You don’t see progressives so much nowadays, when a lot of our work is done on our own computers. They are still however produced for high-value jackets and covers etc.

A full set of progressive proofs for a multi-color job shows a proof of each color individually and then all the colors in combination, leading up to the final showing all the colors together. This provides information enabling detailed color correction to be made to enhance the final image. Without the individual steps, deciding where the problem lies in your print would be much harder.

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These photos (lifted from Richard Benson’s The Printed Image, © 2008, The Museum of Modern Art, New York) are from a booklet showing the fifteen progressive stages of a single Japanese woodblock print. Some of the layers are hard to see here (for example the third one shows some yellow in the upper part of the owl. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can just make it out). Each stage shows the new element on its own, and then that new element combined with all the previous stages. The final state, with fifteen impressions, must be a little gem.