Passports and Press Checks


I just returned from a press check in Florence, Italy.

What’s a press check you say? In my time away from Planet Central, I design books for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and most recently finished work for an exhibition opening in Norway this summer. Designing a book this detailed is a collaborative effort, working with editors, other museum staff, and of course, the curator.

There are so many decisions when putting together a piece of this size. What’s the look and feel of the book going to be? What typeface, what type color? What do the captions, notes, folios, headers, footers, and index look like? How is the piece written? In sections or a flowing text? What kind of paper? Soft cover or hard? Cloth or paper wrapped cover?…The list goes on!

Once all of these decisions have been made and the designer has poured his heart and soul into the book, there’s one final phase to make sure everything is perfect.

Ready, set, press check.

Only a keen designer eye can ensure the color on the pages matches as closely as possible to the proofs. While the printers are really good at relying on the ink densities to achieve their results, they’re not as sensitive to the intended color. It’s the designer who picks up nuances of the colors and then works with the pressmen to achieve the best results. Is it too much magenta, or yellow? Is the cyan killing this or that color? Are adjustments made to the colors in an image on one portion of the press sheet, negatively impact the colors of an image below it? Again, it’s a collaboration.

Press checks can take several days, depending on the length of the book, or the size of the print run. Checking 16 pages at a time, making adjustments to both sides, on a nearly 150-page book makes for a lengthy day!

Why aren’t most people in our industry performing press checks?

Oh digital age – how you have spoiled us! A great deal of printing now is digital. There are no press checks on a quick digital job because there are less possible color adjustments on digital presses. Press checks are reserved for offset printing where more adjustments are possible. When producing an art piece like this, color is essential and it’s worth the time, effort, and expertise required for a press check.

Job Well Done!

Once the printing was done and the press sheets were headed to the bindery, I was able to enjoy a day and a half in Florence as a tourist! The long hours of the whole project are quickly forgotten once it is finished, and I look forward to doing the next one.

Florence Italy