You might be wondering how to use printables, given the prevalence of digital downloads these days. And even if it’s seems self-explanatory that you have to physically print out those files to use them, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.
Whether it’s a poster for your home, greeting cards or scrapbook paper – there are a wide variety of designs you can purchase or download for free.
I sell printable wall art in my Etsy shop and post free printables here on my blog, so I’m completely comfortable with the term printables. But I got to talking to my real-life community and it turns out there are loads of people who have no idea what you are talking!
First, what are printables?
When we talk about printables or digital downloads, what we mean are digital files that are meant to be printed for use. That may be a poster design, a menu plan worksheet, a greeting card, stationery paper designs, DIY paper crafts and much much more.
The idea is that digital files are a lot easier and faster to share over the internet. And since you print it yourself there are a lot of customization options. And as a digital file, you can print as many copies as you want, so great for things you want to duplicate.
So the basic low-down is that a printable is some digital file that you can print!
So once you actually download a printable onto your computer, then you probably need to print it for use. This is where a lot of people get hung up, because they don’t want to go through the trouble of sizing, paper jams and all kinds of technical issues.
But I think the little effort is totally worth it for the benefits. And the more you use printables, the better you will be at printing for your own purposes.
If you have a printer at home or in your office, that means you can print printables! Literally it can be as easy as clicking print…
Check your preview!
However, before you get click happy and press the print button, you should always always always check your print preview and make sure it looks as expected. Sometimes someone has changed the print settings or the printable is larger than your paper size… and if you click print before seeing the preview, you might just be wasting paper.
No worries, you can, of course, just print another copy!
Choose your paper type:
Perhaps the first thing to do before printing is to think about what kind of paper you want to use. For many purposes, using the plain old computer paper is just fine. Sometimes you just want a pretty reminder to tack up on your cubicle wall.
However, you can also use cardstock paper that is thicker in weight and will hold up better. Or you can use photo paper for photo-heavy imagery or you want that glossy paper sheen.
Your print quality will actually have a lot to do with the paper you use. And although we can’t all buy museum-quality cotton rag paper to print on… it’s good to keep in mind in case there is ever an occasion to splurge!
Choose your paper size:
Once you have your paper loaded into your printer, then when you click to print, check all the settings before clicking print. First thing that is obvious but a big waster of paper is to set your paper size.
In America you probably have things set to LETTER sized paper by default. But if you are abroad, your printer might be set to A4 paper size, but your printer might have been designed for LETTER sized paper.
So just make sure to check the paper size and check the preview. Even if the design was not made for your preferred paper size, you can usually select a percentage or different scale in your printer settings.
Often you will see “Fit to page” and that will simply make the design fit to whatever paper size you have chosen.
Check your printer settings:
Next is to check all the other printer settings available. This will be different for every single printer, because they all have their own software and menu and options. Suffice to say, glance through and just make sure everything is as expected.
The more professional your printer is, the more options it will have. But the important thing is if you are using photo paper or some other special type of paper, there will usually be a dropdown to select that paper type.
There will usually also be a dropdown or tab to set the quality of the print. So if you are printing artwork or something to display, you should always set best quality. Whereas if you just want a worksheet for quick notes… you might select “Fast” or “Draft” which uses less ink.
Finally, once you have explored all the menu options and everything looks good, then click print. Of course, sometimes you might miss something, even with your diligence. But the great thing about printables, is that you can try again and make another copy… so you get exactly what you want!
For those who don’t have a home printer or want something better quality or bigger… you can definitely consider sending your digital file to a professional print shop. There are local copy stores you can visit and many online options as well. It can be the same process as printing photos or you can find many online shops that print posters and other related material as well. Maybe you want a giant banner for a party?
In America, most office supply stores offering printing services, so you can check their pricing and take in your digital file with a USB key, or send it to them online for printing and pick-up.
There are also many online printing vendors where you can upload your digital file to get printed and they ship you the final print.
Have fun with it!
There are so many uses for digital printables that I’m certain it’s the future for our society. Imagine when 3D printers will exist in every home? Then it’s just a matter of buying a design and printing it yourself at home – how great would that be?!
So digital printables are just the beginning to that sci-fi future! The most important thing is to have fun with it and make it useful for your life.
There are planner printables to help you with project and time management. There are home/life binders and menu planners to help with your house life.
There are sticker designs, collage sheets and paper printables for your art journaling and scrapbooking projects.
There are paper models, kids crafts and coloring pages so you can entertain your kids with printables, too!
And of course, my favorite are posters and wall art which I sell in my Etsy shop. I love being able to share my design with someone and have them display it in their home. It gives me great satisfaction to know my work is helping them make their space more beautiful!
I also post printable papers for my Patreon supporters, which feeds my art journaling and scrapbooking hobby. I love to design repeat patterns, so they make perfect paper printables to use in paper crafting projects.
I hope you are feeling more comfortable in using digital printables and looking forward to exploring this wonderful world of art and design.