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SWOP proofing faq

by Kevin | Sunday June 06, 2012

This article was originally published on back in 2006, hard to believe it's been that long. This was before the advent of the GMG DotProof, but otherwise the content is still accurate. I will be posting a similar updated article soon. This is posted purely to allow people to re-direct from the old site which will be taken down soon.

sincerely, Kevin Kornemann

What is SWOP?

SWOP stands for Standard of Web Offset Printing. SWOP was formed in the seventies and has had varying success as a web-printing standard over the years, but has really come into its own in the past decade. With the advent of the new SWOP standard in 2006, SWOP has finally come of age. We finally have a consistent color standard ensuring reliable, predictable color in web offset print publications. And most importantly people are producing artwork using this standard more than ever.

What is a SWOP proof?

A SWOP proof is simply a proof that meets SWOP standards, with paper stock, solid ink color and density, dot gain, screen ruling (lpi), screen angles, gray balance, etc. Without getting too technical a SWOP proof is simply a proof that meets SWOP standards. Some variation is allowed, because all presses will move when printing. Our proofs meet every SWOP standard, and this is verified colorimetrically "by the numbers." Eventually vendors producing SWOP proofs will require verification with SWOP itself. By reading color bars on every proof and sending this data to SWOP for a verification sticker. At this point SWOP is still working on setting up this verification process. At Proof Digital we measure every proof to confirm colorimetric for our own quality control.

What is a Kodak Approval SWOP proof?

The Kodak Approval is the gold standard of all SWOP proofing systems. Despite the recent popularity and success of inexpensive ink jets the Kodak Approval is still is considered the most accurate proof available among art buyers and art directors at major advertising agencies across the US, and perhaps more importantly always accepted at every magazine as an accurate and acceptable proof.

What makes the Kodak Approval so special?

The Kodak Approval mimics the Web offset printing process. First your PDF/X1A artwork is "ripped," creating a halftone color separation (CMYK) at 2540 dpi! This separation is then imaged on a high resolution drum onto dye layers for each corresponding ink color (that match SWOP process inks without any color management), this is similar to the plate making process on a printing press. This color is then transferred via an intermediate onto real paper stock, similar to ink on a plate pressing against paper on a printing press. Because this is a halftone separation transferring onto actual printin paper stock, all SWOP specific conditions and standards can be met, screen resolution (lpi), screen angles, dot shape, even the order with which the CMYK colors are laid down is SWOP compliant!

Is an Kodak Approval SWOP proof better than an Epson SWOP proof?

Epson printers and other inkjets have managed to do a fantastic job at producing a SWOP proof as far as meeting SWOP color standards (e..g. dot agin, gray balance, ink color and density). But because of their relative lower resolution (about half) to the Kodak Approval, their ability to render a true halftone screen is limited, and not the same resolution printing plates are being imaged at (at least 2500 dpi).

For more information on the Kodak Approval please see this link:

What does halftone mean?

In the offset printing process the image is made up of high-resolution "screened" halftone dots (these dots are either on or off, hence halftone). The Kodak Approval proofing system precisely simulates this process of color reproduction. If you want to see a halftone dot, just pick up any magazine and take a loupe or magnifying glass to any image, you will see a "screen" pattern of dots (known as a rosette pattern), this is the halftone dot at work. Having a screened proof also helps alert you to any moire pattern problems in an image, problems you wouldn't see without a true high resolution screened proof.

What kind of paper do you use?

SWOP Coated 3, which is a brighter publication stock. C3 is accurate to what most magazines are using these days in brightness and color. We use a heavier weight cover stock so your proof can handle being handled by clients and creatives alike.

We also offer GRACOL Coated 1 proofs for commercial sheetfed printing. SWOP C5 is also an option; however do not recommend using it unless specifically requested by a magazine. If your magazine only specifies using a publication stock, SWOP C3 or C5 are both considered publication stocks, but again we recommend using C3.

Your more expensive than other web sites offering SWOP proofs available online, why would I spend more money than I have to?

We only offer Kodak Approval SWOP proofs, which typically run $150 and up at many agencies and service bureaus. We are offering this high-end proof online at a low price of $100 for a single page, or $135 for a double page. If your magazine requires two copies of your single page ad, you can select the double page option, which gets your cost per proof down to $67.50 per proof for the best quality proof! Why wouldn't you spend the extra cash for the best proof?

What is a PDF/X1A?

PDF/X1A is the standard PDF "flavor" required by most magazines today for ad artwork submission. There are many different ways to create a proper PDF/X1A, it is definitely easier than ever with the advent of Indesign CS3. We will be offering a PDF/X1A FAQ here in the future. But our ideal customer is a designer who wants the control of producing his/her own PDF's for client approval and ad submission, and just needs a way of getting the best and most accurate proof possible from his/her PDF/X1A before submitting to the magazine.

Can you create my PDF/X1A for me?

Yes, simply select this option in the checkout, upload your indesin or quark document with all related artwork and fonts and we can take care of this step for you. Your PDF/X1A and all related artwork will be burned to disc and returned to you with your proof. Alternatively we can ship directly to the magazine for you.

What types of files do you except for proofing my ad?

For ads, we prefer a supplied PDF/X1A, same as you are submitting to the magazine. It is usually required by the magazine that your proof is made directly from this file and not from Quark or Indesign. We always preflight all pdf's that we proof ensuring they are in fact PDF/X1A compliant before we proof, as a safety net in case you may have missed something. However we do not double check magazine layout specifics, i.e. bleed; trim, etc unless we are creating the PDF for you.

For images, we accept CMYK tiff fles, please see the photgraphers proofing faq.

What is the maximum size the approval can proof?

Up to 20.8" wide by 12.75," this is known as a 2up device meaning you can usually fit a page spread or two ads on one proof. Please note to run 2 ads on a double page proof it is necessary your PDF/X1A fit within a 10.4"X12.75" bounding box, trim marks and all.

My Indesign/Photoshop/Illustartor/Acrobat color settings have SWOP v2 as my default CMYK profile, is this correct?

Yes and no. SWOPv2 is now an older SWOP profile, one that will soon be replaced with SWOP C3 (note: not V3!) with the release of CS4. SWOP has released two new standard profiles, available at, or here on our site. This new SWOP standard, specifically SWOP C3, is what we are calibrated to and recommends you use. However, SWOPv2 will still work fine, although proofs may appear very slightly cooler than expected. This has to do with the fact the older SWOPv2 standard was made to a yellowish publication paper no one seems to use anymore. Remember the print run that later became SWOP v2 was made in 1993! This is in fact why SWOP re-invented its standards and released 2 new standards, SWOP C3 (brighter stock more inline with what magazines print with these days), and SWOP C5 (darker and more yellow consistent with the older SWOP standard). But again if your document is setup to SWOP v2 this is absolutely fine and will reproduce extremely well both on our proof and in the magazine.

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