Check the Presses (and sometimes stop 'em)Graphic Design Wilmington NC // b.Branded Creative

Check the Presses (and Sometimes Stop ‘Em)

Lindsay Waltz

A press check is the final stage of any printed design project and is an important part of a graphic designer’s job. When we go onsite to a press check or take the time to review press proofs at the studio, we can better assure the quality of the finished product.

Below is a checklist shared by explaining what we look for during a press check:

The Checklist


  • The first thing to check is if the correct paper stock is being used. Check the color, weight and texture to make sure that it is the stock that was ordered.
  • Scan the entire flats as they come off the press to check the color balance across the sheet. Flat tints should be uniform.
  • Check if the content is consistent with that of the proof. Look for missing elements and make sure the latest changes that were done for the last proof also appear on the printed sheet. This validates that the printer used the correct final revision of the layout.
  • Fold down the press sheet or cut out the trimmed pages. This allows you to see what the final bound result will look like. If the job includes crossovers make sure that these are consistent in quality and density.


  • Check the overall color quality of images. Pay special attention to skin tones.
  • Check if the logo and brand colors are correct.
  • Images should not be too heavy or dark due to excessive dot gain.
  • When the sheet is cut, putting flat tints from one side next to the same tint from the other side of the sheet makes it easy to check color consistency.

Technical Aspects

  • Check the registration of the press. Bad registration can introduce color casts and affect the sharpness of images and screened type.
  • Check for printing artifacts such as broken type (such as vanishing thin strokes), scratches, hickeys (odd little circular spots that are caused by dust), spots or ghosting.
  • Check for prepress and plating artifacts, such as scratches. Check accents and other special characters as these sometimes get mangled if a different RIP is used for creating the plates. Also check some headlines and body text to see if there is no reflow of text compared to the final proof.

This process can take a few hours, but it’s time well spent.


In the press room at Joseph C. Woodard Printing Company during a press check for a client’s pocket folder.


Of course, it costs a bit more to put this level of care and attention into a project. We know there are places out there where you can score “500 business cards for $9.99!”

But think about it. Those rock-bottom deals should be a red flag that a company is cutting corners somewhere. And that likely means in their techniques, attention to detail, and quality or choices of paper and ink.

Without a press check, you won’t know if you’re getting sub-par materials until they arrive on your doorstep. If the quality is really bad, you may be forced to start over. At the very least, you’ll be stuck with cards or brochures that look less than professional.

However, if your print job is run on a top-of-the-line press and overseen by a graphic designer who knows and cares about your business, the results will be exactly what you want.

Which is perfect.

Have a project you want us to handle from start to finish? Drop us a line 910.681.0548 or send us an email.