The Ultimate Printing Guide

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A Professional’s List of Tips For Printing

Paper sizes

First of all, you have to understand the two universally used paper sizes – A4 and Letter. What are the differences?

comparison of A4 and Letter sized papers

Fun fact: The USA and Canada mainly uses Letter while the rest of the world uses A4.

As you can see from the diagram above, visually the differences are minuscule. In terms of printing however, boy oh boy, it’s going to create a hella problems! Let’s say if we’re located in Germany trying to print with a US manufactured printer and our file is formatted in A4. The printer is set to Letter by default. So unless we tell the printer that the tray is loaded with A4 paper, we will end up with incorrect printouts every single time with a huge space on one side of the page. How frustrating! This is because the printer thinks that the tray is loaded with Letter paper, so it tries to shrink the A4 file onto a Letter page.

Good news is, technology nowadays is getting better and better. Smarter printers refuse to print if it detects the wrong paper is in the tray. You have to make sure you tell the printer what paper you are feeding it to get good printing results.

To accommodate customers from all over the world, Balloon Macaroon creates designs to be fitted on Letter sized paper. This is to avoid cropping at the top and bottom, we make sure graphics are not placed too close to the sides either so you don’t have to worry if you’re printing on A4. Best of both worlds! All you need to do is tell your printer the correct paper you will be feeding it.

Adobe Reader Print Settings

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Make sure you have downloaded Adobe Reader and happy with your design before sending to print. Please read this  to edit your printable files.

When you are ready to print, simply go to File > Print

edit05-printing
You should see this menu.
I cannot stress how important this is. In Page Size & Handling section, make sure  “Actual Size“  is selected. This is to ensure artwork will never stretch or shrink according to the paper size. Leave orientation to “Auto”.

Next, click “Properties” at the top to access native settings of your printer. Here, you tell your printer which paper size is loaded into the tray. You can also select paper types (plain, matte, glossy, etc.), paper thickness, colour management and other settings.

Optional: Normally you don’t have to change anything in “Page Setup” but if the printer refuses to print you can click on it to tell your printer what size the document is.

Please note from here onwards, the native settings in “Properties” for each printer is different so I can’t provide support to all of you out there. Please make sure you go through manuals or contact support for your respective printers.

However, I will be using my trusty Epson printer as reference. The terms will be similar. Look out for “Paper Options” or “Paper Type” or the like.

print02-printeroptions
Setting up the correct paper is ideal for better prints. For example: loading heavy card into the feed while printer is told to print on plain paper, the colours will turn out less vibrant as less ink is used. Experiment with different paper settings to get your ideal print outs. In my case, for Epson Matte I would use 200gsm white matte card.

Paper Types

I recommend using at least 150 – 200gsm white card stock for the best results. At the very least 100-120gsm if you’re on a tight budget. The thicker the card, the more luxurious it feels. For special occasions like a wedding, I like to choose a pearl finish textured card as the shimmer it gives off makes the invitation look really expensive and very romantic.

Always use white card as printers are unable to print out white, if that makes sense. Bear in mind that printers work with a CMYK colour system so the colour white never existed to them. The white in the printed design depends on how white the paper/card is. For example: Your design is a yellow background with white text and you’re printing on pink paper. The final result will be a orange-ish print without any text.

Below are some common terms that you might find on the market.

  • Matte
    Produce good quality prints but lack a vibrant colour finish. Not reflective therefore no fingermarks or glare from the sun or lighting.
  • Glossy
    Common for printing photos, offer the widest colour range and best resolution but reflective surface is prone to fingerprints and glare.
  • Semi-gloss
    As the name suggests, a cross between matte and glossy.
  • Other
    Textured, linen, pulp etc.

I would conclude in saying that it’s all about personal preference and of course, how much you are willing to spend. Remember! It’s all about finding out what you like and have fun experimenting with all the beautiful papers out there!

Which printer should I get?

There are several types of printers but the common ones are inkjet and laser printers. There are notable brands out there such as Epson, Canon, HP etc. and the results are pretty amazing.

In a nutshell, laser printers use toner cartridges and inkjet printers use ink cartridges.

Laser Printer

  • Suitable for large volume printing
  • More costly upfront but save money in the long term by operating high volume printing
  • Suitable for frequent office use, great for text heavy documents
  • Toner does not clog up if not used
Inkjet Printer

  • Suitable for low volume printing
  • Cheaper upfront but cost to run is higher due to low page yield
  • Ideal for image heavy files, great for vibrant photos
  • Ink dries up if not used for a long period of time

So there you go, get a printer depending on your needs. For simple, casual home crafting projects, I recommend investing in a mid-range colour laser printer. Unless you’re a photographer or a professional who regularly prints, go for a great photo inkjet printer. As I’ve mentioned before, technology is improving day by day so the gap between these two types of printers closes too. If you’re not too fussy about colour, any fairly new model will do the trick just fine.

Notes to take away

  1. Correct paper size. Always check if the paper size is right. There are several paper families but we stick to the two common sizes – Letter and A4. Make sure that Page Sizing & Handling is set to “Actual Size”on the Print menu in Adobe Reader. (Earlier versions of Adobe Readers: Page Scaling > “None”).
  2. Use appropriate settings for the right paper. Better-quality paper produces better-quality prints. Prints often turn out poor because the settings are not right. Plain paper (80gsm) is fine for everyday use, but invitations has to be colourful and vibrant! That’s why it’s recommended to aim for a thicker paper (at least 100-200gsm) and adjust printer settings accordingly.
  3. Experiment with different stock. Printers vary, but try to go somewhere along these lines. If you are using non-glossy paper, choose Matte or Heavyweight; for glossy paper choose Glossy or Photo Paper; for textured paper choose Premium Glossy, Premium Semi-gloss or Extra Heavyweight . It’s always a good idea to do some test prints before proceeding with the big job.
  4. Experiment with the printer settings. Play around with your printer settings by adjusting the colour correction, colour adjustments etc. Paper tint can affect colour vibrancy as CMYK can never mix white.
  5. Monitor colour variation. Keep in mind the colours you see on your monitor may appear different from the print out. This is because monitors see colour in RGB while printers use CMYK to mix colours.

Opening another can of worms here 😵. I have mentioned these a few times now so you’re probably wondering, “What exactly are RGB and CMYK?!”

Print and assemble!

In the printing industry, professional practices use guillotines to trim down thousands and thousands of cards and books in a short time, but we can do it at home too (manually) for a few home-made invitations.

All we need to do is line up a steel rule to the crop marks as a guide, and use a utility knife and slide it across the ruler, and trim down all sides of the invitation. Be careful don’t hurt yourself!