How to Print Anything

Desktop and Commercial Printing Methods

Of the many definitions for print, the ones we are most concerned with in desktop publishing are those print methods that involve using a desktop printer, quick printer, or a printing press to reproduce (print) documents such as books, letters, cards, reports, photos, magazines, or posters on paper or some other type of surface.

Printing is easy, right? Just hit the Print button in your software or browser. That might be OK some of the time, but there are times when you need more control over how you print. Explore how to print faster, how to print to your desktop printer, how to get files printed commercially, ways to print a photograph, and how to do color printing.

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JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Most homes with a computer have some kind of inkjet or laser printer. Preparing files and printing to a desktop printer is generally less complicated than commercial printing.

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lilagri/Getty Images

While commercial printing includes some inkjet and laser printing methods, most commercial printing methods usually require very specific file preparation or prepress tasks. This is especially true for offset printing and other methods that utilize printing plates and presses.

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Subtractive Primaries - color printing
Cyan, magenta, and yellow are the subtractive primaries used in process color printing. Color printing; J. Bear

Photographs can contain millions of colors. But most desktop printers and printing presses can only print a handful of ink colors. So how do you get all those brilliant colors of a photograph with only a few inks? Even if you only have one or two colors for graphics or text, color printing takes special preparation whether from the desktop or a printing press. And although commercial color printing can be expensive, there are ways to save money and still get all the color you want. Or, get color without color printing.

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Print faster

DarioEgidi/Getty Images

When it comes to print speed for your inkjet or laser printer, there are a lot of variables to consider. The PPM (print-per-minute) touted by the printer manufacturer is an approximation. Inkjet printers are slower than laser printers. Printing in a single color is generally faster than full color. The more photos on the page, the longer it will take to print. The higher you set the print quality, the longer it will take to print a page. If you're just printing out proofs of a document, set the quality lower for faster printing until you are ready to print the final version. One way you can print faster on any printer is to print in draft mode.

Also see:
Setting Word to print in draft quality.

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Print text

Daryl Benson/Getty Images

What looks good on screen doesn't necessarily look good when printed. Text needs to be readable when it gets turned into little dots of ink on the page. Choose body text fonts that look good on paper. Take care when using knock-out or reversed type treatments. The words can be harder to read if you don't use the right fonts, colors, and size.

  • Also see:
  • Use draft mode to speed up printing and save ink.
  • Learn how to print text for rubber stamping projects.

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Print graphics

transparency in gif
Transparency in GIFs can leave behind fuzzy colors. Printing GIF images; J. Bear

A lot of the graphic images on the Web are low-resolution GIF images. There are a few tricks you can use to print low-resolution graphics. Some graphics on the Web are intended for printing. Learn how to print images from your browser window. 

Also see:
What size to print artwork (giclee fine art prints).

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Color photographs are usually in RGB for
RGB is the typical format for digital photographs. Printing color photographs; J. Bear

You've got a picture. You want a print. Open it in your software and just hit the print button, right? Maybe. But if you want the photo to look good, need it in a certain size, only want part of the picture, or need to have it run on a printing press, then there's more you'll need to know and do.

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Print a PDF

quarkxpress pdf
Create a PDF from QuarkXPress 4.x - 5. Create a PDF in QuarkXPress; E. Bruno

You can print a PDF file like you print most any type of document. However, if you are preparing a PDF for desktop printing or for commercial printing there are certain settings and options you'll want to use.

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Print a Web page

Mactopia Microsoft Word Personal Web Page Templates
Mactopia Microsoft Word Personal Web Page Templates. Mactopia

If you want everything on the page, you can print a Web page in 4 easy steps. But first, you might want to see if the Web site has a "print this page" link or button. This often creates a more printer-friendly version of the page and sends it directly to your default printer. If you want only a portion of the page, use print selection to print only what you want from a Web page.

Also see:
How to design a printer-friendly Web page.

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Print the screen

Freeform screen capture done with Windows Vista Snipping Tool
Freeform screen capture done with Windows Vista Snipping Tool. Screen capture with Windows Snipping Tool; J. Bear

The Print Screen (Prt Scr) button on your keyboard doesn't really send what you see on your monitor to your printer. It captures the screen (takes a screen shot) as a graphic. If that's what you need, it's easy to use the Print Screen Key in Windows. If you have Windows Vista, the Snipping Tool works even better. Now, before you hit the Prt Scr button or use screen capture software, if you intend to print your screen shots on paper there are certain steps you can take to make sure that your screen shots look good in print.

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Print on special surfaces

CD Design and Printing
CD Printing. CD Printing; J. Bear

Sure, most printing is done on some kind of paper. But you can also print on fabric. There are some desktop printers that will let you print directly on a CD or DVD. If you're going to have a CD commercially printed, it's good to know how it's done and what limitations you face when designing for printing on a CD.

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Using Pictures of Paper Money
Know the legalities of using pictures of money. Know the legalities of using pictures of money; J.Bear

Intaglio printing is used for U.S. paper currency. But you can use most any printing method to print your own money -- sort of. There are certain steps you'll need to take to design with and print pictures of paper currency legally.

Also see:
What you need to print your own checks.