Has this happened to you? You purchased a printable file or picked up a free download that looked fantastic on the screen…but just looks ho-hum when it comes off your printer. You feel a little let down by the fuzzy image on your paper and the dull colors.
It doesn’t have to be like that. Save your let downs for bad movie sequels and food that doesn’t taste as good as it looks. Your printables can come out crisp and clean and vibrant and be so fabulous they make you want to weep with joy!
Your printables can go beyond “cute,” they can look like they were impressively professionally done. By YOU, but you don’t have to admit that if you don’t want to.
There’s a secret to getting your prints right, and it’s a lot simpler than you think. I want you to be completely proud of all the crafty graphics you use, so I’m going to let you in on what the pros already know!
It took me ages of printing, testing papers, and trying out different equipment, but my prints look impressive and photo-worthy every time now. I want you to benefit from all that money and effort I spent and many mistakes I made so you can make party printables the best way the first time.
Do you want to know the secret?
Mostly, it’s the paper you use. Especially if you’re using an inkjet printer at home. What is this magical paper?
For my party printables, I almost exclusively use Epson Double Sided Matte Brochure Paper and an inkjet printer (more on the printer later). There is a really good reason for this.
Paper is really porous. And every paper you use is going to react a bit differently with the ink spraying out of your printer. Plain white 110 lb cardstock is commonly used in printing party printables because it’s cheap, but it’s not the best option.
The cardstock tends to soak in the ink, where it bleeds with the many paper fibers and the colors react with the chemicals in the paper and fade. (See photo above!) It makes it OK in a pinch, but not great.
Presentation paper – specifically the super thick Epson five star variety — is made differently. It has a special coating on it that lets the ink sit near the surface of the paper and holds fast to the ink when applied. There are no fibers, and the coating is specially formulated to keep the colors of the ink pure. The result? Beautiful, vibrant, clean graphics.
But presentation paper can be very very expensive. For the average person, probably a little cost prohibitive.
But there is a happy medium.
And it’s Brochure Paper. I have used Epson Double Sided Matte Brochure Paper in every one of the pictures I show on this website. This paper has the exact same coating as the presentation paper.
It’s not quite as thick as the Epson Five Star Presentation Paper, but it’s thick enough to be sturdy and handle what is required of a party craft.
But there are so many kinds! What do I use??
As a rule of thumb, the more stars your Epson paper has, the thicker it is.
If you’re printing invitations, banners, snack boxes, party circles, tags, tented labels or anything else that needs structure…
…get the highest weight paper you can find. The paper weight in pounds is usually listed on the front of the box. If you’re buying Epson paper, buy at least the 4 star brochure paper.
If you’re printing flyers, water bottle labels you don’t plan to submerge, activity sheets or straw flags…
…use a lighter weight paper. It will feel more like copy paper and be more flexible. In Epson, this is their 3-star paper.
On the chance that you need to slim down the party budget, opt for a big pack of the thicker paper. Everything will be fine on that if you have to make it work.
Epson, HP and Office Depot all make double sided matte brochure paper, and you’ll always find the best deal on this paper online. Here are a few varieties to check out depending on how much you need:
- Epson Brochure and Flyer Paper Double Sided, Matte 4 stars, 50 sheets
- Epson Brochure and Flyer Paper Double Sided, Matte 4 stars, 150 sheets
- Epson Presentation Paper, Matte 3 stars, 100 sheets
If you’re a party crafter that makes lots of this kind of stuff, go for bigger packs, it’ll make it a tad more economical. Also watch the sales flyers at Office Depot. Last week I picked up 150 page packs on a buy one get one free deal. If you’re not lucky enough to catch that deal, stick with the links above.
Also, if you don’t have Amazon Prime already, it’s totally worth it to get the good deals shipped free.
You’ve got your paper…now what about the printer?? See how to get the best prints with what you have already on the next page!
What to Select in your Printer Dialogue When You Print
Your goal here is to print in the highest resolution you possibly can on your printer.
What you tell the printer to do when you print makes a huge difference in the resulting colors. If you’re printing on low quality when you do your prints, you’ll never have really awesome results. Colors will be less vibrant on low quality. The blurry lines if you are still printing to card stock will be worse.
It really doesn’t use that much more ink to make them look nicer. When the “print” dialogue pops up, set it to the highest quality you can–which is often photo quality–and print to the Epson Brochure Paper I told you about.
Every printer is going to be different! Click on your “Printer” options in Adobe Reader to see what you can change.
Under your print menu, you may be able to choose what kind of paper you are printing to. This will also help your printer. Choose “Plain White Paper” for cardstock, and “Premium Presentation Paper” for the Epson brochure paper. Your computer/printer will likely be a little different than mine, but just be sure you’re aligning and choosing everything you can for optimal output.
My printer also lets me choose speed over quality as an option. Don’t do that! Choose quality every time and you’ll get the colors you want by printing in the highest resolution your printer will output.
You don’t need to go get a new fancy printer, just make the one you have work to it’s potential! Even the low end printers these days do some pretty impressive work.
Thoughts on Laser Printing
Not everyone has access to an inkjet, and not every one wants to print everything themselves. I get that. I’ve certainly used the Office Depot print center on more than one occasion!
They do a good job, but laser printing looks different than ink jet printing. My experience has been that the colors come out looking a bit darker than in the files, and this even differs from laser printer to laser printer.
The only caveat would be if you are taking them to a professional print shop that employs a guy whose whole job is to take care of color. Everything will be perfect then, but even I don’t have access to that!
If you choose laser printing, again, the paper is key! Buy the best quality you can get your hands on. You can purchase your own and give it to the store to use for your prints; they’ll even charge you less for the effort.
In review, the key things to remember to get professional quality when using printables are:
- Print to Epson Brochure Paper, or something similar
- Pick heavy weight paper for things that need structure
- Pick light weight paper for things that don’t
- Always print on your printer’s highest quality settings
Want to learn more tips to make your party printables and parties more professional looking? Be sure to subscribe to my list!