Stages of Production Part IV: 4-prints

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

After art lasers, prepress lasers, and 43-wides comes the 4-print. The term 4-print comes from the machine that outputs the proof, the Iris 4-print Proofer. (As with the 43-wide, this is no longer the machine we actually use to make the proofs.) The high-resolution PDF used to create the 4-print is the same PDF that will be sent to the printer to print the book. (Books used to be printed from film, but that’s very rare these days!)

Journey 4print-1 (Journey into the Deep 4-print. Does this look like a book to you?)

The 4-print is a color version in which the colors are accurate (unlike the 43-w). However, in this version, we’re looking at printed sheets rather than something that in any way resembles a book. The prepress department arranges the pages in the order and orientation of the signatures (typically 8-page or 16-page chunks of a book) so that when the sheets are printed and folded, the pages will be in the correct order. To the untrained eye, the pages seem to be in a totally random order. You wouldn’t ever want to try to read the text of most books at this stage. In any case, the time for catching typos has really passed.

Journey 4print-3

(The pages of a 4-print have a little bit of a sheen, which my camera picked up. I love how crisp this high-resolution photo of the yeti crab is!)

The 4-print is what the printer will use as reference for how the printed book is supposed to look. We don’t want to have any changes at this stage unless we find some sort of problem that must be fixed—text that is illegible or color that needs to be adjusted.

As soon as the various people involved with the book sign off on the 4-print, it’s off to the printer!