Where to Print Digital Files & Instant Downloads Purchased from my Website
If you are reading this article, you are probably asking yourself how and where to print the fabulous invitations or the digital print you purchased (or are considering purchasing) from a designer.
Taking the DIY route can be an intimidating endeavor – more so if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But ask yourself this: Was Picasso intimidated by the blank canvas? Was Mozart intimidated by the blank sheet music? If you’re still hesitant to take the first step, ask yourself more questions, like: What should I wear today? Is it time for lunch yet? What is the meaning of life?
Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that. Frankly, I don’t think you and I are ready to go there just yet.
But on behalf of designers everywhere, I feel it my moral duty to share my slivers of knowledge that I’ve collected over the last 10 years of freelancing, and more recently, launching my own collection of art prints and stationery on Etsy.
So, let’s get this party started! (Is that still a thing?)
Know the Basics of Color
Without going too deep into nerd-speak, let me say a few words about colors. With current advancements in technology, one would hope blue would look blue, regardless of the screen you’re looking at or the printer you’re using. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Computer screens interpret color in RGB mode, while printers interpret color in CMYK mode. Thus, there will always be slight variances between colors you see on screen and how they appear printed. Typically, colors always appear less vibrant when printed. Output devices complicate the printing process even further, as different ones interpret color in different ways.
In other words, two different printers could print the exact same file, but the resulting piece will look different because of how each printer’s equipment is configured. Oh, and the type of paper you opt for also affects the results!
My advice is that if your project requires exact color matching, talk to the designer, who understands color and can help you determine the best option for the type of file you’re printing. Otherwise, you should just accept the harsh reality of color variations.
To Bleed or Not to Bleed
Well, that came off a tad bit more gruesome than I intended!
Bleed is the industry term for any color or image that extends to the edge of the paper. If you don’t want white margins around your design, ask the designer to include bleeds when placing your order on Etsy.
Here’s what that actually means: The design extends .125″ beyond the edge of the page, and that excess image or color is then cut off during the binding or finishing process. If you don’t account for bleeds (but expect the design to extend all the way to the edge), you may risk inconsistent margins or skewed dimensions.
When placing your Etsy order, let the designer know how you plan to print these files. This small detail determines the delivery of the files, i.e. how they are packaged and sent to you. The general rule of thumb is that if you’re printing at home or at an office supply store, you won’t need bleeds. If you’re uploading your files to an online printing shop or using a local professional printer, then you’ll need bleeds.
I am always happy to facilitate the printing process, answer any printing-related questions or help my clients find a local printer.
So don’t hesitate to ask! Most of us don’t bite.
Let’s Talk File Types
The most common file types sold on Etsy are JPEG and PDF.
What is the difference, you ask?
Typically, photos are the only files that should come in the JPEG format – not digital art or designs containing text. Unfortunately, JPEG tends to be the most requested format, mainly because the average Etsy buyer is not very familiar with the design and printing process.
PDF, on the other hand, does not rasterize text and graphics like JPEG does, which allows for a more clean and sharp image. For this reason, PDF is the best choice when ordering invitations, stationery, prints, etc.
Heavy Card Stock is the Way to Go
Whatever you do, resist the “oh-so-convenient” urge to print your invitations at a photo kiosk! Use photo kiosks only for printing photos. Even then, the quality is questionable. All other files require matte card stock that is from 80 to 110 lbs. (Ask the designer if you have questions.)
Even in the event that you’re ordering invitations with photos as part of the design, avoid the photo kiosk. I recommend 80-lb. silk cover paper; it’s coated but not glossy.
Basically you have four printing options:
- An at-home color printer, if available,
- Office supply stores like Staples or Fedex,
- Online printing shops like vistaprint.com or shutterfly.com, or
- A local, professional printing shop.
Home color printers are clearly the least expensive option, but as a result, they offer the lowest quality. (Didn’t your mother tell you that the best things in life won’t be easy, but they’ll be worth it?)
But don’t despair, my sweet, little sugar plums! If you’re printing an invitation for an informal event like a child’s birthday party, a home printer works just fine! A few tips:
- Save on paper by asking the designer to fit two invitations on a standard 8.5×11″ paper,
- Make sure you’re using matte card stock, and
- Be sure to select “actual size” on your printer to preserve the original quality of the file.
If you’re going the office supply store route, save your files to a USB drive and head to the nearest Fedex, Kinkos, Staples, etc. There you’ll be able to pick out your desired paper, as well as review a sample before printing the entire batch. You can either cut out the printed designs yourself, or the sales associate can do it for you for a minimal fee. Choose the nominal fee route – unless your ideas of a fun weekend involves manually cutting out 30 invitations. (Been there, done that, still having nightmares about it…)
Online printing vendors are a slightly better option, as it offers slightly higher quality than home printers and office supply stores. The prices are fairly inexpensive, and there’s no need for cutting or assembly. Plus, online printing shops offer more features, like printing double-sided invitations (something you will find nearly impossible to do on a home printer or at an office supply store) as well as using different printing processes (like everyone’s favorite gold foil). Just make sure you take into account the shipping time.
Using a local professional printing shop ensures the highest quality possible, and it’s the option I recommend I highly recommend. Professional printers offer limitless features; plus, once again you’ll have the option of reviewing a physical proof of your invitation before printing the entire batch. Generally, envelopes are included, which is one less detail to worry about. The cost may be slightly higher than the other options, but the results are always worth it. I recommend printing all wedding-related files at a professional printing shop.