General Proofing Questions

What is a SWOP proof?

SWOP is an acronym for Specifications for Web Offset Publications and since the late 1970s, SWOP has become an invaluable resource to the publication printing industry. By creating a system of color specifications that can be used by everyone involved in publication production, web offset printers are able to ensure color fidelity on press. Without SWOP Specifications, publication printers would not be able to match the scores of proofs coming from different sources and equipment.

Without getting too technical, A SWOP proof is simply a proof that meets SWOP standards including paper stock, ink color and density, screen angles, etc. Some variance is allowed since there will be some variance on press, however the amount of tolerance is strictly limited.

Why should I use a SWOP proof or any verified proof?

We all know color can vary greatly from device to device. Even if all your devices are calibrated and set to the same color profile, you are still limited to the color capabilities of that device. A SWOP proof or verified proof guarantees that the proof will be the closest representation to press conditions and will be the surest way to preview color before your job is actually printed.

My monitor is calibrated to SWOP. Do I still need a SWOP proof?

A calibrated monitor is extremely important for the design process however there is a lot of work involved with properly calibrating a monitor. Assuming that you are using a high-end display capable of displaying the full sRGB gamut, are using the correct ICC profiles and Adobe color settings and have calibrated your display based on your ambient lighting using a calibration device (such as the Pantone Spyder or X-RIte i1Display) to daylight (D50), a proof on paper will still yield a much more accurate representation of your final printed piece. Verified proofs are a much more reliable way to communicate color expectations to vendors and printers versus soft proofing proofing solutions.

Why type of proof do I need?

The proof you'll need is dependent upon your final output. See the overview below:

SWOP Coated 3:

  • Brighter paper typical of most higher-end publications. SWOP 3 is the most common proof required by printers and publishers.
  • Adobe ICC Profile: Web Coated SWOP 2006 Grade 3 Paper

SWOP Coated 5:

  • Duller paper typical of direct-mail catalogs (web offset printing). If needed, SWOP 5 will be requested by your printer or publisher.
  • Adobe ICC Profile: Web Coated SWOP 2006 Grade 5 Paper


  • Traditional sheetfed offset commercial printing. This proof can also be easily matched by a "G7" master printer.
  • Adobe ICC Profile: Coated GRACoL 2006 (ISO 12647-2:2004)


  • Similar to GRACol but more common with international printers. Recommended for printing overseas and can be easily matched.
  • Adobe ICC Profile: Coated FOGRA39 (ISO 12647-2:2004)


  • This color spec is specifically designed for newsprint. Available in contone only.
  • Adobe ICC Profile: US Newsprint (SNAP 2007)

What's the difference between a halftone proof and contone proof?

A halftone proof is a proof that is ripped, screened and printed with actual halftone dots similar to most press conditions. This allows you to check for anomalies like moíre patterns, screened type, banding in gradients, etc.

A contone proof (or continuous tone proof) has the same color accuracy as a halftone proof only without the dot pattern. Contone proofs are mostly used by photographers, fine artists or retouchers who need maximum detail and have no concern for the dot pattern.

Can you add color bars to my proof?

Yes. By default, verified proofs always have the IDEAlliance color bar added since it is required for the verification process. If you do not require a verified proof, then you still have the option of adding the IDEAlliance color bar during the ordering process.

Do you offer uncoated proofs?

Not at this time.



Proofing System Questions

What proofing system are you using?

We offer the highest quality in Epson SWOP proofing with the GMG ColorProof and DotProof SWOP Certified systems.

Do you print Iris / Kodak / Fiji / Matching approvals?

Iris, Rainbow, Kodak digital and Matchprint are all various SWOP proofing systems. Some people refer to all SWOP proofs as Kodak approvals (Kind of like saying Q-Tip to refer to any type of cotton swab). Our system produces the same dot pattern as a Kodak approval except we use the GMG ColorProof and GMG DotProof system along with high quality Epson printers, inks and paper. If your vendor is looking for Approvals, then our GMG SWOP proofs along with the optional verification will be an ideal substitute at a significant cost savings to you.

How do your proofs compare to my print vendor's proofs?

Most commercial printers offer digital SWOP proofs with their prepress workflow. If the SWOP proofs they offer are coming from an Epson or an HP then they will most likely be similar to the Epson / GMG SWOP proofs that we provide. Although typically more costly when coming from a print vendor, many print vendors use the same GMG SWOP proofing system as us.

Why are your proofs so much cheaper than other vendors?

Most commercial printers use complete prepress software packages that control everything from file input and impositions to platemaking and even press control. These solutions, however necessary for the commercial printer, only add to the cost of using their system.

Why should I proof with ExpressProof instead of my print vendor?

Cost, quality and timing are the primary reasons we hear from our clients. Because we're not a print vendor and only specialize in color proofing and color workflows, our overhead is significantly lower than commercial printers. In fact, along with ad agencies, publishers and photography studios, several commercial printers also proof through ExpressProof.



Verified Proofing Questions

What is a verified proof?

A verified proof is a proof that is printed from a certified system, meets the appropriate standards and also has had the color bars measured and verified to ensure that the proof itself actually meets the required standards. To "seal" the deal, a verified proof comes with a special label that tells the printer what system and standard the proof was made from, what the ink densities are and confirms that proof does, in fact, meet the required standards.

Do I need my proofs verified?

It depends on how you are using proofs. If you are ordering proofs to check design, color correction, retouching, etc. midstream of your project, then not necessarily. The only difference between our SWOP standard proofs and our SWOP verified proofs is that verified proofs come with proof and additional assurance. If you are ordering proofs to be used as contract proof between you and a printer, vendor or publisher then we highly recommend having your proofs verified.

How is a proof verified?

Once the proof has been ripped, printed and dried, it is read by a spectrometer to verify it has met proofing standards. A label is then placed on the proof that contains important ink density information along with a notation saying "pass" or "fail". This lets the recipient know if it has passed its required proofing standard (i.e. SWOP, GRACoL, ISO or SNAP).

What happens if a proof fails verification?

Even though we work hard to maintain calibration on our equipment, this does happen from time-to-time. The slightest environmental change from temperate and humidity to ink levels and paper changes can easily cause the calibration to go out. If your proof should fail verification, the proof is discarded and we run a complete diagnostic on our equipment.

What is the difference between a certified proof and verified proof?

A certified proof is simply a proof that comes from a SWOP certified system. However, just because the proofing system itself was certified by SWOP, that doesn't mean the proofs themselves are certified or even still meet SWOP standards. A verified proof means that it has been tested to ensure that it actually does meet SWOP, GRACoL, ISO or SNAP standards.



PDF Questions

What PDF formats can you process?

We accept most PDFs (as long as our RIP can detect them); however, we highly recommend PDFX-1a, PDFX-3 or PDFX-4 standard PDFs because of their almost universal compatibility. PDFX-4 files are highly recommended if you are using transparency effects with spot colors.

Do you accept any other format?

We only accept PDF files.

Do I need to put crop marks, registration marks and color bars in my PDF?

The company or printer you are producing the proofs for should provide you with specs based on their requirements. If they haven't, its best to include color bars, crop marks and at least .125" bleed.



Color Questions

Do I need to convert my files to CMYK?

You will either need to convert your images to CMYK or convert your document to CMYK during the PDF creation process. You'll have more control over your artwork if you convert images individually and color correct them accordingly, however that is entirely your decision.

Will the proofs I receive from you match what I see on screen?

Hopefully but not necessarily. If you have a high-end display and have spent the time to calibrate your monitor with a calibration device (such as the Pantone Spyder or X-RIte i1Display), have the correct color settings in your Adobe applications and have the correct color profiles in your artwork, then the proofs should be very close.

The color in the proofs I received is not what I expected?

Then be glad you ordered proofs before going to press! There are many factors that can affect your color such as the type of monitor you're using, monitor calibration, Adobe color settings, image color profiles, PDF creation method, etc.



Shipping Questions

When will my proofs ship?

Orders received Monday-Friday by 1:00 pm EST typically ship the same day. Orders received between 1:00 - 5:00 pm EST and marked “Rush” during checkout will be moved to the front of the queue and will also ship the same day. Large orders of more than $400 might ship the following business day. Depending on size and quantity, we may not be able to rush large orders. Before rushing large orders, please contact us to check turnaround time.

How much will it cost to ship my proofs?

Shipping costs depend on your location, order size, and shipping method. You will receive an exact price during the order process, before you finalize your order.

What shipping options do you offer?

We offer several different options through FedEx delivery within the contiguous U.S. See below:

  • FedEx Priority Overnight - Delivery the next business day by 10:30 am to most areas
  • FedEx Standard Overnight - Delivery the next business day by 4:30 pm to most areas
  • FedEx 2-Day A.M. - Delivery in 2 business days by 10:30 am to most areas (by 8:00 pm to residences)
  • FedEx 2-Day - Delivery in 2 business days by 4:30 pm to most areas (by 8:00 pm to residences)
  • FedEx Express Saver - Delivery in 3 business days by 4:30 pm to most areas (by 8:00 pm to residences)
  • FedEx Ground - Delivery in 1-5 business days (3-7 business days to Alaska and Hawaii) based on distance to your destination

I need to send proofs to more than one location. How do I do that?

Please place separate orders with different shipping addresses for each.

Can you use my own FedEx account number?

We can only ship from our FedEx account. The good news is our bulk rate is highly discounted over standard FedEx rates.



Payment Questions

What forms of payment do you accept?

We currently accept most major credit cards including American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover. In order to offer you the best price possible, we have created an automated workflow which currently only allows for point-of-sale credit card payment to complete your order.

When is my credit card charged?

Your card will only be billed after your order has been fully processed.