Printing Your Work

Printing Your Work

When it comes to printing, countless options and settings can affect the final result of your document. Whether you’re printing banners, business cards, T-shirt iron-on transfers, or lost cat posters, you must be aware of several things, such as paper quality, printer quality, and ink usage. You also have to decide whether to print the documents yourself at home or take them to a professional printing business to get the work done.

Choosing where and how to print

You can choose from several options when it comes to printing your files. You can take your digital files to a printing service provider, which is an establishment that prints out electronic documents (such as Kinko’s), or even print the files yourself at home on your inkjet or laser printer. Each option has several advantages and disadvantages. Depending on how many copies and the number of colors, having your files printed professionally can be cost prohibitive. Having your files printed by a professional print house, however, almost always means the print quality will be much better than if the document was printed on a low-end inkjet printer.

Naturally, if you’re only printing flyers to distribute around the neighborhood, you may not need high-quality output and a home inkjet or laser printer would be more than adequate. However, it may be cheaper to print documents professionally than it is to print documents at home if you’re going to go through large amounts of black ink or perhaps one or two cartridges of toner.

If you’re using an inkjet printer, often you can get an average of 400–600 pages of black text before you need to replace a cartridge; a laser printer prints around 2,500–4,000 pages before you need to purchase new toner. Simply using a laser printer can save hundreds of dollars a year, depending on the number of pages you need to print and whether you need to print in color. If you need to print in color, many color laser printers are available (although they can be expensive). Entry-level color laser printers can cost around $500 (US dollars); some high-end color laser printers can cost more than $10,000. In comparison, black and white laser printers can cost as little as about $100. So unless you plan on doing lots of printing, outsourcing your printing to a service provider might be the best solution.


The kind of printer you use (such as a commercial or PostScript printer, or a low-cost household inkjet) will make a great difference in the quality of output. Some of your illustrations or layouts will look a lot better when printed commercially depending on what’s in your document. More information on PostScript features can be found in Book II on InDesign and Book III on Illustrator.

Looking at Paper

Before printing your documents, you need to consider what type of paper would be best for the job. If you’re printing on glossy paper, you need to make sure that the paper will work with your printer type. While most glossy paper works fine in inkjet or laser printers, some brands or types of paper might not. Always double-check paper when purchasing it to make sure it won’t damage your printer. The kinds of printers supported by the type of paper will be listed on the paper’s packaging. One benefit to using glossy paper is that it has a photo-paper-like finish, which can make your printouts appear to have a higher quality.

Using a good-quality paper can result in photos that have richer colors and show more detail. When purchasing printer paper, here are some important characteristics to look out for:

  • Brightness: Brightness, not surprisingly, refers to how bright the paper is. Higher numbers mean the paper looks brighter and cleaner.

  • Weight: This refers to how heavy the paper is. Higher weights mean a thicker, more durable piece of paper.

  • Opacity: Opacity refers to how translucent, or transparent, the paper is. If the paper is too thin, then too much light can pass through it; also, it may be possible to see the ink through the other side of the page (which can be a problem if you want to print on both sides of the sheet). This relates to weight, in that a heavier sheet of paper would be thicker and allow less light to pass through it.

  • Texture: This can provide dramatic differences between inkjet and laser printers. Inkjet printers spray ink onto a page, so having a slightly textured surface to print on can be beneficial because the texture allows ink to dry somewhat faster and bleed a little less, making the finished product look a little sharper. When using a laser printer, the opposite is true. Having a smooth, flat surface for the toner to transfer onto produces better results.

Remember that you might not always print on 8.5-x-11-inch paper (also referred to as Letter or A4). Many printers also allow you to print onto envelopes, labels, stickers, business cards, and even iron-on transfers. Iron-on transfers could be used to create your own T-shirts with your company logo or shirts with your face on the front. Some newer printers even allow you to print directly onto the surface of a CD-ROM. You can even purchase small printers that were designed solely to print standard-sized photographs.

Another important note is the difference in paper sizes globally. While the United States and Canada use inches to measure paper, the rest of the globe uses a metric system based on an ISO standard. The North American Letter format could be replaced by the ISO A4 format. The other differences between the U.S. and Canadian system from the ISO is that the ISO paper sizes always follow a set ratio, while the U.S. and Canadian system uses two different aspect ratios.

Saving files for a Service Provider

When working with a professional print service provider, you need to check to make sure which file formats they will accept. Almost all print service providers will accept files created using an Adobe program (Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, and so on), as well as files created using QuarkXPress, Corel Draw, or other professional-level programs. You’ll also need to confirm what version and operating system the service provider will accept, because it may be necessary to save your files so they are compatible with whichever version of software the service provider uses. You might have to export your work as a different file format, such as PDF, if your service provider doesn’t accept InDesign files. To export to PDF in InDesign, choose File®Export and select PDF from the Save as Type (Windows) or Format (Mac) drop-down list. When you click the Save button, the Export PDF dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

Click To expand
Figure: Exporting an InDesign file as a PDF document.

If you have linked your graphics within your files instead of embedding them, you’ll also want to use an uncompressed file format, such as EPS or TIFF. Using an uncompressed file format ensures that you aren’t losing quality each time the image file is saved, which would happen if you used JPEG images.

Printing at Home from the Adobe Creative Suite

When you’re ready to print your documents, you can access the Print dialog box and then specify a number of settings depending on what kind of printer you have installed. For this example, we assume that you have Acrobat Distiller (from Adobe Acrobat) installed on your system if you are printing from programs other than those from the Creative Suite, although the steps are similar for other printers that you might have installed.

To export a file as a PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Choose File®Print.

    In this case, we are using Photoshop on Windows, and Illustrator on the Mac, but you can use other programs in the same way such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

    The Print dialog box opens, as shown in Figure.

    Click To expand
    Figure: The Print dialog box in Photoshop on a Windows system.


    The Print dialog box differs, depending on what program you’re using. The dialog box might be similar to the one on the top in Figure.

    Click To expand
    Figure: The Print dialog box on a Mac, for Illustrator (top) and Photoshop(bottom).

    You can select a printer from the list of installed local or network printers in the Print dialog box. If you have Adobe Acrobat installed, you will also notice that it’s installed as a printer, allowing you to save your file as a PDF. If you’re using a Mac, the Print dialog appears like Figure.

  2. Choose Adobe PDF from the Name drop-down list (Windows) or the Printer drop-down list (Mac).

  3. Click the Properties button that’s to the right of the Name drop-down list. You might need to click the Printer button on the Mac.

    The Adobe PDF Document Properties dialog box opens on Windows, and another Print dialog box opens on the Mac if you had to click Printer. This allows you to define the PDF Page Size and Conversion Settings, among other settings.

    On Windows, click the Properties button to bring up the printer properties for the currently selected printer when you want to print a document. What properties you can modify in this dialog box depends on both the printer you have and the printer drivers you have installed for the printer. If you have a printer that supports duplexing (double-sided printing), you can define whether duplexing is used, and any printer-specific settings you might have. Most printers let you toggle between quality settings, such as Draft, Normal, and Best. Draft prints with the least amount of ink used, Normal prints with a medium amount of ink, and Best prints with the most ink but has the highest-quality output. If you’re printing a quick sample page, you might want to set the quality to draft or normal to save on ink. Quality paper can cost $1 or more per page, in addition to $0.50 per page in the cost of ink if you’re printing out quality photos — this can quickly drain your ink as well as your wallet!

    Because most printers have custom interfaces for defining settings, you may need to consult your printer’s documentation for detailed information on using the printer’s features.

  4. Choose Standard (Windows) from the Default Settings drop-down list or PDF Options (Mac).

    This allows you to define settings such as page size, the version of Acrobat Reader the document is compatible with, and whether to auto-rotate pages. On the Mac, you can choose what happens when you finish creating the PDF and choose the type of PDF you create.

  5. Windows: Click the Edit button to the right of the Default Settings drop-down list.

    The Standard - Adobe PDF Settings dialog box opens. When you change the default settings (some of which are described in Step 3), you will be alerted as to what version of the Acrobat Reader is needed to view the document you’re exporting.

  6. Enter a name for the document in the Save As text field, and then click Print.

    The document is exported and saved as a PDF file.

Technical Stuff 

Modifying the security settings allows you to ensure that a user must enter a password before he or she is allowed to view the document.

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