Los Angeles, CA (PressExposure) July 09, 2008 -- Proofing is a standard procedure before press printing. The output, a proof either in soft or hard copy, presents an image of your design as it would appear on print. This is done to allow you to preview your postcard design before it is mass produced.
Difference between soft and hard copy proofs
Some postcard printing companies send soft proofs electronically without requiring the recipient to pay. This is the advantage of soft copy proofs over printed ones. However, the former are somewhat limited to layout evaluation and are not as reliable in terms of color quality evaluation, at least not as much as hard copy proofs.
Soft proofs are presented in the red, green and blue (RGB) color space since computer screens use this format. Printers, on the other hand, have the cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) color format so you will get a more accurate visual with printed proofs.
There are image-editing programs that convert images spaces so you increase the accuracy of your soft proofs with a better monitor-printer color match. But if color precision is of the essence, it would be best to get hold of a hard copy, albeit you will be charged for it.
Aside from the quality of print, there are certain factors that you need to evaluate such as trimming.
Lines to follow in proofs
Once you get your proof, you will see three parallel lines on each side of your postcard design.
The middle lines are called trim lines or crop marks. The crop mark is the line followed when cutting your postcard to your desired size, say 4.25" x 6".
The area between the crop mark and the outermost line is the bleed. This is the printed area that extends beyond the crop mark. If ever the cutter slightly misses the crop mark, the minor space beyond the crop mark that has been accidentally not removed would still have prints on it, instead of showing undesirable thin white lines.
A 0.25" bleed on all sides is required but some companies allow 0.125". So your printed postcard should have a final measurement of 4.5" x 6.25" (plus 0.125" on all sides). However, if you want white borders on your postcards, do not include bleeds.
The area between the crop mark and the inner line is the live area or sometimes called the safe zone. No detail or information should go beyond the line for the live area. These are also at risk of getting trimmed off in case the cutter misses and moves slightly towards the inner area of the actual postcard size. The distance between these two parallel lines is 0.137".
To ensure the quality of your final products, you have to follow these guidelines. Your postcard printer may have allowances or may require slightly bigger measurements. Check their specific formats before you submit. Although errors would be spotted during pre-press evaluation, you do want to avoid getting the proofs returned to you several times due to these errors. It can be time-consuming. Polish your post card design as much as you could before sending it to the printer.