A proof is an electronic file or physical product meant to give an idea of the way your project will turn out when printed.
Also known as a soft proof, most printers will provide electronic proofs for free because generating them is a necessary step that must be taken before printing. An electronic proof is done for any file that will be printed: interior pages, book cover, game board, game box, cards, instructions etc. A prepress expert will look over your files for a number of issues, usually putting them through pre-flight software to do computerized checks as well.
A few pre-flight fundamentals:
Prepress experts will double check that everything is accurate and may provide some suggestions if they find problems with your files. They’ll also typically add printer’s marks to indicate where the files will be trimmed, and then they’ll send the final file to you for your approval.
In general, electronic proofs are effective for double checking content, pagination, and layout. However, electronic proofs cannot accurately portray how colors will look when printed.
Hard copy proofs, also known as physical proofs, are highly recommended for those who are printing offset for the first time, and for those who have specific color requirements. This option typically includes one or several press sheets of a project (usually 8 pages of content per press sheet), printed on an offset press using the actual paper and finishes to be used in the final product. Overall, physical proofs give a much more accurate feel for the way that color translates to the printed page.
Hard copy proofs are not prototypes, although they can act as one. A prototype is typically your minimum viable product while a proof is a closer representation to your final product. Both terms are used interchangeably in the industry, but in our experience a prototype consistent of blank boards and cards printed on computer paper – the best way to start making your game. A hard copy proof is your full printed game and is used to judge your printer’s quality and material, again this can make a great advanced prototype for play testing, but is pricey for a prototype. Due to the complex process of offset game printing, some of your pieces will be printed digitally. Any component that is digitally printed will not be color accurate.