With todays technology providing very quick, economic and accurate contract colour proofs and standardised printing using ISO 12647 process control, is the concept, even the conceit, of the clients needing to pass a job on press out-dated?

Most production managers will have shuddered when the sales person hands back the colour proofs with the words, ‘and the clients would also like to pass the job on press’. The subsequent conversation can then be interesting. The unspoken question in back of the production manager mind is ‘why’ if the proof has been passed with out comments.

 So the reasons come out, all of which starkly illustrate some of the areas were both client and printer miss-communicate.  The reasons why a client feels the need to pass on press are many, most of which can imply that they do not trust their print supplier!

Firstly lets look at the contract colour proof and the approval cycle for a printed job.

  • Does the client trust the contract digital proof?
  • Does it have a colour control bar and validation to the correct printing condition?
  • Has the printer explained that these proofs will be accurate to the printed job, i.e. a contract colour proof? If not what is the purpose of the proof?

 So if all these areas are covered what next? The production run; will this match the contract proof? Well, if the contract proof has passed proof validation and was to the correct ISO 12647 printing condition and paper type to match the print run and the press is set up correctly to match these conditions, it will match the proof. So back to the first question, why is a client press pass needed.

 If the production manager delves deeper one of the reasons often quoted is, ‘the client has passed the colour proofs but wants to see if they can ‘get it better on press’.

So the client wants to use a £1m+ multi colour production press as a retouching tool!

 Why any printer allows this is difficult to understand. Hours of un-chargeable press time are likely to be the result of this decision. If changes are needed, change the images and pages and re-proof. This is efficient, accurate and better for all parties.

 Trying to ‘adjust’ a printing press to match a result that is only in someone’s mind can result in the client passing the job, but can leave the press in an unstable condition; high or low ink film weights which will make consistent production when I production very difficult.

 Printers can be just as guilty  in this area. We have all heard the words ‘don’t worry; we will get it right on-press’. This, again, is usually a long process and often results in a poor compromise on press, due to the reasons already listed.

 From the clients view if they have proofs from a printer, which they have approved, then if they do not feel that the printer can not match them on press the question must be, why are they using that printer in the first place? 

So why is a press pass needed. Possibly this is reasonable for areas such as ‘on-line’ special finishes, specialist papers, spot varnishes and coatings, which cannot be proofed.

 Special colours have been mentioned as a reason for press passes, but with the use of CIE Lab values, spectrophotometers and systems such as Pantone LIVE to control brand and special colours this area does increasingly not need to be passed on press by the client.

 A very small straw poll of printers and print purchases pointed out some other reasons for passing on press.

  • Printers can see it as a way to get more time with a client, as long as the press pass goes well, and show off their services and premises.
  • There are stories of some printers who set time limits and papers limits on press passes by clients. If they feel they have matched the proof and if client wishes to alter this, the time taken and the extra paper used for the press make ready is charged on the invoice.
  • Clients often like to press pass the first work produced by a new print supplier. Hopefully they will have been to the printers premise before this?
  • Print management companies and designers purchasing print for others often see this function as ‘looking after their clients interests’. This function may even generate some revenue as well.

So is it nesserary, is it a conceit, does it add value? As in many areas in this business there is no correct answer. My feeling it is market driven.


In some market areas no proofs are produced, the printer runs ‘to the numbers’. In others areas many iterations of contract colour proofs can still be needed.

 If a client does want to press pass it is difficult for a printer to refuse. However the purpose for this must be understood and the terms agreed by both printer and client.

 Always correct, retouch, etc. and re-proof if there is any doubt about colour. This is the most effective way to obtain the correct result for both the printer and their clients. It will also prove quicker and more econmic. Thinking there is no time for a re-proof is no longer a valid argument.

 If the job is so important why ‘retouch’ on press, wasting time and money, usually the printers, and often produces a job that still disappoints all concerned?

 As is often quoted  ‘There is always time for a reprint’.



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