Familiarise yourself with your printer.
Ensure you are comfortable with how to use the functions of your printer and computer device. Your printer manual or help pages will help you set up your printer to achieve the best possible quality and output. You may want to experiment, maybe with the free test files, to see what produces the best results for you.
You also need to ensure your printer specification is suitable.
With so many different printers in use and on the market, I am unable to provide exact instructions relating to any given printer. Please check with your printer manual, instructions, and manufacturers web site for any assistance you may need with your printer settings.
To print colour artwork, your printer needs to be able to print in colour.
Borderless Printing, Printable Area
This relates to the amount of ‘white space’ or margin that your printer requires around the edge of the paper. This may be different for the top, sides and bottom of the page, or your printer may be able to print right up to the edge. My pencil drawings rarely cover to the edge of the page and usually include a 5mm border.
Maximum Paper Size
The A3 paper size is twice the size of A4. Most home printers can handle up to A4, US Letter and US Legal. Larger sizes such as A3 require a printer specificity designed to handle them. You cannot print onto a paper size larger than your printer can handle.
The quality of the end result will depend on the capability of your printer and the paper you use. You will also need to ensure you are using ‘Best Quality’ or ‘High Resolution’ settings.
Avoid using ‘Draft’ or ‘Quick Mode’ printing as these will lower print quality.
There are many competing packs of glossy photo paper available everywhere and, to be honest, one pack is pretty much as good as the next in most cases.
If you would like to go that extra mile, consider using high-end presentation or archive paper. Textured fine art paper has a great finish for pencil drawing prints. Available from specialist suppliers for these.
Paper Thickness Considerations
What is weight or thickness?
Particularly in Europe you may have noticed that paper packs show a measurement in GSM. For copier and everyday paper this is typically something like 80gsm. It stands for Grams per Square Metre. It is the weight of the paper in grams if it were sized 1m x 1m. 1m (1 metre) is equal to 100cm (100 centimetres) or just under 39 and a half inches.
The higher this weight, the thicker, firmer or more rigid the paper will become. Often higher quality paper will have a higher weight, but not always.
Potential Pitfalls of Thick or Rigid Paper.
It may be tempting to choose paper or card with a high weight or thickness. However, remember that paper weight or thickness, in itself, is not an indicator of actual quality.
Depending on the path that paper takes through the mechanism of your printer, if the paper is too rigid it may not be able to freely bend around rollers or guides. This could cause a paper jam and inconveniently result in lost time, wasted paper and ink. In an extreme case a jam could result in damage to the printer, print head or drum.
Incidentally, if you do experience a paper jam, remove the paper carefully and ensure no small pieces are torn off inside the printer. Check with your printer manual or instructions for more advice on how to safely remove jammed paper.
Inkjet printers develop the page a line at a time, with the print head moving sideways across the page. You can find that thicker paper, if not moving freely enough inside the printer, can cause small gaps between these lines or overlapping which leads to a banding effect or visible unsightly lines across the artwork print.
The maximum weight of paper that your printer can handle may be included in the technical specification. A rule of thumb is that if the paper takes a relatively straight route, such as in a the top (or back) and out at the front, a printer will likely fair better than if the paper has to perform a U-turn, such as in at the front and out at the front.
Gaps and Stripes in Printing
Aside from small lines, gaps or overlapped printing caused by the paper feed (see Paper Thickness Considerations above), stripy printing can also occur for other reasons.
Check the printer ink levels (or toner level) and replacement cartridges where necessary.
Sometimes inkjet printers can become clogged. Try running a cleaning cycle (see your printer manual).
A laser printer can become contaminated if certain internal surfaces are touched or it used to print labels (for example). This can result in regular repeating spots or patterns on printing. Consult with your printer manufacturer for options to rectify this.
Annoying stripes or gaps can also be caused by a computer or printer memory issue, particularly if the page you are trying to print uses more memory than is available.
Close all unused apps and software programs actively running on your computer. Close anything you do not need that might be consuming required resources.
In the long term, some printer ink can be more susceptible to fading than others. You can increase the durability of your print using a UV protective fixative varnish spray. These typical come in matt or gloss finish.
All prints, whether professional or otherwise, are likely to fade when subjected to direct or high levels or sunlight.
Of course, with print-at-home, you can reprint a new copy of a faded or damaged print anytime you need.