Proofing Printing Knowledge

Proofing Product Manufacturing | Proofing Final Direct Mail Processes

(Production Proofing)

Proofing your direct mail project at all stages of its development is very important in trying to eliminate errors. Proofing a project can be accomplished by the person working on the project, proofreaders, senior account executives and the client. Generally, more than one person should proof the project. If something is missed, it will more than likely be caught by the next person doing the proofing. It is a good idea to have a checklist of items and specifications that need to be proofed. Have the checklist signed by whoever is proofing the project at that stage. There are several stages at which it is important to get the project proofed and approved. Proofing should be accomplished during the different production stages discussed below.

Proofing Product Manufacturing

Material Proofing

A blank mock-up of all the pieces in the direct mail package should be made using the actual material for each piece. The mock-up can be used for several purposes.

  • Use mock-up to estimate postage costs.
  • To check if the package meets mail classification maximum weight requirements.
  • To see if all the pieces fit together as planned.
  • Send mock-up to the lettershop and mail house to verify that all the folding, inserting, sealing and other processing can be handled by the processing equipment.

It is important that the mock-up test be created in an early stage of the project. If the package exceeds mail classification weight requirements, parts of the package may have to be revised. A letter may have to be less pages or an insert may be eliminated from the package. This type of revision may also end up affecting the design of other pieces in the package. 

Printer Proofs

Once the printer receives the artwork, whether it is artboards, negatives or supplied digitally, they should supply you with a proof to approve before going to press with it.

  • Verify that the printer has received the correct information for size, copy, ink colors and construction of the direct mail pieces.
  • Request that proofs be trimmed and folded to finished size so that all aspects can be proofed.
  • Check copy content and copy placement.
  • Be sure colors separations are correct.

Checking the printer proofs gives you one more chance to eliminate errors before the mail pieces go to press.

Press Proofs

Press proofs are actual press samples coming off the press before the job is run. You have the option of being at the production facility to check the press samples but realize that it may be in the middle of the night when they are ready for approval. Whether you check the samples or the press supervisor or plant manager check them, they should be inspected for several details.

  • Check to see that all elements of the copy are printing and are in the correct location.
  • Be sure the color separations are correct and that the ink colors match the colors indicated.
  • Check ink color with any other pieces of the direct mail package that have already been printed so that all ink colors on all pieces match.
  • Check to see that the extra features, that are to be applied at the press, have been added, such as perforations, punching and die cutting.
  • A sample should be trimmed and folded to finished size to be sure everything is placed properly, whether it is copy, perforations, or folds.
  • Is print quality good? Ink colors should register properly and copy and images should look sharp.
  • Check press proofs to be sure there will not be any problems doing any finishing processes.

All of the above aspects should be checked and approved before the OK to run the product is given.


Before the product goes to the finishing department, press proof should be checked to be sure that when finishing processes are added, there will not be any problems. When applying finishing processes, each process should be check for accuracy.

  • Check for proper locations of folds, perforations, die cutting . . . etc.
  • Be sure folds are sharp but be sure they are not breaking apart after the have been folded.
  • Be sure perforations have the proper tear strength. They should tear easily but not be falling apart.
  • If die cutting a section, the die cut should be clean without hanging edges.
  • Staples should be long enough to go through all pages being stapled and hold properly.


Proofing Final Direct Mail Processes

All final processes should also be proofed for quality and accuracy. The operators in each area are responsible for making sure their process is being completed correctly. Many times each step will require an approval by someone other than the operator. Some of the final processes are personalization, bar coding, assembling, inserting and mail processing.

Each process should be proofed for accuracy and checked to see that it is being processed correctly for the remaining processes.


  • Check the imprinting of the personalized information to be sure the correct copy for each piece is being printed.
  • Check for proper location.
  • If an address is being imprinted to show through a window envelope, place the piece into the window envelope the way it will be placed when inserted to be sure the address shows through the window properly.

Bar Coding

  • Check for proper location.
  • Check for good read quality.


  • Carefully check the order and nesting of all pieces.
  • Be sure all the pieces are the correct ones for that mailing.
  • Once assembled, they should be inserted into the envelope or package that they will be mailed in to be sure that everything fits properly.
  • If copy is to show through a window, be sure it shows through properly once inserted.


  • Double check that inserted pieces fit properly.
  • Be sure they are facing the proper direction in the envelope or package.
  • If using a window envelope, check that copy shows through the window properly.
  • Check key codes to be sure all pieces are the correct ones for the mailing being processed.

Mail Processing

  • A final check of the entire package should be completed to be sure personalization, bar coding (if applied at this point), assembling and inserting have been completed properly.
  • Be sure all mail processing functions are completed according to USPS standards so that the proper postage discounts will be obtained and so that the package will be delivered as intended.

It is critical that proofing be completed at all stages of the direct mail project. The earlier an error can be detected, the less it will cost to correct it. Detecting a copy error when proofing the artwork will cost a lot less than detecting it on the press proof. Getting approval from the client, through all stages of the project, will help assure that the project is being produced to their expectations.


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