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How important is proofing artwork before you print?

2324 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  chica729
I personally feel that proofing artwork before you print is critical to a shop’s success. I’m of the mind set that each step of the order process from answering the first phone call to a customer receiving their goods is equally important.

If any one thing breaks down in a shop’s system, an order can be delayed or even ruined.

With all of that said, I feel like “proofing” is under valued despite its importance.

So here come the questions:
1. How do you go about proofing orders in your shop?
2. What are some of the mistakes that occur during your proofing process?
3. Do you have any good methods to share when trying to relieve some of these common pitfalls?
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Here's mine:

1. We currently use e-mail exclusively. We create a proof with vector templates that our in-house artist made years ago. I’ll attach an example.

2. There are lots of challenges… does anyone else have these issues too?

-Version control; managing the artwork file so that even after something has been approved, we make sure we’re outputting film positives for the correct artwork
-Game of telephone; e-mails are a horrible way to manage a project. At some level of e-mails it starts getting disorganized and things get missed (lets say while proofing over 15 orders at a time). Plus, when contract printing, we can have as many as four separate parties passing through:

Artist > Customer service rep > Promotional item manufacturer > Promotional distributor > buyer (and back).

You can only image the e-mails generated if a customer wants something changed.

-Timely Approvals: Getting customers to follow the necessary path/workflow in order to have a smooth production schedule. Due dates can come and even sometimes pass while waiting for customers to approve.

-Proof clarity: Most customers automatically approve without really checking. Although they may have “signed off” on printing a mistake, the main goal of proofing shouldn’t be to cover one’s rear incase of a mistake. It’s to verify we’re giving the customer what they want.

There are lots more… there are just a few off the top of my head.

3. I have a few great ideas, and I’m dedicated to shoring up some of our proofing holes. I’m posting to get other member’s ideas to their proofing problems, and see what methods are being used.

Thanks in advance for participating!


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thanks for sharing this proof example....really helps!
Agreed. Sometimes you have to really do the proofing and quality assurance for the customer.

A printer that will knowingly print something that is misspelled or seems off just because the customer has signed off on the proof is all to common but something crazy to me.
Thanks for the reply Jane... I completely agree. I find myself thinking "are you suuuure this is right?" too often.

Even with extra care, we had a name misspelling a few weeks back for a family reunion job. The back had three columns, lets say 45-50 total names. Stressing to the customer to review the names just didn't solve the issue.
We do mostly embroidery. A screen shot is usually sent for a proof. The biggest "trouble" area when proofing (excluding designs with PMS colors) is verifying that the color is correct. If there is any question we'll mail an embroidered sample. The second problem area is some people will notice that the individual letters in text may be different sizes due to embroidery "push and pull". In this case we embroider a sample and email a scan. Third, some customers are unsure about the size of the design. Even though we state what the measurements are in inches, some people have trouble picturing the right size. Again we mail an embroidered sample if there are any questions. The fourth primary issue is that some colors (white, red) blur in screen shots so customers wonder if the stitching will be blurry .Again - questions - we send a sample.
Thanks Jennifer, that's great info.

With embroidery, I see it's not as much of an issue with running a sewout. In fact, you probably like to make one before you run the order anyway to make sure it sews nicely.

In that case, you actually have a finished product as a proof.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy with screen printing where the setup time restricts the ability to run a sample in most cases.
Proofing is critical. Even when it's the customer's fault, they'll blame you (even if they signed off on it, of course.)

So...proof it before sending. If you have any questions about spelling, colors, whatever, call the customer and discuss it. It takes a little time to do it, but they will be very grateful and feel like you are a very professional and caring company...great customer service...something really rare and much valued these days!
That's really true. Customers definitely appreciate that you double check about questionable items in artwork. It shows that your business cares about the quality of what it produces.
Always proof your work and get others in your copmany to proof as well, they might not see something you did. In the end it comes down to the customer. Your only human and if you do happen to miss something, why should you have to creat a whole new set of shirt free of charge because the customer didnt bother to really look at it? Always send a proof, tell them to look over the proof for any spelling mistake, etc and when you get the sign off that its ok, you now at least do have something to fall back on if they find a mistake after the shirts are printed.

My father does signs and he sends proofs out for everything. If it does get past him and the customer does sign off, he doesnt have to fix a $5000 sign free of charge because the customer didn't want to take the time to read the proof over.
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