How to Use a Print Proof

Level: basic
Two hands typing on a laptop with a soft print proof on the screen.

Before your project is printed, it goes through the proofing process. A print proof is an early version of your project that closely represents how it will look when printed.

Whether you have a soft proof (a digital PDF) or a hard proof (a physical copy), you’ll want to review your proof carefully so we can make any adjustments before sending your project to press for online printing.

Soft Print Proof (Digital PDF)

A soft proof is a digital PDF proof intended to demonstrate the size, placement and text of a file. It allows you to proofread your content, visualize your bleed, trim size, folding and any other finishing options, like perforation scoring and die cutting.

We’ll send a soft proof within one business day after you submit your art. Production time (or turnaround time) begins once you approve your proof, not once you submit your order.

Review Your Soft Proof

To review your proof, we recommend opening it in Adobe Reader. Digital proofs do not show transparency or overprint areas, nor do they show color shifts resulting from the conversion of RGB or Pantone spot colors to CMYK

If you have color-critical work where a high level of color accuracy is required, we recommend you order a hard proof.

For folded pieces like brochures and cards, we highly recommend printing and folding down your soft proof to confirm your artwork is in place.

Proof Lines

You may see lines on your soft proof PDF the first time you open it. To adjust these lines:

  • Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat.
  • Go to Preferences, select Page Display.
  • In the rendering settings, select Smooth Line Art and Smooth Images.

When reviewing, you can make changes to your proof. Your online printer will then send you another soft proof to confirm those changes have been made.

Hard Print Proof (Physical Copy)

A hard proof is a physical copy of the PDF. We offer hard proofs on a limited number of products and normally solely for you to see the color of your artwork. Many products also offer a minimum quantity that is more cost effective than a hard proof for sample purposes.

If your project is highly color-critical or you have concerns about what your color will look like, we highly recommend ordering our Print Coating & Sample Sheet to review your design.

Hard proofs are available only in the U.S.

Approving Your Proof

When a PDF proof is ready for your review, you’ll receive an email notification with a link to your job. We recommend adding to your email’s “safe senders” list to ensure you always receive order status updates.

If you have a hard deadline for when you need your printing project, please communicate that in your order notes or to your customer service representative. We’ll do whatever we can to ensure you receive your print project in time.

No print job will be sent to press without your approval. If your proof is not approved and changes need to be made before printing can occur, the print proof cycle will start over and turnaround time will be recalculated.Before printing, we ensure your file is set up correctly and allow 15 minutes per order for any adjustments that may be needed. We will notify you if additional time is needed and the applicable rates.