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How to Understand a Blueline Printing Proof


The final proof that a printer sends out before beginning the final printing process is called the “blueline” This is your last chance to make any final changes or adjustments, so it is important to know what to look for when reviewing a blueline. Please note, however, that bluelines are created by the final film from which the printing plates will be made so any changes at this point should be minor. Major changes will result in your printer having to create new films and this can be an expensive and unexpected additional cost. Here are a few things to look for when you receive your blueline.

•Compare the blueline to the final version of the working document for errors or inconsistencies. The best way to do this comparison is to check each aspect separately. So, if the text is the first thing you want to check, only look at the printed words and ignore everything else on the page. Repeat this process for image placement, line breaks, margins, image size, etc.

•Make sure everything is there. Although it’s not very likely, it’s possible that somewhere along the way a section of text or an image was forgotten. Also make sure that the pages are in the right order.

•Check the copy to make sure all the right fonts were used.

•Look at all the images in the blueline to make sure they are in the right places, in the right size and are at a level of quality that meets your expectations. Also, If you included captions, make sure they correspond to the right picture.

•Differences in color on a blueline are shown through different shades of blue (imagine that!). Your printer should have also called out areas that will be in spot color. If aren’t able to follow the color changes in the blueline, ask your printer for a color proof. However, this could add to the total cost of your project.

•Your printer might have included hand-written notes on aspects of the printing process that couldn’t be shown on the blueline such as placement of perforations, embossing, stamping, etc). Keep an eye out for these notes or just ask your printer if they included any hand-written notes, and, if so, where they appear.


If you do find any errors or want to make any final edits to the document, call them out directly on the blueline. Circle blemishes or typos and write in, by hand, any changes in text or adjustments in image placement.

Most bluelines will include an approval sheet that you will need to sign. If you don’t have any changes you can approve the blueline “as-is.” If you do have edits, you can check the box that says “approved with changes” (the exact wording for each option will differ from printer-to-printer)

Remember, this is basically your last chance to review the document before it goes to print, so if something is bothering you or you want to make a change, speak now or forever hold your peace. However, any major changes will be difficult and costly to implement, so if you don’t feel too strongly about it and the change isn’t absolutely necessary, it might be best to just keep it as is.

Alternatives to Blueline Proofs

Bluelines aren’t the only proofing option available for color projects. Here are a few other types of proofs that you can request from your printer.

•Digital - As digital technology continues to improve, so does the digital proof. This is good news for you as digital proofs are much cheaper than film-based proofs. Digital proofs are used in the direct-to-plate printing process, as there are no films from which to create a laminate proof. Digital proofs are also a good option when the accuracy and quality of the colors is not absolutely essential.

•Laminate - This type of proof is created from film and is the best option when color quality is vital. Laminate proofs are created by using dyes or toners on transparent film sheets pressed together to form a single sheet. Laminate proofs are more expensive than digital proofs, but are also much more accurate.

•Overlay - A middle ground between digital and laminate. In overlay proofs, a separate sheet of transparent film is created for each color and then the sheets are taped on top of the proof. This type of proof does not work well with projects that use spot colors. Overlay proofs are less expensive than laminate proofs.

•Press - This is the highest quality proof money can buy. Press proofs will show you exactly what your final product will look like because they follow the identical process - ink on paper. If budget isn’t an issue and you don’t want any surprises, a press proof is your best bet.






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