I've been asked by a client to design a full page advertisement for a catalog. The specs I received mention that beside a PDF of the page we should also supply "imperatively a cromalin: Without a cromalin your advertisement, we will not be responsible for the quality of the printing."

It's the first time I've heard of a cromalin. Searching online reveals that it is related to prepress proofing, which I don't have much experience with.

Can someone explain what a cromalin is and how I can make one?

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    I'd never heard of it. Googled it. Now I know what it is.
    – SaturnsEye
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 10:37
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    @SaturnsEye Great, and did you also find out how to make one?
    – Andreyu
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 10:48
  • Wow, Yes, doing cromalins the way you just described I did also, even in 1999. It was fafing then, but wow, it took skill to produce a cromalin proof. I worked at Monarch Colors in Sacramento then. Loved it, the tedious careful exacting work with those powder pigments.
    – user64785
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 23:34
  • In London in the 80s - 90s, a company called Chromacopy ( Poland street corner of Broadwick in Soho), would produce masses of Chromalins. That part of Soho was full of photography studios and labs along with film companies all used to proof through Chromacopy. I used to buy masses of print and would never take a chromalin as proof of colour. The only way to check the colour is with a wet proof.
    – Gary Hicks
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 16:16

4 Answers 4


It's a DuPont proprietary colour proofing process.

It was originally a photographic process. They now have a digital version -- basically a colour-calibrated high-res inkjet print.

I haven't actually heard the term used in the fully digital (computer to plate) era though. Maybe there are just a lot more options from competitors these days.

Anyway, it's something a printing company's pre-press department would supply.

It may also be that the publication is using it as a generic term for a certified colour-accurate proof, or they haven't updated those instructions for years!

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    I remember cromalins! 17x22 laminated sheets you would mark up with a non-repro pen (and post-its) to indicate errors for the printer to fix. Wow, that takes me back. Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 12:17
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    Yes, and it would be all in Courier, because Quark's Collect For Output didn't do fonts. Time to get your messenger to take over another SyQuest drive...
    – e100
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 15:01
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    Either the printer would supply it to the client for approval, or the client can supply an existing cromalin to the printer as a proof to match to. I've seen it happen both ways, especially for beauty/cosmetics brands. They'd usually supply the cromalin to us.
    – Dre
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:30

Cromalin proofing was something I used to do, daily, as a pre-press lithographer.

After we had produced the 4-colour negatives for a print job, we would coat a piece of gloss white card with a clear photosensitive layer, using a heat roller.

Then we would expose the yellow negative under the same halogen lights that we would use for exposing plates or for compositing film, and in the same vacuum beds.

The clear layer was actually two layers, and after exposure, we would peel off the top layer to reveal a surface that was sticky where the light had hit it.

We then took a high density yellow pigment dust and rubbed it over the sticky areas with a soft chamois cloth. It was imperative to do this in a timely manner, and to make sure that the dust took to all the exposed areas in equal measure. Not to mention keeping other bits of crap from the factory off the surface - they could be very difficult to remove! Typically I would use a surgical scalpel to pry off the interloper, while holding a length of sticky tape in my left hand to catch it. If you dinged the surface with the scalpel, the whole job could be compromised, meaning you start again. Which was not cheap. I once ruined an A0 poster for a major department store with one tiny nick, which made it look as though the young boy in the poster had cut himself shaving!

Then we would repeat the entire process for magenta, then cyan, then black. The whole thing typically took about about 45min/one hour for a single board.

It was as toxic as hell, but the colours were fabulous. If the black had been a little denser, I'd say it was almost the equal of dye-transfer for sheer effect.

I never saw a client hold up a proof-board and not say "wow". Inkjet does not compare, no way no how.

Just as very few painters, these days, work with pure pigment, I think that basically no-one in pre-press today works with pigment proofing as we did back in the eighties and nineties, before computers. A shame, because working on stunningly beautiful things, with beautiful materials, really makes you love your job.

I'm glad I got out of pre-press in '92. Despite the mess and the chaos, it was an industrial process that delivered a lot of satisfaction in sheer beauty and accomplishment. I'm not sure I'd feel that, looking through a computer screen all day, considering how hands-on we were back then.

JCW Trees

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    Welcome to GD.SE, glad to have you onboard.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 12:45
  • Hi JCW Trees, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in the Graphic Design Chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Vincent
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 13:06

Cromalin was invented by my father Robert with Dupont. It used ultraviolet cured polymers. You would laminate a substraight for each color magenta,cyan,yellow and black. Each layer would be exposed to UV through a positive piece of film. The layer remained sticky where it was not cured by the UV and toner was sprinkled over the surface and would stick. You would do this 4 times to give you a very accurate representation of what your piece would look like on press. Since it used toner instead of ink like today's ink jet proof, the colors could last forever given the right circumstances.


As JCW Trees says. I used to demonstrate the process in a college of printing in the UK, alongside digital proofing (dye-sub), platemaking, digital printing, print finishing... the whole works from origination to a finished product.I really enjoyed that job. Great times.

JCW Trees... You left off the final burn! A final layer or two of the polymer, burnt really hard by a long UV burn with no film finished a Cromalin off with a lovely glossy sheen to it. I absolutely concur that no digital process comes close to the beauty of a decent Cromalin - you could frame it as an artwork (in fact, I did!) and it lasts forever. I suspect they simply use it as a term to ask for some form of colour certified proof. What comes off the press will be matched to your supplied proof, primarily for the the purposes of colour control. It's a bit back-to-front as in the traditional print process, the PRINTER supplies a Cromalin proof to the client, because the PRINTER is the one that can certify that their production processes can match that proof - you can push some things around (like dot gain) in the printing process to adjust the colour, but there are limits.

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