers money on one or possibly multiple sets of proofs. For example, the least expensive low-res proof you can get from us is $21. This adds up quickly if you proof several versions of a multiple-page newsletter.

When it comes to a final accurate four-color process proof, however, soft proofs very rarely replace a high-resolution printed proof in our in-plant. The main reason is that using soft proofs as final color proofs requires calibration of your customer’s computer monitor to the monitor being used in your prepress department. Many of our customers on campus can’t afford the latest versions of the software they are using. What are the chances of these budget-challenged customers buying an expensive monitor, calibration software, and then calibrating the monitor weekly? Just about zero.

Also, what would you give to your press operator to use as a color guide for the job if all of the color proofing was done on a computer screen? We like having the high-res proof for process color jobs for the press operators to use as a target for color, especially for press checks with the customer.

How does it work?

When we create soft proofs, our graphic designer exports the job in a PDF to a Web-based application we created that contains an electronic log of all of the soft proofs and their current status. Next, the PDF is sent internally as an e-mail to our customer service representative handling this particular job. The CSR reviews the soft proof and sends the customer an e-mail containing a link to our soft proof site. Our CSRs can go to this site any time and check the status of a particular soft proof.

Meanwhile, the customer receives the e-mail, clicks on the link and then views the PDF of the soft proof along with an electronic version of a proof sheet that is sent with each soft proof.
 

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