TKs Korner Masthead

February 2024



Press Check Tips


CYMK Printing Press



My client Susan, was wondering if there was research available regarding tips on press checks. I’m glad to say, there most certainly is. The following information is a compilation from: Sappi’s How to Read a Press Sheet. Plus some very valuable input from various press operators as well as my own ‘Two Cents Worth’. (Ok, we all know that I like to share...a lot! So, lets go with my non-stop rambling...)


Actually, TK’s Korner Press Check Tips was published in a National Magazine called “Print & Media Buyer” in December of 2007.





To people outside of our field, who simply look at pictures and read words, it may seem odd that pictures aren’t just pictures. For those of us in the industry, pictures are not passive — they’re tools used to convey ideas; which are affected by every shade, nuance, and detail (or lack thereof) that they contain. Logically, the degree to which we control this process determines how close we come to realizing our ideas.


Up Front STEP BY STEP Process


Establish communication with me, your printing consultant, early in the design stage


Talk about specs, budgets, expectations and deadlines. Most importantly, talk about the vision of the piece and the impact you want it to make; the look and feel you are going after. How is the end-user expected to feel when handling the piece? Is it meant to be a one-time view/throw away or a high profile piece with a long shelf life?


Discuss the actual design, images, techniques or anything special that you have in mind. By getting me involved with advance planning and discussions, you are ensured that what you present and get approved is what you will receive back. Maybe you are open to options that may enhance your piece or give it that little something extra. I want to make sure that what you are designing can actually be produced, or I will help find available options.


Remember, what works or doesn’t work for one project, doesn’t necessarily mean it will or will not work for the next. Each project is unique in and of itself.


Original Images


Mood settings and your expectations on the color will require some considerations. Are you going for overall pleasing color or are specific areas needing to match the original image? The Compression Chart, located on page 14 of Sappi’s book, shows what the human eye sees vs. what the camera or film can capture vs. what the printing press is actually capable of producing! (Some colors are more easily reproduced than others.)


Remember to discuss the proper paper selection in addition to the line screen you choose and how each will affect your final outcome. The more dots an image contains equates to a greater number of tones you can create as long as the resolution of the scanned image is high enough.




Because offset printing involves physically putting ink on paper, where the ink goes has an impact on the things around it


Cross Over Hook-Ups — images above/below others, 4 color processing tint stripping-amount of, size of areas, number of different tints, etc., will dictate if a solid PMS color may be a better choice.


Mechanical Ghosting — ink unevenly deposited in a particular area is another concern that may creep into consideration. If preplanned, we can work the layout on press to try to eliminate the threat. If it occurs while on press, we may have a few options to try.


NOTE: Remember that your design and how it appears on your computer screen may appear differently on a press sheet.




Paper has an enormous impact on the final printed results of your images — not only on color, but sharpness, print contrast, level of gloss and detail! Variables to consider when choosing a paper: brightness, whiteness, smoothness, flatness, type of surface (gloss, dull, silk, matte, uncoated), paper weight and even opacity. Keep in mind that if you have or are planning on having coordinated materials, you need to keep everything printed on the same paper stock.


I have an excellent sample, FLINT’s Ink Color Quiz, that shows the same PMS red printed on 15 different stocks, making it appear as if 10 different colors of red were used. See also Picking the Right Paper and Substrate Issue, Ink Tour, Paper Mill Tour - Coated and Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated issues of TKs Korner.




Aqueous and varnish coatings not only protect your printed piece, but they can enhance images and add a level of tactile richness not otherwise possible. Your options for how and where to use these coatings are almost limitless. Ask to see my collection of great one-of-a-kind samples that demonstrate various coating techniques!


NOTE: The type of coating you have used on one family piece, may need to be used on all coordinating pieces. Otherwise, you run the risk of color variations even if you used the same images and paper.

Read past issues of TKs Korner that speak directly to UV concerns: UV Burn, and Creative Coatings Techniques




Due to the options available, there is only one thing to keep in mind — none of them can duplicate the final result perfectly. Knowing what your final piece must look like helps you pick the most cost effective option.


Shapco offers the following proofing solutions:


A) Soft Proof

(Approval Required for Contract Proof) Proofing has just gotten a little easier, thanks to Shapco. No more cumbersome email attachments and wondering if someone has the correct version of software, or if they can receive files larger than 1 mb. Soft proofs allow you to proof your files virtually anywhere, anytime and all you need is a web browser.


B) Printed Digital Proof

Shapco can provide you with an ACTUAL printed proof on your Specific Stock and Actual inks being used if so desired. It will be hand scored and folded to simulate your end piece.


C) Epson Proof

(Color Contract Proof) This is an ICC profiled single-side proof for jobs that require the most accurate proof-to-press match. This proof is required for scatters, press proofs, or color corrections. There is a choice of coated or uncoated paper for this proof, and a clear overlay simulates varnish, die-lines or a 5th color.


D) Forms Proof

This is what used to be called, Dylux proofs, and is cut down to size, folded accordingly so you may double check all copy / content placement, color designation only (not for color for that is done with the Epson Proof)


E) Press Proof

An actual printed piece using your images or stock art to see how they will reproduce. Naturally a press proof is more expensive and time consuming and should be used only when other proofing methods can’t simulate the effect.


Marking Up a Proof


Make sure that you are in a controlled and color balanced (5000K ANSI* standards) room when checking color. The environment in which color is viewed can change it dramatically. There is a RHEM Graphic Arts Light Selector for Color Viewing available that helps you check to see if you are in a properly controlled room.


In addition, how well you articulate any corrections determines whether or not you’ll get the changes you desire. I recommend noting general statements about your wishes unless you feel confident in giving specific percentages and/or color moves. i.e. brighter, cleaner color, skin tones too warm, soften highlights, more definition, detail, open up — too heavy, etc.



“Understanding Color” per Stora Enso’s #5 issue: It’s important to know that when printing, light passes through transparent inks of the three subtractive primary colors, C=cyan, M=magenta and Y=yellow, striking white paper and reflecting back to the eye through the colored ink film. Call me if you need more information on how this is beneficial not only during press checks, but earlier in the proofing stage as well.


How each one affects the outcome:


Cyan — pigment absorbs red and reflects or transmits blue and green light


Magenta — pigment absorbs green and reflects red and blue light


Yellow — pigment absorbs blue and reflects red and green light


Black —is added to enhance the depth and extend the tonal range of the colors


Conventional four color printing can only reproduce approximately 100,000 distinct shades, while the human eye can be anywhere from 1 million to 10 million. See the Compression Chart link for additional information mentioned under Original Images mentioned earlier in this issue.


NOTE: Difficult colors to capture in 4 color process: Oranges, greens, purples, and intense shades of any color plus metallic tones




By this time, you and I have covered all the bases, made the necessary changes and corrections. This means the press check should go fast, fun and uneventful.




As a result of extensive training and the latest equipment, Shapco is certified as a G7 Master Printer. For us, achieving this status is kind of a big deal. To you, it simply means that your finished print materials will look great—and virtually identical from proof to press and from press to press.



G7 is a revolutionary process developed by IDEAlliance and is based on principles of digital imaging, spectrophotometry, and computer-to-plate technologies. It breaks from tradition by focusing on colorimetric data for gray balance in the mid-tones rather than on densitometric values for each color. G7 is named for this calibration technique and its 7 required ISO ink colors.


Our workflow, proofing systems, and print technologies ensure that what you approve is what you’ll get. In addition, our new eco-friendly platemaking processes create graphics that are cleaner, crisper, and more vibrant than ever.


Extra measures are taken on EVERY press run at Shapco (which are not utilized by other printing companies).


Shapco uses a CIP4 Cooperation for Integration of Processes system (processes in, pre-press, press, post-press). This means that all the settings for color in our proofs are transmitted directly to the presses once you approve your proofs, which makes for faster, accurate and more economical press checks. Thus, making your job a whole lot easier!


As an experienced G7 Master Printer, Shapco's print quality is unquestioned.


Komori KMS Management and PDC-SII, recognizes process and spot colors by comparing actual printed swatches to reference values. A spectrophotometric scanning system analyzes both process and spot colors by comparing actual printed pieces to reference (proof) values. Any required corrections are automatically sent to the connected KMS Management System for immediate adjustment. This system is ideal for users with frequent job changes, short production runs and standardized jobs.


Brand uniformity is critical to our clients, especially those in the healthcare and higher education segments This equipment keeps us on the forefront of print technologies and helps us provide our customers with uncompromising quality. Komori’s reliability combined with the KMS Management System and PDC-SII scanners (built into ALL our presses) allows to get to color quickly and very effectively while accommodating today’s tight turnaround schedules.”



C) Plus, there are other important extra quality processes that we have implemented. I’ll show them to you at your next press check and you’ll know why they are important (and not mentioned specifically in this issue).


NOTE: Keep in mind that the cost of making changes increases significantly as the process moves along:
1) Laser stage

2) Final Proofs

3) Plates

4) Press Proof







Make sure you have all supporting materials on hand, i.e. dyluxes, final color proof, companion pieces, etc.


Furnish me with your family of pieces with any specifics so the press operator can start with your end goal in mind.


Establish a rapport with the press operator who really understands their press capabilities and how to get what you want.


Reader Sheet (Sheet One)

(A make ready sheet that isn’t for color, but can be used for proofing content)

– Check copy changes noted on dylux

– Check design elements

– Check positioning of art and type

– Lastly, check stock - paper, weight and finish


Sheet Two

Mark sheet #1 and number all following to track your moves

– Check print quality

– Overall color and balance

– Flesh tones

– Registration

– PMS color

– Type, crisp edges, any broken type, clean knockouts

– Check for hickies, dirt or scratches

– Check for consistent densities across page. (Especially with cross over hook-ups, etc.)


If you find areas of concern, be sure to circle and draw a line out to white area of the sheet so your notes don’t get missed.


NOTE: Take your time and don’t try to do it all at once. Step back and get an overall view and impression. Compare the sheet to your color proof and understand where a give-and-take may be necessary. Speak in generalities about adjustments so the press operator can decide what the press actually needs to do to get there.


Also keep in mind the difference between your proof material (its brightness, whiteness and coating) compared to your printed stock. These differences will dictate what may or may not be obtained on press.


Subsequent Sheets

– Continue to mark sheets in numerical sequence

– Double check previous adjustments

– Check tints, with each color move, they may have shifted

– Check side-to-side, similar colors, especially cross overs

– Confirm areas that get (or don’t get!) coated, quantities, version differences, etc.

– Finally, make sure that any changes you’ve made aren’t revising other critical areas due to the signature layout.


NOTE: Don’t be afraid to cut or fold sheets, lay them next to one another, especially important with cross over hook ups.


And for those seasoned press checkers, the color bar area has a lot of information to use to your advantage. Pages 24- 25 in the Sappi book has an excellent description of each.


Sign Off Sheet


When you like it, sign it! If there’s a chance the project may need to print again at a later time, ask to have the sign off sheet recorded.


SPECIAL NOTES: For some colors, even the smallest variance can shift the color significantly. The industry standards are 5-6%. However, for some PMS colors and 4cp tints, a 3-4% variance can have a profound effect. Neutral grays, purples and colors that have a lot of transparency color in them are the biggest culprits.




Don’t forget that proofing materials will look different than the printed piece. First check the whiteness, brightness, gloss, etc. of your proof material to your project’s stock. Even the coatings will affect your final outcome. (For example, a yellow stock to proof material will mean that your colors will be more yellow and glossier; no coating on a printed piece may mean that colors may not as rich or vibrant.


Hickies occur when particles adhere to the plate or blanket, causing either a donut effect or an unprinted void surrounded by printing


Solution: Dip out ink fountain, drop fountain blade, clean, hot water wash, rollers, add fresh ink from new can, change inks


Pick outs occur when ink is too tacky or coating is defective causing stock to be pulled and deposited onto the blanket. Subsequent sheets show partial filling or absence of color


Solution: Clean blankets, change inks, reduce ink tack, reduce impression cylinder pressure, try different grade of stock.


Ink build up on the blanket, eventually lifts off a portion of the image, pulls the fibers or coating from the sheet.


Solution: Try a different lot of ink, adjust fountain solution levels, replace blanket or try different grade of stock


Delamination occurs when paper itself pulls apart during printing.


Solution: Reduce ink tack, back cylinder pressure or try different grade of stock.


Misregistration or Slur occurs when printing dots don’t align, causing a blurred image or color variance.


Solution: Adjust and clean grippers, lower ink tack, re-adjust feed table, try different grade of stock.


Mottling happens when ink lies unevenly on the sheet or in a solid area.


Solution: For 4cp/reverse cyan/magenta ink sequence tack. Put heavier coverage down last and solid colors in last unit, increase press speed, try different grade of stock.




The only solution is to try a different grade of stock. Usually heavier or no coating may be the answer.


I hope this gives you some tools to use, and please keep your recommendations for subjects to be covered in future issues coming at me!




checkbox.jpg Bring all supporting materials with you - companion pieces, sign offs, etc.

checkbox.jpg Look at final proofs and dyluxes

checkbox.jpg Number all press sheets in upper right hand corner consecutively with the changes you are making

checkbox.jpg Look at overall color to see if OK or needing adjustment

checkbox.jpg Make general color comments so operator may adjust according to where the press has been, and can go (i.e. “Flesh tones too warm/jaundiced looking,” “Whites too dirty”)

checkbox.jpg If cross-overs are present, check color consistency of different positions

checkbox.jpg If using 4 color process tints, check color consistency throughout

checkbox.jpg If PMS colors are being used, check against PMS book or color chips

checkbox.jpg Check registration marks if color is not adjusting properly

checkbox.jpg Check for hickeys or picking, before final sign off

checkbox.jpg If coating with varnish or aqueous, check for registration and smooth application

1576.jpg If mailing and using a coating, is a knock-out necessary for ink jetting, lasering or written information?

1578.jpg Sign off when everything looks good! Make any last minute notes on sheet for operator to watch for or do while getting up to speed on press and ask for the number of press sheets you’d like to take back!



Before we go...

If you have a production issue not discussed above that you would like me to address, or a project that needs to be looked at, please give me a call or send me an email.


As always, I will do whatever it takes to ensure you receive the best value for every marketing dollar you invest.


Connect with me on LinkedIn

You can also check out my profile, join my network and view more client comments on LinkedIn at:


Referrals are greatly appreciated. If you know someone I can help, or who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know.

Take care and have a great day!


Tom Kubinski

Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
Direct: 612-278-1568
Cell: 612-760-3700


Our Work

Shapco has done it all — showstopping display pieces, innovative packaging, award-winning art books, direct mailers that get results, you name it — and our team is always ready for a new challenge.


Explore our portfolio and start envisioning what we can do for you.

Take a Virtual Tour of Shapco and visit our Website for more information.


Virtual Tour: Shapco Printing Inc.


Website: Shapco - Minnesota's Most Awarded Offset & Digital Printer


Our Services: Advertising Specialties, Large Format, Full Service Mailing, Fulfillment / Inventory Management, e Commerce Portal, Offset Printing, Digital Printing, Packaging, Kitting etc.


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Why Shapco: "If You Dream It, Shapco Can Print It. What can Shapco do for you?"



Did you miss an issue of TK's Korner? Click below to view!


Branding - 22 Laws Of
Brand Warfare
Clear Dry Ink
Creative Coatings Techniques
Desktop Techniques
Digital Printing - Variable Data or Business Development
Direct Mail Raise Response, Lower Costs
FSC Certification
In House Mailing Capabilities
Ink Tour—Everything you wanted to know
Marketing More Effectively
Paper Mill Tour - Coated
Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated
Picking the Right Paper and Substrate
PDF Formats
PDF Info & Quark vs. InDesign
PODi - Digital Print Success Story
Postal Changes, Mailing Requirements & Rates
Press Check Tips
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
Save Disk Space
Social Media -- The Basics
Social Media vs. Print
Top File Issues
UV Burn
Ways to Save Money
What Sets Shapco Apart?
Why Print in a Down Market?
Why Work With TK?



Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 612-278-1568
Fax: 612-334-5879
Cell: 612-760-3700
1109 Zane Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN. 55422
Phone: 612-375-1150
Fax: 612-334-5879
Toll Free: 1-800-230-2828

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