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PDF Proofing Comes of Age

(June 2007) posted on Thu Jun 07, 2007

The cost and scheduling benefits of adding PDF proofs to your production workflow.

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By Stephen Beals

* The color conundrum: As I mentioned earlier, it’s not possible (or at least is not terribly practical) for a print provider to verify that its clients are properly calibrating their monitors. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the issue when it comes to providing color-accurate contract proofs as PDF files. And it’s particularly an issue for wide-format print providers using multiple output devices with differing color capabilities. Because many shops prefer to use the full color gamut of each output device, many print providers are not running their machines based on industry standards (which inherently limits the output gamut). The downside of printing to the limits of each individual device, however, is that the same file printed on different devices will not necessarily match. That could very well be by intent, but it creates an issue for PDF proofing. It’s simple enough to run off a print on the actual output device and provide that as a proof-but to show that color with a PDF, the specific printer profile must be used to create that PDF. Although doing so is not impossible, it’s a consideration that must be taken into account. When added to the general problem of color calibration and color management, this can be more of a headache than some print providers will want to deal with.

Content proofs vs contract proofs
Before sending out any PDF proof, it’s a good idea to have a clear understanding of what the PDF is expected to achieve-for you and for the client. Is the proof only intended to be used to approve the content of the file with little or no concern for the color match? That’s certainly the role that is easy for PDF proofs to fill.

If color has to be perfect, it can be done, but it takes a lot more work and a lot more collaboration and communication. There has to be a clear understanding of color-management issues on both sides for it to work.

A couple of interim solutions are available for those not completely comfortable with color management. One is to use a hard-copy proof for the initial color approval, and then to send PDF proofs back and forth to nail down any last-minute copy changes or other non-color issues.