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A Step By Step Guide For Printing Your Downloadable Art

woman using a home printer to print downloadable art

How To Turn Your Printables Into Stunning Wall Décor From Home

If you've found your way to this article from one of my printable PDF's, thank you for choosing one of my downloadable art prints.

Maybe you're still considering buying printable art but a bit unsure on what is needed & how to print it effectively.

Perhaps you've stumbled across this article because you're searching for some tips before hitting the "print" button.

Either way, you're in the right place & let me share some tips on how to print & get the most out of your printable art.

Tips, ideas & some friendly advice to get the most from your downloadable wall art & printables.

Downloading Your Printable File

download button on computer keyboard

Downloading your art print file is simple enough & most online stores will have some information included in their product listing.

Generally the file types are saved in a ZIP file.

Once the file has downloaded, just right click & choose "extract all".

Majority of art files will be in a PDF, jpegs or both & some graphic & text based art can also be in a PNG format.

Printing from the PDF is a simple case of opening the document, choosing which pages you want to produce & hit "print".

Jpeg files can be opened in any photo viewing software or application & printed out.

PNG ( portable network graphic ) files can be used for more graphic based & clipart style printables & the same process of opening the file in an image viewer to print the image applies.

Multi-Panel Downloads

As well as single prints, downloadable wall art is also sold as multi-panel or split panel prints such as triptychs.

Printing these files is also straight forward & is the same process as described above.

But if you'd like to learn more, I suggest reading: Triptych Printables - An Affordable Way To Beautify Your Walls

Is Your Printer Up To The Job?

Not all printers are created equal, so you need to consider the type & quality of home printer you have.

There's 2 types of home printers, laser & inkjet.

Laser Printer

a home laser printer

These printers work like a photocopier by producing a laser beam to create images on a rotating drum.

The drum is coated with a photosensitive material that changes its electrical charge when exposed to light.

The laser beam scans the drum & creates a pattern of charged & uncharged areas that correspond to the image to be printed.

A toner cartridge contains fine powder that sticks to the charged areas on the drum.

The drum then transfers the toner to a sheet of paper that is fed through the printer.

A fuser unit heats up the paper & melts the toner onto it, creating a permanent print.

Inkjet Printers

a home inkjet printer

As the name suggests, these printers work by producing text & images on paper using tiny droplets of ink that are stored in replaceable cartridges .

The printer has a print head that moves back & forth across the paper, spraying ink according to the instructions from the computer.

The print head has hundreds of tiny nozzles that can create different colours by mixing different ink types.

Which Printer Delivers The Best Results?

Each printer has it's own strengths & weakness's, or advantages & disadvantages depending on the intended use & desired outcome.

Laser Printers

Being similar to photocopiers, laser printers are best for higher volume print runs & work out cheaper per page printed.

They do produce sharp images & text, but are generally better suited for graphics & documents.

Laser printers use heat & pressure to fuse toner onto the paper, so you'll need to avoid paper that is too thick, glossy or textured, otherwise you may end up with paper jams, poor print quality or damage to your printer.

Some types of paper stock that are suitable for laser printers are:

Matte paper: This is a smooth & non-glossy paper that can produce sharp & clear prints.

It's good for printing text documents, flyers, brochures & newsletters.

Matte paper generally ranges in thickness from 90 to 170 GSM.

Cardstock: This is a thick & sturdy paper that can be used for printing invitations, greeting cards, business cards & postcards.

Cardstock can range from 130 to 200 GSM, however as mentioned, not all laser printers can handle cardstock, so you'll need to check your printer specifications before using it.

Laser photo paper: This is a special type of paper that is coated with a glossy or satin finish that can enhance the colours & contrast of your photos & images.

Laser photo paper can range from 120 to 280 GSM but is more expensive & less common than inkjet photo paper, so you may have difficulty finding it.

Inkjet Printers

Laser printers can be great if you're producing other types of wall art such as quotation art, graphics & other printables.

But because you want to create beautiful & stunning wall art from photos & images, an inkjet printer is going to be the optimal choice.

All professional photographers that produce their own prints use inkjet printers.

Admittedly, they can be expensive & much larger than a standard home inkjet printer, but the home printer can still produce fantastic results.

Inkjet printers work by laying down tiny dots of ink instead of using a heat fusing method, this means quality photographic & other specialty papers can be used.

There's quite a wide variety of photographic paper available that produces different results, from textured & linen to archival papers, which I'll cover in the chapter on papers further on in this article.

Most inkjet printers can handle up to 300GSM card as well, so you're not just limited to paper stock.

You can experiment with various textured card stock to create your desired affect as well.

Laser printers can have issues with colour accuracy & contrast, whereas inkjet printers produce more vibrant & accurate colours.

The Verdict

If you're going to print your downloadable art from home, then a quality inkjet printer will be the best choice.

Printing at home will limit you to using standard paper sizes, usually A4 & larger printers can print to A3.

A3 inkjet printers can vary in price from an affordable $300 to $500 up to $1500 or so.

The type & quality of printer you use will depend on your personal needs.

The great thing about downloadable art is that it's so affordable.

Do you change your wall décor regularly? Do you purchase printable art often as you enjoy swapping out the décor on your walls & changing things up?

Then it can be worth the extra outlay for a top quality printer.

If you only buy downloadable art here & there & keep the prints for many years but still want high quality, then it may be worth considering using an actual printing service.

Print Settings For Optimal Quality

a man adjusting settings on his home printer

Printers will vary, but whether you have a laser or inkjet, the print settings are all fairly straight forward.

You just need to choose the appropriate paper size from the drop down menu to match the image ratio.

If you want, you can also choose to fit the image to the page or create a border.

There's also the colour or black & white option.

Handy Hint: Printers with only one black ink ( which is the majority of home printers ) rely upon the coloured inks to reproduce intermediate grey tones.

This will most likely result in prints with a noticeable colour cast.

But choosing the black & white option won't recreate all the grey tones accurately either.

To produce the full tonal range of a black & white image, you need at least one grey ink.

If you're looking to print a lot of black & white photos or fine art prints, you will need a professional printer.

But for quotation or other text based art as well as simple graphics in black & white, a laser or inkjet printer will handle the job just fine.

Another print option is the DPI settings.

DPI stands for dots per inch, how many ink dots are laid down per square inch onto the paper.

Most decent home printers, whether laser or inkjet, are going to have a maximum DPI setting of 300.

If yours only has 150 DPI, don't stress, it will still produce a good quality image up to a normal print size pretty much indistinguishable from an image produced with 300DPI.

The higher the DPI, the better the quality .. which is true .. to a point.

The DPI setting on your printer doesn't have to match the jpeg DPI, just set your printer to the highest quality setting & you're good to go.

The reason 300DPI is the industry standard is it gives you a manageable size file whilst still producing optimal print reproduction.

This is why most photo printing services request 300DPI, as a perfectly fine image can be produced, even at larger sizes.

To be honest, it's a bit of a rabbit hole when you start researching image & print quality!

More DPI doesn't necessarily mean your print will be better quality.

The image or photo needs to be of a good quality to begin with.

An out of focus or poor quality image won't look any better because it's saved with a quadrillion DPI!

What About Ink?

Laser printers use a fine powder called toner, although there's different brands, they all do the same job.

Toner comes in black, cyan, yellow & magenta & as mentioned in the section on printers, using toner will create it's own unique result.

But with inkjet printers you have a choice of dye-based or pigment based inks.

Which do you choose?

Dye-based & pigment inks also come in black, cyan, yellow & magenta & most standard inkjet printers use dye-based ink as it's the cheaper option.

To be honest, ink technology has come such a long way that for most purposes, you won't notice a difference between the two ink types.

laser printer cartridges

Dye-based inks are made from colorants that are dissolved in a liquid, usually water or glycol, which helps the dye flow easily from the printer head to the page as well as helping it dry faster.

Dye-based inks can produce vivid & colourful prints with a wide colour gamut & work well with glossy or coated papers.

One disadvantage of dye-based inks is that they're not as resistant to water or sunlight.

But any print will fade over time if it is exposed to enough direct sunlight, especially if it's not behind UV resistant glass or acrylic.

These inks can tend to have less contrast & sharpness than pigment-based inks, but again, for printing your wall art at home you're not going to notice a significant difference.

Also, not every image requires optimal sharpness, certain scenes or styles of wall art actually look nicer when printed a bit "softer".

inkjet printer cartridges

Pigment based inks are solid particles that produce crisp & archival quality images, but they can be less vibrant & more expensive than dye-based inks.

These type of inks are more resistant to fading & water damage, but they also have different effects on different types of papers & also work well on glossy or coated papers & tend to produce sharper & more accurate colours.

They're also not as well suited to some matte or fine art papers, resulting in poor image quality & reduced durability.

They may also clog the printer nozzles more easily than dye based inks, requiring more frequent cleaning & maintenance.

Although when stored they have a longer shelf life, they are a more expensive ink.

The Verdict

The reason dye-based inks are more widely used for home printing is that the results are overall just as good as pigment based & they're also cheaper.

If you're a professional photographer, you may have the option of using both types of inks as certain prints may require one or the other for that optimal result, especially if you're selling your work.

Choice Of Paper For Creative Results

a ream of printing paper

The type of paper or card stock you choose will affect the quality & overall look & feel of your wall art prints.

There's a good variety of different papers & card stock available that offer various finishes & you can choose a paper that matches your style & purpose of your art prints.

You can dive in deeper & explore these choices here : A Guide To Photographic Print Materials

For example, if you want to print photos or digital art, you might want to use glossy or matte paper, which will give your prints a smooth & shiny finish.

If you want to print illustrations or paintings, you might want to use textured or watercolour paper, which will give your prints a more natural & artistic look.

The weight & thickness of the paper or card stock will determine how sturdy & professional your prints look.

Generally, the heavier & thicker the paper or card stock, the better quality it is.

However, you also need to consider what kind of frame or display you're going to use for your prints.

If you're going to use a glass frame, then a thinner paper will be held flat & protected from any curling.

If you're framing without any glass or acrylic, or even no frame at all, then a thicker & sturdier paper would be recommended.

You can also try matting your prints too.

This looks great & it will also help to hold the print flat against it's backing or mounting board.

a framed & matted downloadable art print

Keeping & Safe Storage Of Your Downloads

A few years ago I went on a road trip & took a load of great photographs.

I would upload them to my old laptop then clear the memory card in my camera.

Then the laptop decided to crash! .. not good.

All my photographs gone .. well nearly.

Luckily I found a great computer store that manged to retrieve 99% of them.

But I learnt a lesson, save your files to external hard drives & even utilise cloud storage.

As a matter of course, I now save my image files to 3 hard drives, better safe than sorry.

The great thing with the digital era & purchasing downloadable wall art, is that if the print gets damaged or starts fading, it's just a simple case of printing another.

So once you've downloaded your art files, make a few copies, sometimes it can be really easy to accidently hit "delete".

Final Thoughts

The convenience of printables & downloadable art is fantastic, but if you have a decent home printing setup, it also allows you a lot of creative control to how the final print will look.

But even a modest home printer is a wonderful tool for the DIY approach for creating your own wall décor.

I hope this article has helped & please feel free to pass it along.


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