Guide to Proofs for Printed Packaging

In this article, we explain how a proof compares to the final printed packaging, what types of proofs exist and which proof type we recommend for best results.

What is a proof?

A proof is a representation of how your printed packaging will look after it is printed. There are a few different types of proofs, each with a different level of accuracy vis a vis the final printed packaging. Note: No proof can look identical to your final printed packaging. This is due to a variety of reasons which we will explain below.

We will explain what each type of proof is and the level of accuracy each one provides. From reading the article, you should be able to make an informed choice about what type of proof you need. The type of proof you require will depend mostly on how important the colour correctness is to you.

Desktop Proofs*

As the name suggests these are proofs that are printed on a desktop laser or inkjet printer. They are usually printed off by your graphic designer to check the copy, the layout or to be cut and folded into the final carton shape to give a general idea of how the carton will look when folded and glued.

Desktop proofs should be sent to us by your graphic designer along with the electronic artwork file. This will help us during our pre-press process. All proofs being supplied with artwork should indicate the percentage at which the proof was output, any Colours and Spot Varnish (if required), any After-Print processes (e.g. Hot Foil, Emboss).

As this type of proof is printed using a black and white laser/inkjet printer or the colour of these desktop proofs will only give an approximation of the final printed carton or sleeve. You should never expect an offset printing press to match a colour laser/inkjet printout.

PDF Proof*

This is basically an electronic version of your desktop printer proof and you can use it to check text, images etc. However, it will not be an accurate proof for colour as your final printed cartons and sleeves will be printed using CYMK on a cartonboard whereas you will be viewing your PDF proof in RGB on your laptop or PC’s screen.

*Note: Proofs and Brand/Spot/Pantone/Line/Special colours

If your carton or sleeve’s design includes brand/spot/pantone colours, then any desktop or electronic proof will not provide an accurate representation of how your final printed carton will look. If you need more information about Brand/Spot/Pantone/Line/Special colours, please read our blog here.

Contract Proofs

 What is a Contract Proof?

A contract proof is printed on a high Hi White Coated Paper and it will be the closest proof to the actual printed packaging. Colours on the Contract Proof will match very closely, if not exactly, to the printed piece.

Contract Proofs from Dollard Packaging

All proofs supplied by Dollard are what is generically termed ‘Contract Proofs’ in that they are output from a colour-calibrated printer with stringent adherence to ISO standards to ensure fidelity of colour in the CYMK range and as closely as possible to represent any Pantone Colours that may be present.

Matching to Pantone Colours

The Pantone colours are controlled on press by using Pantone Swatch books or using Match Colour Ink Drawdowns produced on the carton board specified to be used for the print run.

Information Supplied with your Contract Proof

Proofs presented by Dollard will display all colour information and related processes to ensure our customer has all information present on the single proof.

This information includes:

  • Proof’s output size
  • All colours being used including Varnishes, any secondary processes such as Hot Foil, Embossing etc
  • Keyline with full dimensions and reference
  • A very useful Customer Checklist to assist the customer in making a calculated inspection of the proof.

 Signing Off on Your Contract Proof

When you receive a Contract Proof, you will be asked to provide your signature on the proof for approval.

Checking your Proof

When you receive a proof, check it carefully, then if possible, leave it aside for a while and recheck it later. If you approve the proof and then hours later you see a mistake, it is possible that you may have to reprint the entire job. It is your responsibility to make sure your proof is correct. In addition to checking your contract proof and related information, you can also use our Proofing Checklist to assist your proofing process.

How Dollard Packaging Use the Signed-Off Contract Proof

A press operator will use a Contract Proof to compare against the colour on the carton board at the commencement of the print run to produce a Pass Sheet. The Pass Sheet will be used as a reference point for this and subsequent print runs.**

**Note: The colour of your Contract Proof may not match exactly to the colour on the print run if the colour of the proofing material is different than the board that the carton is printed on. Colours proofed on Hi White paper will look brighter than those printed on an uncoated or natural coloured board.

Related Posts

Check out our Packaging Proofs Handy Checklist

Read our Top Proofreading Tips

If you need any help with any aspect of your packaging, please contact us on 01 847 0044 or