So you've downloaded your free print, invitation, party decorations, greeting card… (the list goes on!)? Now to getting the most from your them with these tips on printing and making your free printables look awesome.
Straight up the best option would be to go to your local print store like Officeworks or Kinko's however sometimes we don't have time or money to do this. Most of us have a printer at home or know someone who does which honestly, these printers can do a pretty amazing job.
ARE INKJET OR LASER PRINTERS BETTER?
Not all printers are created equal. Unless it's the only one you have access to… then that's definitely an awesome one! But seriously, some are better than others. I find that to most people, when these are printed out the differences are so subtle that they don't notice (or even care to notice!) them.
For the type of printing required for items in the printables library, typically I find an inkjet will produce a better result but I use both. Inkjets print more vividly and are better for photographs and colours. Laser printers tend to be more suited to documents and text. Having said that, I currently only have access to colour laser printers and these work fine as this is all I have.
You also don't necessarily need an expensive printer. I had a cheap inkjet photo printer that did an amazing job (sadly it has gone to printer Heaven now). I also have a colour laser printer multifunction centre which really doesn't do as a good job. Sometimes it's memory just doesn't have the capacity to remember high image content so it can struggle. I also often use my parent's much better quality colour laser printer which actually does do a pretty good job.
WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE ME ON PAPER SELECTION?
I always recommend a thicker paper or card stock than standard copy paper. To give you an idea, most copy papers (at least in Australia) are 80-90gsm.
For wall art I like to use at least 190gsm or higher. But you could easily go lighter particularly if it's going into a frame. You can also use photo paper. I often like to use a smooth satin finish but once it's in a frame you don't really notice it so it comes down to more of a personal preference.
Greeting cards, invitations and most of our party printables need a thicker cardstock – 200 gsm is a great place to start. For cupcake wrappers, chocolate wrappers and any other printables that require a little less stiffness for wraparounds I would suggest somewhere around 150gsm.
Select a bright white paper as sometimes the colour of the paper can slightly affect the colour of the print job. However, it would be minimal.
At the end of the day, it is always better to view the paper in person, particularly if you are not familiar with the brand. Keep in mind what it is that you would like the printable to do. For example, if you need it to stand then you would choose a thicker card stock. However, if you would like it to wrap or fold then something lighter would be better.
Keep the parameters of your printer in mind – not all printers will do a good job of printing on photo paper. Different textures and glosses will also print out differently.
Some printers will have trouble printing on heavier cardstock. It can vary but as a rough indication when papers are over 200 gsm you may need to test this on your printer. In the past I've purchased smaller thicker card, taped it to a sheet of copy paper and ran it through the printer which has worked. I think I was just lucky that time though! Nobody likes a paper jam!
WHY DO COLOURS VARY BETWEEN MY MONITOR AND MY PRINT OUT?
I'm not sure about you but countless times I've seen disclaimers about colours on screen appearing differently in print or on products. Many people won't notice a difference but the colours on your print will appear slightly darker than you see on screen.
Beginning brief, technical (somewhat headache causing) explanation: Your screen is made up of tiny square pixels, almost 38 of them per 1cm actually. Each of these tiny pixels can be one of over 16 million different colour possibilities. They are referred to as the RGB colour model, these colours are composed of light.
Printers cannot print light. Using the CMYK colour model a printer mixes pigments and dyes to create several thousand different colour possibilities.
Lastly, monitors can be calibrated for colour accuracy. Professional designers and photographers do this regularly to maintain the best colour output.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH PAPER SIZE & CAN I CHANGE IT?
All of my wall art downloads are created and downloaded as an 8 ” x 10″ PDF. It's so much easier to find cute frames for 8 x 10 than those boring old document frames. Blah.
Unless otherwise stated my other printables are US Letter size 8.5″ x 11″ (215.9mm x 279.4mm) and are suitable for printing on both US Letter and A4. If however, you find you're having troubles, most printers will also have a setting to scale or fit to page to adjust.
I've chosen these sizes as they're universal, there aren't issues printing Letter to A4 whereas you can run into issues printing A4 down to Letter.
HOW DO I PRINT TO THE EDGE OF THE PAPER?
Okay so that headline was a bit deceptive because often you actually can't. Some people like a white border but for those of you who don't here are my tips for trying to get around it anyway;
- Check to see if your printer settings have something called “borderless printing” or “print to edge”. Some will have it and some won't. The location of this setting varies between printers but it should be somewhere in the Properties section. If you have trouble determining this, jump on Google (or significant other) and enter your printer make and model along with “borderless printing” to see what results come up.
- If you don't have borderless printing (or it doesn't work) try changing the scale setting (sometimes called “no bleed”) to 100% if this isn't already selected.
- And your last option would be to print on larger paper then trim it down to size. This is the way in which professional printers print, requiring an additional bleed that stretches beyond the size of the finished product which then gets cut down to size.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO CUT & TRIM PRINTABLES?
Some downloads require basic trimming. These will either have a light line to trim around or the graphic itself will be easy enough to distinguish the cut-out line.
For perfect straight lines, you can use a guillotine or paper trimmer. Anything outside the scope of a straight line and I'll use scissors or a craft/exacto knife. For more intricate work (if I can get away with it) I'll use smaller beauty/nail scissors before getting out my craft knife. These can be harder to hold but have a much smaller point, good for getting into small areas.
WHY ISN'T MY INVITATION PRINTING OUT AT 5 X 7 INCHES?
Invitations are sized 5″ x 7″ on US Letter size paper. I hear my fellow Aussies asking “but why, Lauren when everything is A4?”. I have utilised the US letter size as it accommodates everybody. If however, you are printing on A4 and the invitation isn't 5″ x 7″ there is a minor setting you should check on your printer, or be sure to advise your print store.
Below is a screenshot of my printer settings – the appearance of your print dialogue box may vary slightly but you're looking for a setting named “actual size”. Ensure this is selected.
HOW DO I ADJUST THE SIZE OF MY INVITATION?
Invitations are sized 5″ x 7″ on US Letter size paper. By changing one simple setting in your print dialogue box you can scale it smaller. If you look at the image above you can enter a Custom Scale percentage amount. The closest I get to 4″ x 6″ size is adjusting this setting to 80%. Now because 4″ x 6″ isn't the same ratio as 5″ x 7″ you're not going to get this perfect. By scaling to 80% it actually comes out to more like 4″ x 5.6″ so play around with this if you prefer a little more length.
HOW DO I FOLD PROFESSIONAL LOOKING GREETING CARDS?
It's also worth mentioning the use of scoring tools for crisp greeting card folding. The thicker the cardstock is, the more important it is to get a crisp fold.
- If you have a guillotine or large paper trimmer, position the paper against the ruler's edge. Don't worry, if you don't have a trimmer, just use something with a straight edge to line up.
- Fold the paper over.
- Use a bone folder to flatten the fold edge for that super crisp fold. Bone folders are fairly inexpensive but if you don't have one you can use items such as a pop stick, the flat edge of a butter knife or even a pen.
I hope these tips can help you in making your free printables look super professional. Remember that it's also about what you have access to. You don't need a fancy printer nor do you have to worry that your laser printer won't suffice or that the colours are going to look totally different. Whilst these things can make a difference it's usually only slight.
Have fun with it! And if you haven't seen the VIP free printables library, check it out now! I would love to see your printables in action – share on Instagram with the hashtag #avmfreebies or by tagging @avisualmerriment on Facebook.