One of the (many) blessings of the internet is printables. I’m being kind of funny, but it’s so true! You can literally decorate your house, create a custom planner, and even make beautiful gifts with free printables. And that’s, like, barely scraping the tip of the printable iceberg. It’s kind of crazy, really!
But one thing people always ask me is, how do you get your printables so bright and pretty?
It’s important to know that the colors that come out of your printer may not like look like the ones that you see on your monitor. Every monitor has a little different color to it, and every printer interprets colors a little differently. But with that in mind…
There are four things I do every time I print something that’s going to be used in a photo for my blog, or on display in my house. Today I want to share with you these four simple tricks to getting the most beautiful printables ever (head to the bottom of the post for info on how to work with a print shop on your projects).
First…invest in a nice home printer. You don’t need a fancy one. At this point of the technological revolution, most printers can do the job. If you have an older, rickety, temperamental type, you might not get the exact results you’re looking for, but follow the rest of the tips below and you’ll definitely see an improvement.
The printer I use is an HP8630. We got it at Costco. In fact, we have several and used these printers to start our business, which in hindsight is really crazy (and kind of cool). We bought a couple of them on Amazon, but also grabbed one at Costco. They were around $150.
Here’s the new version of my current printer. It can print borderless (sometimes called full bleed). You’ll want this capability if you want to print things that go all the way to the edges of the page. I also like that when the ink is low and the quality of the prints would be diminished, it stops printing in color entirely. It gives me plenty or warning to order more ink in time. What drives me crazy is when a printer starts to run out of ink but keeps printing, and the color gets all wonky and faded and streaked. This never happens with this printer.
Which brings me to the next tip!
Know your print quality settings.
If you’re printing coloring pages or worksheets for the kids, or even simple pages for yourself, I recommend using the “draft quality” setting. This setting is the quickest and uses the least amount of ink.
If you’re printing art for your wall, or anything that you want to look really sharp, always use the “best quality” setting. This will take longer to print, and use more ink. But this is how you’ll get the sharp, pretty colors you want.
Use the right paper.
Your paper can make a big difference in the final outcome. Anything that needs to be sturdy, with no show-through (like wall art, or recipe cards) should be printed on card stock. My favorite card stock (and I’ve used a bunch!) is the Recollections brand they sell at Michaels. It’s 65lb card stock, plain white. The paper has a smooth finish and prints beautifully.
If you don’t have a Michaels nearby, this cardstock looks like it would also work well.
For planner pages, worksheets for kids, checklists and that sort of thing, regular old printer paper will work just fine.
Sticker paper is also an option if you’re making stickers – you can read all about how to make your own planner stickers here. When buying sticker paper, be sure to buy the uncut kind unless you are specifically looking for labels and have everything you need to create the labels.
If you pay attention to these three things, your printables should be looking good. But there’s another step I take when I need to cut them.
Whenever possible, I use a paper cutter instead of cutting by hand. Not only is this faster (like, waaaay faster), but it also gives you a pretty, clean cut with a straight edge.
I’ve had this paper cutter for a couple of years – it has held up well, it works great, and I’d be a little lost without it! I also have one of these (you can’t beat that price!)…and I am also very pleased with how well this has held up (I think I’ve been using the same blade for, like, ten years, y’all). Between these two cutters, I’m all set. If you’re only cutting now and then, go with the cheaper one. It will be more than enough.
But what about if you don’t want to print it yourself? What if you want to take it to a printer?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with a print shop.
Make sure the files are print-friendly. That means they need to be in a PDF format. You can email the files to your printer or bring them in on a flash drive. It’s best to have a conversation with the printer before you take your files in to make sure they understand what you want. If your pages need to be cut down, for example, a printer will likely need cut marks on your files. This is something you’ll want to know beforehand!
Also, printing can be expensive. But it might be cheaper than printing yourself, and if you have a lot of pages, it might also be a lot easier! Get a quote BEFORE you okay the print job. Seriously. BEFORE. I’m still upset about that time in 1998 when I went to Kinkos to print out my Christmas cards only to learn it was $1/page after the fact. (okay, not really still mad, but I sure do remember that…and also, now that I’m actually in the printing business, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get an estimate beforehand!).
If you’re printing something large (like a backdrop), read this post from my friend Lindi about how to find a suitable printer to partner with.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re printing something like an eBook, you’ll need to have the rights to print it. If it’s copyrighted, you might not be able to print it at a shop, even if it’s just for your own personal use.
So there you go! That’s how I get pretty printables every time I print. Do you have questions? Leave them in the comments below! And also, if you love printables, be sure to join us on Facebook for tons of free printable goodness.
And I also think you’ll like the posts below! 🙂