If you're new to the digital download world, things can get confusing pretty fast. Which file type should I use? What's a zip? How do I get this thing to print and look like what I'm seeing on the screen?
Don't worry! I'll break down some of the most common questions and terms here, and pretty soon you'll be off downloading who knows what from who knows where!
(Actually, no, that's not a good idea. Stick to the safe sites.)
Anyway, I'll explain the different file types you may run across, and which one to use for the end result you want. I'll cover some basic printer setup too, so you can get your download to look exactly like it should.
JPEG (also known as .jpg)
Good for: Emailing and posting on social media and websites. Also decent for printing photos and graphics (with the correct settings).
- Smaller file size
- Easy to share
- You can't accidentally change or delete a layer or section
- Some loss of detail (called compression)
- Not easily edited
- Transparent areas will print as a solid color
Good for: Printing graphics and text, like invitations and announcements. Everything is sharp and saved exactly as you see on the monitor.
- Exact copy of the original file
- Easily resized
- Text can be edited
- No compression
- Needs a specific app or program to edit
- May need a plug-in to be viewed in browsers
I don't use png files, but I've thrown it in here since it's a common file type.
Good for: Web graphics and images with transparent areas.
- Can have a very small file size and still be high quality
- Can have transparent areas
- Image on screen doesn't always translate to print well
- File sizes can get very large if it's a complex image or photo
This isn't actually a file type, but rather a collection or bundle of files. Instead of downloading several files one at a time, they're combined into one folder and then "zipped" together so only one file is downloaded. This also saves space. Then they are "unzipped" or extracted, and you can save them to the location of your choice.
How to access the files, three ways:
- The easiest way to open a zip file is to double click on it to see all the files inside. There should be an "extract" option somewhere in the folder - click that and it'll ask you where you want to save the files to.
- Select all the files and drag them to the desktop or another open folder.
- Right click on the zipped folder, and "extract all" should be one of the options in the list. Choose the location to save them to.
Printing at Home
Good quality cardstock and a printer with plenty of ink are the secrets to professional-looking invitations printed at home. Cardstock is available at most craft and office stores and online. My absolute favorite place is Kelly Paper, but I'm lucky to have one nearby.
When you're printing through Corjl, you might see the word "bleed" mentioned. Bleed allows you to print beyond the borders of your invitation or announcement. When you trim it to size, there will be no white or blank areas around the edges. This is also called "borderless" in some print setups.
For an 8 by 10 printable wall art:
- Orientation is portrait
- Paper size is letter, 8.5 by 11
- Photo size is 8 by 10
- Margins are normal
- Fit is set to fill page
For a 5 by 7 printable invitation or announcement in Corjl:
- Click on "download"
- Check "show bleed" and "show trim marks"
- Check "print multiples per page if possible"
- Click "download" again, then open the file
- Set file to print at 100% or "actual size"
Don't want to download and print it yourself? All digital wall art is available as prints in the shop. If you're ordering invitations or announcements, contact me for printing options or check out the product description for more info.
If you're looking for a specific size and it's not listed in the item description, send me a message with the item name and the size you want, and I'll try my best to resize it for you.
Places to Print
My favorite place for years and years has been Costco. I've done a few test prints over the years to compare, and their quality and pricing has consistently been hard to beat. (I promise I'm not getting paid for this!) But sadly, this year they took their photo centers out of stores - at least in my area. You can still order online. I have not tested this yet but I'm hoping the quality and pricing will be the same.
Other solid places to print:
- Staples | Office Max | Office Depot
- Copy centers
- If you're printing a jpeg, you can load it onto a thumb drive and use a photo kiosk at places like Walmart or CVS
It's not convenient time-wise, but I really encourage sending a test print if you're going to send your file off for printing. Sometimes the auto correct feature is on when it should be off, or off when it should be on, or the printer has a different setup, and it really affects the final image. Some places print colors differently.
If you can spare the time, send one file to be printed to see what you'll get back. I've had to trash a few hundred prints over the years because I trusted a previously used place with an untested order, only for the colors or quality to be way off.
Most printers are jerks. It's just how they are. A printer who does what they're asked the first time, every time, is a rare jewel.
Okay, that might be a bit harsh. I like printers, really. We've just been through a lot.
Common issue #1: the paper
Some printers do not have the patience for heavy cardstock. Heavy can be anything from 60 lb up to 110 lb weight. Some printers won't mind 60 lb but will absolutely refuse 110 lb (side-eyeing my new printer right now...so sad) and others will take all of them without a fuss.
If your printer keeps jamming, there's a good chance the paper is too thick. Try a smaller weight, or check your printer's manual to see if it has a limit.
Common issue #2: the colors
Is there a mismatch between what you're seeing on the screen and what your printer is printing out? Check these settings:
Brightness and contrast. Is your screen super bright or as dim as it can go? Or are you like me, with the blue light filter permanently on your phone? Some screens have very strong contrast, which makes dark shades darker and whiter shades brighter. Try opening a plain Word document or searching for an image of a white square, then holding a piece of plain white paper next to it. Are they similar? If not, adjust the screen settings.
Quality. In the print settings, make sure the quality is set to high, photo, or similar. If you're using glossy photo paper, choose that option under the "paper" menu. If you're using smooth or matte paper, select that option.
Toner or ink save is set to off. If this is set to on (sometimes it's on by default) then your printer won't put as much ink or toner into the print, leading to colors that are faded or a completely wrong shade.
Keep in mind that the image you see on the screen is created by pixels, and printers create images with ink or toner. An image viewed on one screen might even look different on another screen.
Common issue #3: the quality
If you're using heavy cardstock and the image looks fuzzy, it could be the texture on the cardstock. For the best print quality, use a smooth cardstock - there should be no bumps or dips in it.
(If you want a rustic look, textured cardstock can add a whole lot of character! Try sampling several different kinds.)
If your image is full of graphics and text, make sure you've downloaded it in PDF format to keep it looking crisp.
Common issue #4: the size
Check these settings:
- Paper size is set to 8.5 by 11
- Paper orientation is set to landscape if you're printing two 5 by 7 invitations to a page
- Paper orientation is set to portrait if you're printing an 8 by 10
- Photo size is set to the same size as the file (for example: 5 by 7 for invitations, 8 by 10 for wall art)
If your printer can print borderless, choose that setting.
Whew! That was a lot. To sum it all up:
- Print using a pdf or jpeg file format
- Use high quality paper that works well with your printer
- Check the printer settings and set them to the highest quality
If you're running into issues or just can't get it to print the way you think it should, please let me know and we'll tackle it together. Happy printing!