The Ultimate Guide to Printing Printables

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you already know that I give away lots and lots of free printables as well as sell them in my Etsy shop. When my parents were visiting us last month, I was showing them around my site and my shop, and they made me realize that there are tons of people out there who have no idea how to actually print their printables, and therefore may be missing out on tons of free goodies. I’ve also heard from some of you, that you have no problem printing your own files, but you have have run into obstacles like print quality, paper jams and sizing issues.

Today I’m here to solve some of those tricky printing problems and to point you to some great resources for printing outside the home. Let’s start with the basics of printing from home.

Printing from home

If you already have a printer available to you at home or at your office, you are in great shape. Having access to your own printer means you can print as much and as often as you’d like.

FAQ: Which is better, an ink jet or a laser jet printer?
For the types of printables I share, I believe that laser is the way to go. Ink jet printers are better suited for printing photos than graphics, and while their ink cartridges may be less expensive than laser printer toner, you also need to change them more often. You all know how much printing I do and I haven’t changed my printer toner in over 2 years. If you are a teacher, a party planner or a blogger who prints multiple copies of each printable, a laser printer is definitely a better option, as it prints at a much faster speed than ink jet. I use an HP Color Laser Printer and it works wonderfully.

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

FAQ: What is the best paper to use?
This really depends on what you are printing. Here’s what I suggest:
Card stock paper for: all types of cards (greeting cards, place cards, menu cards, recipe cards, playing cards), banners, buntings, calendars, coasters, signs, photo booth props, gift tags, and anything that is double sided
Plain computer paper for: art prints (once it’s framed, you can’t tell what it’s printed on), food and drink party flags, labels, stickers, worksheets, wrappers
Specialty paper for: stickers, labels, tags (Avery is my favorite – and no, they aren’t paying me to say that!)

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

FAQ: I took your advice and used card stock. Why is it getting stuck in my printer and why is it streaky?
Unfortunately, the printer has no idea what type of product you are printing on and it tries to guess (most of the time it’s wrong). It’s up to us to fine tune our printer settings so that the end result comes out at the best quality possible. Here’s where those settings have been hiding:

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

Every printer is going to show different settings under this drop down menu, so you may need to play around and try a couple different options to determine which works best. One more thing to note is that certain printers do not handle heavy paper well, and it may need to be fed through a bypass or manual tray. You can tell your printer to pull from this tray instead of the main tray by changing your printer settings.

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment - Horizontal3

FAQ: Why isn’t the PDF printing at the correct size?
This is another case of the printer trying to take matters into it’s own hands. If it senses that the artwork may be too big for the page, it may automatically try to shrink the page down. Alternatively if it sees that you are trying to print something small, your printer may try increase the size to have it take up as much space on the page as possible. To make sure that your printable prints true to size, make sure that any verbiage that says “print actual size” or “print at 100%” are checked. Make sure anything that says “fit to page” is UNchecked.

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

FAQ: Why doesn’t the color match what I see on screen?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for this one. Computer and device screens are backlit and paper is not, so everything you print is going to tend to be a little duller than how it appears on screen. Furthermore, everyone’s computer monitors, televisions and mobile devices display in varying degrees of brightness, so what I’m seeing on my end may look very different from what you are seeing on yours.

FAQ: How do I print double sided?
Occasionally, I’ll share printables that include an optional backer. Printing these are super easy! Simply print the front side, take the page, put it back into the printer (some printers require you to flip the page) and then print the back side. If you are printing double sided, you will most likely want to use card stock, so you won’t see the ink bleeding through the other side.

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

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Printing outside the home

So maybe you don’t have a home printer, or it’s out of ink, or you haven’t touched it in five years and you’re not even sure that it still works. That’s totally fine! You can still take advantage of all my free printables, and the quality of your prints will be just as good, if not better. You’ve got two great options— printing locally or printing online.

Printing locally
Is extremely easy, and the best part is, you can be face to face with a real person who can help you navigate through all of your printing concerns. Simply pop your PDF download onto a thumb drive, and drive it over to your nearest print shop (see list below). Some local printers allow you to upload your file to their website, so that you can send it in ahead of time and then pick it up when you are ready.

FAQ: Where is the best place to print locally?
Most towns in the US have an office supply store like Staples, Office Max or FedEx Kinkos. All of these locations have print shops in them. You can also do some googling to see if your town has an independent print shop, which would be awesome for you to support.

FAQ: What do I do if the printer doesn’t have the right sized paper for my printable?
All of the printables I share are set up on 8.5 x 11 paper, and every printer in the US, will have that option. Once the page is printed, you will need to trim out the item/items yourself, or ask the local printer to trim it for you.

How to Print your Printables from Elegance and Enchantment // Say goodbye to jammed paper, streaky ink, and images that get cut off

Printing online
If you’ve got too much going on to squeeze in a trip to your local print shop, there are tons of printing services available to you online. You will end up with a beautifully printed piece, without ever having to leave the house.

FAQ: Where is the best place to print online?
Here is a list of my favorite online printing vendors:
CatPrint
Digital Lizard
SmartPress
These printers are especially awesome because you can print in “short runs” — meaning you don’t need to order 250 copies— you only need to pay for the quantity that you need.

FAQ: Which sized paper do I choose when printing online?
As I mentioned, all of the printables I share are set up on 8.5 x 11 paper, so you will need to select this size and trim out the item/items yourself once they arrive to you.

I hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. If you have other printable printing questions that I haven’t addressed, please leave them in the comments section. Chances are, if you have run into a problem, somebody else has too!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you’ll help support Elegance & Enchantment, and you’ll receive some amazing stuff, too. Whohoo!

Want even more pretty printables?
If you love free printable designs and want to make sure you don’t miss out on a single one, join my mailing list and they will be sent right to your inbox.

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26 Comments

  • Reply Lauren @ The Thinking Closet January 23, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Michelle! You are a GOD-send for making this handy dandy guide for us! Thank you especially for sharing your favorite online printing vendors; this will be super helpful for my sister who is planning a wedding. Off to pin!

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment January 26, 2015 at 10:16 am

      Whohoo! So glad you found it helpful. Can’t wait to hear/see all the beautiful things I know you will be helping your sister with. :)

  • Reply Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings January 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    This is so helpful! I’ve always wondered why the ink never seems to look the same as the on-screen version, and also didn’t know there were so many settings for my printer. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! :)

  • Reply Karla January 30, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Really good ideas on your blog!

  • Reply Melanie February 6, 2015 at 3:19 am

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! I am a self taught computer user and I cannot TELL you HOW many times I have been frustrated with my lack of knowledge of this!!!! Needless to say, that if I could afford to attend classes etc., I would have done it…I just wanted you to know that I truly appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this all together in simplified terms.
    Thanks,
    Melanie

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment February 6, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Oh my goodness, Melanie, you are so welcome! Printing can be so frustrating and I am still continuing to learn new tips. Glad this could be helpful for you!

  • Reply Melanie February 6, 2015 at 3:20 am

    ooops! P.S… I found this on Pinterest and wanted you to know I have “sent” that pin to EVERY crafter in my email list!

    :) Melanie

  • Reply Audrey B April 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Hello, I’ve found your post on Pinterest and first of all : thank you for those tips ! I had never thought of some of them and you made my life so much easier :)

    I have a little question though. I want to use blank index cards for one of my projects, and thanks to your tips I managed to have a good printing quality, but it seems the ink won’t dry. The one I printed yesterday is still making black smears if I touch it. Do you know where it could come from ?

    Audrey

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment April 10, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Audrey! I’m so glad you found my tips to be helpful. I haven’t seen ink that smears after sitting for a long period of time, but my guess would be that it may have to do with the printer paper settings. Try playing around with that option, and see if that changes anything.

  • Reply Audrey B April 25, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Hi again ! I’ve tried with different paper settings this afternoon and you are right, it was indeed the problem! So I’m just giving a little update just in case someone reads the comments and have the same question ^^
    The first time, I had used a “brochure matte” setting. It took something like 5 days to dry up (I kept the card on my desk to check). I tried with “brochure glossy” this afternoon, and the whole print was dreadful.
    The one that did the trick was a setting called “Premium quality photo paper” (with the printing quality at Optimal). It printed very very slowly, and the print was perfect not a single bit of ink missing, or smears, and it was perfectly dry in a minute or so :)

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment April 27, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Audrey, thank you so much for reporting back to us! I’m glad you were able to get your print to work, and I know that others will benefit from your tip! :)

  • Reply Denise May 5, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if your printer, prints borderless? Is there a color laser that does?
    Thanks!!!

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment May 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Denise! Nope, my printer (a color laser) does no print borderless and I don’t think there are any color lasers that do, but there are some color ink jets that do. My craft knife and ruler are my bffs and get used quite a bit to trim out my projects!

  • Reply Dawn May 12, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Michelle! I’ve been meaning to tell you how genius this post is. Whenever a reader writes me for help printing one of my prints, I send them to this post. :) Thanks so much for sharing it! -Dawn

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment May 12, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Ack! Dawn, thanks so much! I really love your designs, so it’s a huge compliment that you send your readers over to my post. I appreciate it and hope they are finding it to be helpful. :)

  • Reply Mara September 3, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Michelle!

    I was looking at good online printing vendor recommendations and came across your blog.
    I think I’m going to try Digital Lizard. The only question I have is what kind of service do I need if I want to print printable wall art? It seems like posters are going to be pretty big for what I want, I’m planning on framing the prints and hanging them on the wall.

    It would be great if you can help me with this!
    Thanks,
    Mara.

  • Reply Syenny January 30, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Hi Michelle..
    Can you Tell me What kind the type of your printer ?
    Thanks so much

  • Reply Martha March 13, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you for posting this very helpful guide! If I could afford it, I’d have a laser printer that would print up to 11 X 17 paper stock. My ex husband, who was a graphic artist, had one. It was wonderful. However, I now have the HP Photosmart ink jet printer that came with my computer six or seven years ago. The ink is more expensive, but my model has the advantage of separate cartridges for the different ink colors. I’ll share a couple of tips for ink jets:
    >One reason color looks different when printed than on the computer is that colors on the computer are composed of different colors of light, while printed colors are composed of pigments, which is a different ball game. Manufacturers do their best to match the ink colors to the colors made of light. However, images on the computer will look more luminous.
    >I often use card stock, but I sometimes use photo paper to get the maximum richness of color. I think it doesn’t absorb so much of the ink as the card stock does.
    >Ink jet prints are not waterproof and they will run when used with paint or glue. I spray them with matte fixative when I plan to use them in paper crafts.
    >On my printer, I can print on the back of black and white prints, but if I try to print on the back of color prints, the printer melts the ink, which makes a mess. I have not tried printing on the back after spraying prints with fixative.
    >If you want to increase or decrease the size of a design or picture, it is helpful to measure it diagonally and use percentage “scale.” Measure both the design image and the target area size diagonally and divide the smaller number by the larger number. Change the result to a percentage, which should be less than 100% to decrease size and more than 100% to increase size. For example, if the result is .63, it is 63%; if it is 1.20, it would be 120%. On my printer, I can make a change in print size using percentage scale in the printer settings without actually resizing the image.
    >However, since photo paper is relatively expensive, if I’m printing small images for collage or to cut out, I usually print several per sheet to save paper. The best way I know how to do this (so far) is to import the images into a word processing (Word) file. Then I can print several sizes of the same image or several different images on a page.

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment March 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks for sharing these awesome tips + your knowledge with us, Martha! A larger scale printer would be really awesome to have. That’s on my wish list too!

  • Reply JAMIE CLAUSS May 8, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Great Article. post – I am thankful for the info ! Does anyone know where my company might get access to a fillable FRB 500 Form URLA PE form to fill out ?

    • Reply Michelle @ Elegance & Enchantment May 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      No problem, Jamie! Sorry I can’t help with that form— I have no idea what that is, but maybe someone else in the community will know. :)

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