Tip and Tricks 4 PDF Sewing Patterns: Printing Your Pattern

Below is our tutorial for the trim version of our patterns.  If you have an updated pattern that now features trimless and would prefer to put your pattern together using that method, check out this tutorial: https://bellasunshinedesigns.com/pdf-pattern-series-printing-and-assembling-trimless-patterns/ 

It's time for another installment in the Tip & Tricks 4 PDF Sewing Patterns series.  On Day 1 we learned how to organize your files and on Day 2 I showed you how to use the layers feature to print just the size you need. Today we are going to learn what is probably the most important part, how to print.  Now I know what you're thinking.  File>Print.  How hard can that be?  Well, it's just a bit more complicated than that.  And doing it wrong can have a big effect on how your garment sews out.

Tips & Tricks for PDF Sewing Patterns: How to Print a PDF Pattern Properly - This really helped me!

Tip & Tricks 4 PDF Sewing Patterns: Printing Your Pattern

Print settings matter, y'all.  They are super important and make the difference between your favorite new handmade outfit and a garment that doesn't fit.  And if it doesn't fit, it more than likely will be too small.  Before we talk about how to print properly, let's talk a little more about why it affects the fit so much.

I often hear in sewing groups that the print square is "only off by 1/4 of an inch."  On first thought, that doesn't seem by much.  You could just add the amount missing to the end and you'd be golden, right?  Right?  Let's look below to see why that isn't the case.

The importance of the print square

This is a print square.  Every quality PDF Sewing Pattern should have one.  If they don't you will have no idea whether the pattern is printed properly or not.  Some patterns have a 1" square.  I prefer a larger square because if there is a print issue, it will show up better on a larger square.  But it's just personal preference.  All the Bella Sunshine Design Patterns have a 2.5" and a 4 cm square like what's shown above.
Now let's say that print square is off by 1/4".  A seemingly small amount like that can have a huge impact.  Here's why:

Tips & Tricks for PDF Sewing Patterns: How to Print a PDF Pattern Properly - This really helped me!

Because that 2.5" print square represents a scale, your pattern with be 1/4" off every 2.5 inches.  That small amount can become a huge amount when you are talking about a pattern piece.  Especial when its cut on the fold and only represents a forth of the circumference of the body.  A pattern piece that's 1 inch too short can be 4 inches too small.

OK, so the print square is important.  Got it.  What if the pattern you bought doesn't have a print square?  Proceed with caution.  Every high quality pdf sewing pattern will have a print square.  If yours doesn't, the first thing you can do is measure your pattern piece and do a little math to see if it will fit you/your child.  Your second option is to sew a muslin to see if it will fit.  Or lastly, you could go with a designer that you know and trust.  There are tons of amazingly talented designers out there, but a few bad apples can spoil the bunch.  Enough said.

Printer settings

So how do we make sure that the print square prints correctly? Last blog post we discussed that you should be using Adobe Reader to print all pdf patterns.  This will ensure that the pdf is printed the proper size.  The next thing you need to check are your print settings.  Most pdf sewing patterns will have print instructions located in the pattern.  If they don't a quick scroll through the pattern will let you know what pages you need to print.  I suggest saving a few trees and only printing the pattern pieces.  The instructions can be used digitally (more on that in another post).

Tips & Tricks for PDF Sewing Patterns: How to Print a PDF Pattern Properly - This really helped me!

The biggest thing you want to check besides the page numbers to print is the scale.  A lot of times "Fit to Page" will be selected.  This means that the printer will adjust the size of the pdf to print on whatever page size you have selected.  Great for easily increasing or decreasing images on a page, not so great when you want a proper fit. Instead, we want to make sure "Actual Size" or "Custom Scale: 100%" is selected.

Important tips

Want to save some paper? Two tips. Print only the page with the test square first. That way in case for some reason the print square is off, you know it before you print all the pages and waste all that paper and ink.  Second tip... if you are printing a smaller size, scroll through the pdf to see what pages the size you need is actually on.  I can't tell you how many times I've printed the entire range only to find several pages with page numbers but no pattern piece.

So in case you just skimmed everything above, here's your cheat sheet to making sure that you print properly:
  1. Always use Adobe Reader to print.
  2. Also always make sure that "Actual Size" or Custom Scale: 100%" is selected.
  3. Always measure the test square before bothering to cut the pattern out.
If you follow these three things, you will bypass a majority of issues with printing pdf patterns.  Have any funky issues you've dealt with that have caused problems for you?  Tell me about them in the comments.  And be sure to check back next week for help on taping your pattern together.
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