Proofing and Dummies (Samples)


A great way to understand what a finished brochure will look like prior to all the expense associated with print is to get dummies made up to see the size and look and feel of the paper. Your printer or paper merchant will produce these as a free service. They help significantly, especially when you are unsure of the thickness of the paper for the inners on a brochure, and whether a silk paper is better than an uncoated paper (also referred to as ‘stock’).

Dummies also allow you to see exactly how the finished product will look when bound. Smaller brochures, up to say 32pp, will be OK if saddle stitched (stapled to you and I). You might steer clear of saddle stitching for design reasons but largely, it is because it becomes impractical when you start to go above 32 pages, especially if you like to have a heavier outer and a thinner inner. You’d probably need to look into having a ‘perfect bound’ dummy made up should this situation arise (this is where the pages are collected together and glued to a spine). A more expensive version of this binding form is called ‘thread sewn’ where, instead of the pages being just glued, they are actually stitched together. Perfect binding is the cheaper method but not too long along ago, it had an inherent fault, which surfaced if the finished product was opened too much. The glue would eventually give way, and the pages started to fall out. Not a great impression if you’re a large corporate company.

Within the last couple of years, the glue used and the methods of application have come on greatly and now, perfect binding holds up to quite rigorous abuse. The down side to both saddle stitching and perfect/thread sewn binding is that you can’t open the document flat, which can be very inconvenient, especially if the document is a reference type document and requires multiple return viewings.

If this application is required then spiral binding is the route to go. It is more expensive and could be considered more cumbersome as you now have a very prominent ‘bump’ down the length of the document. Dummies can be made up using a spiral bound method (very useful because seeing how far in the binding encroaches on the page, this allows the designer to establish how big of a margin is needed) but normally the paper mill or printers may charge as it is not a cheap method and may be at the discretion of the provider based on the size of the final job, i.e. 160pp brochure requiring a 10,000 printed run.


Once the dummies have been agreed then the job is designed and ready to go to print - but how do you know that the colours you’ve specified are going to come out the way you wanted? There are a plethora of additional snazzy techniques that can be added to make the finished article look even more spectacular, these can include, metallic inks, die cuts (this is where the paper has shapes physically cut out of it), spot UV varnish (which gives a gloss highlight to key areas of a document – they can be in gloss, silk or matt effects) and fluorescent colours, like bright yellow or luminous green.

Normally, for straightforward printed jobs, i.e. 4 colour on standard paper with no additional effects aside from the normal binding routes, a straight laser proof is more than enough and we only ever use these if the job is a very large finished item. Otherwise to save on the carbon footprint of the job, all work is checked and signed off from a PDF.

If a job has the above effects (i.e., diecut, spot colours etc), then the only way to see the finished version before you commit to 10,000 off is to have what’s called a ‘wet proof’. This comes at an additional cost to the print and it’s where the printer produces a one-off print using the paper, inks and additional techniques of the final brochure, for example, the front cover. This allows the client and designer to see how the final piece will look and whether they wish to make changes. There are lots of samples that are produced by paper mills that show a vast array of the different finishing types, so you can, to a degree, gain inspiration and a certain level of confidence in what the final effect will look like. But as with all things, your sample from the paper mill of a spot UV on a green, can look completely different when on red and also when it’s on different paper, so it does depend heavily on the experience of not only the printer and the client learning to trust them, but also, the quality and experience of the printer.

As with all things, working as a team always gains the best results especially when there is a mutual respect and understanding from all parties. Wet proofs are a great way of gaining greater control over your project but they aren’t always necessary; it does depend heavily on the importance of the final job and it’s final print run. Spending an additional £500.00 on a job that will cost £20,000 when printed is certainly worthwhile to stop any mistakes being incurred and then the job needing to be reprinted. A half way house to laser proof and wet proofs is when your job may have additional spot inks, in this case the designer and client can view the job on press. This involves the printer setting everything up to run the job as normal, you view the job actually on the printing press, this allows for minor changes in the colour and if the colours are not what was expected then you can just stop the job and make changes. There is obviously a cost to this if the whole thing needs resetting but nowhere near as much as having your purple come out mauve and needing to reprint the job again!

Dummies and proofing are valuable methods of insurance; they are key signoff stages that the client should always be involved with. These methods allow everyone to have confidence in the project through each and every stage and therefore be fully confident when the finished job is produced.

If, like the team at Zulu, you build up strong and long term relationships with your clients and your suppliers, you can always guarantee an excellent finished product that everyone is proud of.

Leave a comment