Recently, I have started to create art that can be printed by you! This kind of art is usually referred to as printables or instant downloads.
I want you to have the best possible experience printing out your designs so I have put together this in-depth guide to printing printables to help troubleshoot any problems that may arise.
Here are a few things you need to know before printing:
Q What is a printable?
A printable is a digital download in the form of art, graphic designs, and even text. You can download them from a website and print from your own computer. Some examples of printables are: cards, art prints, clip art, digital stamps, calendars, stickers, and entire art projects. What’s great about them is they are usually inexpensive and sometimes even free!
Q What makes the image of the printable you download different from the image you see on the website?
There’s a huge difference! Even if the image on a website looks identical to the image you print out, the difference is in the size of the resolution. Images used on websites are set at a low resolution, which is necessary for quick loading time for websites. Image resolutions used online are typically set to 72 dpi (dots per inch) however, this is not good for printing. For printing you want a high resolution. The standard for printing on paper (or any material) is 300 dpi. Anything below 300 dpi the image quality of the print will turn out poor.
Bottom line, if you want to print an image from the internet, make sure it’s 300 dpi.
Q What is the difference between a PDF, JPEG, and PNG file extension?
Most printables come in the form of a PDF, JPEG, or PNG file format. The good news is they are all great for printing! Here are a few differences between the file extensions that are helpful to know when using:
PDF: Adobe PDF is most commonly used for documents, which can contain both images and text. These are super easy to print out because they have been sized correctly so that the image is always printed perfectly centered on the paper.
Tips for printing: Remember to set your printer to actual size and not fit. You also may need to click on printer to go through your own printer settings and set your desired paper preference.
There is a possibility of seeing a message similar to the one above, and you would click Yes to proceed to your printer settings.
Your printer settings may look different from mine. What's important is that you click through your settings to find the paper options, and set it to the desired paper you want to print on. For example: If you want to print on computer paper then set it to plain paper, and if you want to print on glossy photo paper then set it to photo paper. Once the paper is set to the correct setting click print.
JPEG: This format is widely used for saving images such as art, photos, and even digital designs. Here is a little known fact about JPEG files: Due to the way JPEG files are compressed and saved they lose image quality over multiple saves.
If you plan on altering a JPEG file, and saving it multiple times, it will damage the quality of the image just a very tiny bit. If you don’t have plans to continually alter a jpeg image, then you have nothing to worry about. (Even if you do the difference in appearance is minimal)
PNG: PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. This format is also used for saving the same images as JPEG, but there’re a couple of added benefits to using PNG. You can save an image with a transparent background which is excellent for resizing an image. Then, copy and past it into another design or project. PNG files are also saved identical to the original and will not deteriorate over time when altered like a JPEG.
How to Print Printables at Home
The best part of printables is the ability to print at home! However there are a few things you need to know in order to get the best quality print.
Q How to adjust the size of a printable before printing?
Most printables are created to fit the size of a regular sheet of paper, 8.5”x11” or 4A. It’s good to know the dimension of your printable prior to printing so you can alter the printer setting to your desired size. For example a printable may say 8”x10” (which equals 2400 pixels x 3000 pixels) at 300 DPI resolution which can easily be printed on an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper. It can also be resize smaller, but it can never be resized larger! If you try to make a printable larger then the size it was saved it will print out poorly.
Tips for Resizing: Notice the chained links to the right of pixels and inches. This is controlled by Constrain Proportions check box on the bottom. It's important to make sure this is turned on in any application! This will keep your image size the proper proportion height and width wise when you resize your image.
So lets say you click on height and change it to 7 inches, then the width, and pixel dimensions automatically change too as seen in the above image.
Some printables may be set to a size larger then 8.5”x11” allowing you to make large prints that you can have printed at a location that prints on demand, either online or at a store such as Staples. Also, you can always resize it smaller by yourself though your own printer.
Here is how you would resize your printable to fit a different standard paper size through the print settings on your printer:
Click on Paper Size and then choose the size you want. If I was to choose 5x7 inches, then I could feed 5x7 inch photo paper into my printer, and have it print out a 5x7 inch image center properly on the paper. Oh, and you may also want to change the Orientation of the paper too depending on your needs.
You can also change the size of the print by changing the scale. Click on Scale below and then go into the % box to decrease the image to your desired size.
Tip: Your printer set up may look different from mine above, but should still give you options for printing different sizes similar to my example.
Q What paper should I use?
That depends on what you are printing. What's most important to know is the weight or thickness of paper that can be fed through your printer. There are some desktop printers that cannot print on a heavy weight cardstock or specialty paper over 125 lb cover. If you are not sure what paper weight your printer can print on then it's best to keep it under 100 lbs cover.
Here are a few suggestions for paper options:
Wall Art: I highly recommend printing on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte Paper. It's also safe to run through any printer! (This can also be purchased at Staples)
Coloring Page: You can use regular computer paper or even a 60 - 80 lb cover cardstock for a thicker quality coloring page. Just make sure it's a matte finish and not a glossy or lust finish for coloring.
Banners: An 80 lb cover cardstock or heavier if your printer will allow it. The paper finish can also be glossy or matted depending on the look you are going for. Here is a common cardstock by Hammermill.
Cards: For a nice quality card I would print on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte Paper once again.
Transfer paper: There are many transfer papers out there where you can print out a design, and then with heat, transfer it to fabric like a white t-shirt. Here is one to try out: Epson Iron-on Cool Peel Transfer.
Magnets: Staples once again is my go to for this specialty item: Staples Injet Magnetic Sheets.
Most of the paper above can also be found on Amazon, Walmart, and of course Staples. Remember, you can print on just about anything if you do the research. What’s most important to remember is to set the printer on that specific paper to get the best quality print!
How to select the right paper option on your printer:
Here's what it looks like on my printer. I first click on Preview, and then Printer Settings.
After clicking Printer Settings, all my paper options pop up, and I scroll down and over to choose the setting I want.
Q Why does the color look different on the printout then it does on my computer?
Did you tell your printer what paper to print on? Once you know what paper you want to use it’s super important to set your printer to use that specific paper (see instructions above). You can print on the highest quality photo paper or specialty paper, but if the printer is not set to print on that specific paper then you will be disappointed with the outcome.
Below are some examples of the same Chicken printed on different print settings and paper:
The chicken has been printed on computer paper with the print set to Photo Paper. The print looks bluish in color, and it's hard to tell from the photo but its also dull.
This chicken has been printed on computer paper set to plain paper. This is the correct setting for the paper, and the color is true to the original painting, but there is still another print setting and paper that can do much better then this.
Here is my preferred choice for printing printables: Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte Paper (My favorite) with the printer set to Ultra Premium Presentation Matte. You are getting the most out of your printable on this paper on this setting!
PS - The Ultra Premium in my opinion is over kill, and if your printer just has a setting for Matte then that works just as good!
How to Print Printables at a Local Vendor
There are places you can go to have a printable printed out to a specific size with professional results. All you need to do is put the printable file on a USB thumb drive, and take it to your local print shop. You can also take the file to be printed at a local Staples or Office Max.
Before going to one of these stores, know what size you want your print to be, and the texture and weight of the paper you want it printed on. This is an excellent opportunity to print large on a heavy weight paper!
How to Print Printables Online
If you find you are short on local vendors to get your print made, or just prefer ordering online here are some options to try out:
- Snapfish is great for printing photos and photo books, but can also print art, posters, and much more!
- Mixbook is similar to Snapfish, and it's a great site to print photos, calendars, cards, and more.
- SmartPress is another site that has a variety of options, and is great for business printing needs.
- Overnight Prints is similar to Smartpress, and has many options for printing business needs such as brochure, posters, booklets, flyers, and more.
- Moo has an amazing variety of unique choices for printing business cards and post cards.
- Vista Print is also good for printing business cards, postcards, posters, vinyl banners, and more!
- Staples is also available for printing online.
The best way to learn how to print out digital downloads is to just give it a try, and to test out the different settings on your computer with different types of paper and see what you like best. Once you get good at printing, you can play around with adjusting the size, paper material, and even experiment printing on other surfaces!
I hope this information helps! I also welcome your thoughts, and comments below:)
Thank You for Reading!