Troubleshooting printing problems

I’ve been a member of The Quilt Show (TQS) with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims since it began. One of the advantages of membership is an awesome Block of the Month quilt every year.  This year’s quilt is designed by Sarah Vedeler. If you click on the link, you can probably see the possibilities for kaleidoscopes in this quilt, so I’ve been keeping up with the discussions on the TQS site as people start working on the quilt.

A few people have been having trouble getting their templates to line up after they’ve printed them out, so I’m working with Sarah to figure out what might be going wrong.  I thought I’d do a blog post about them since (1) I can attach files and (2) Kaleidoscope Kreator fans might find these tips useful in general.

Possible Issue #1: Printing from the web browser

In theory, this shouldn’t be an issue if you set Page Scaling = None. However, some web browsers have separate settings that might cause page scaling to occur without you knowing it.  If you click on the Template links and they open in your browser, make sure you save those files to your hard drive instead.  The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the template name, then choose “Save target as” or “Save link as” to save the file to your hard drive.  (Remember where you put it!)  Then open the file from your hard drive to print it.

Possible Issue #2:  A printer that does not print accurate sizes

Unfortunately, not all printers print accurate sizes. Why is this a problem?  I have a printer that is 1/16” off over 8” in the lengthwise direction only, i.e. if I print an 8” x 8” square it prints out as 8” x 7 15/16”.  This may not seem like a big issue, but if you multiply that over the entire size of the quilt you may be tearing your hair out by the end of the project.  For example, the finished size of the quilt is 88” and 88 divided by 8 is 11.  11 x 1/16” is almost ¾” over the entire size of the quilt.

If all of the templates were arranged in such a way that this discrepancy would be only be applied in one direction it might work out OK, but this quilt has lots of curves so there are no guarantees. I’ve dealt with this problem myself recently. Just before Quilt Market last fall I was working on a 36” quilt and the inkjet fabric I wanted to use shrunk in just one direction after I had printed it.  I attempted to put it together anyway and after I had the majority of the quilt done, I scrapped the whole thing and started over. In this case it wasn’t my printer that was the problem, but the fact that the fabric shrunk after printing.  Regardless, the ultimate result is the same.

How do you determine the accuracy of your printer?

Right-click on this link and save the file to your hard drive (see issue #1 above): printer-test.pdf Then print the file making sure that Page Scaling = None!  Use a quilting ruler (I have one that is 8.5” x 11” that is quite handy, but any one that is at least 10” long will work) and measure both the length and width of the squares. You may not see a problem within 2”, but if there is a problem to be found you’ll definitely see issues at 8” or 10”.

If everything measures perfectly, you’re good to go!  (If you are still having problems putting the templates together, then take a look at the other possible issues.)

If you find that your printer does not print accurate sizes, I do not know any way around this other than finding another printer to print on.  If you have more than one printer, then try a different one.  If you have access to a printer at work, try that.  If you have a friend with a printer, try that.  (The templates are mostly line drawings, so they use very little ink to print.) Or maybe you can take the files on a USB stick to a copy center; just make sure you have them print the printer-test document first so that you can test the accuracy.

I know that finding another printer is not an ideal workaround, but trust me – finding the inaccuracies at this stage is much better than finding them half-way through the year!

Possible Issue #3: The registration marks are not being lined up correctly

The registration marks in Sarah’s templates need to line up as follows:

Step 1: Trim the edge of one sheet along the larger registration marks.

Step 2: Line up the registration marks with the small mark on one sheet lining up with the large mark on the other sheet.

Step 3: Glue or fuse in place.

Possible Issue #4: The built-in print margins on your printer may mean that the registration marks on the bottom of the page don’t print.

To determine if this might be an issue for you, right-click on this link and save the file to your hard drive (see issue #1 above): margin-test.pdf Then print the file making sure Page Scaling = None.  Ignore any warnings about the page extending beyond the printable area of the printer – this is exactly what we want to test!  Notice that the gray “frame” of the image extends all the way to the edge of the sheet.  When you print it, there should be a white area all around the printed page where the printer was not able to print.  If any of these white areas are larger than 1/4″, you may find that the registration marks don’t print.

For example, some older printers have a 5/8″ white margin on the bottom of the sheet where nothing prints:

Print margins.pdf to see how big your built-in printer margins are.

This will be particularly troublesome for some of Sarah’s templates. Do not try to fix this by setting your printer to borderless printing.  Borderless printing changes the scale of  the image being printed!  This will be disastrous as you try to put the quilt together. Instead, you may find some printer settings that will help:

1. One of my Epson printers has a setting (under Advanced Settings in the Printer Properties dialog) to “Minimize Margins”.  Not all printers have this, but if yours does it will help immensely.

2. Another of my printers has the option to “Rotate 180°”.  This will turn the design 180° when it prints, effectively putting the small margin in the image design at the top of the sheet where the printer has a smaller built-in margin.

I realize that your printer may not have either of these options so I am still looking for a better solution.  Stay tuned…

  • I’m so glad you have posted this! I am going to do the TQS BOM but haven’t started yet. ;) Good to know you are here to help with this. Your directions are always so clear! Thanks!

    Reply: You’re most welcome! I’m glad you found this useful. -Jeanie

  • Liz Renner

    Me too, thanks! I needed the info about lining up pages together and confirmed what I thought I was supposed to do. I’m following your blog now… nice talking to you.

    Reply: Glad I could help Liz! :)

  • Rita Connolly

    Hi Jeanie, I don’t know if you can help me with the TQS bom template. I use a Mac so I don’t have any right click button or mouse as such. I have printed out your test sheet and everything was the right size. Then when I printed out template 1 I found that the grey squares were 1 7/8″ square rather than 2″ square. I am not sure what to do now. Thanks, Rita.

  • Rita Connolly

    Jeanie, My husband helped me figure out how to get the scale right so I am sorted. It was completely different on the Mac! Thanks, Rita.

  • Rita, if you can provide me with details about how things work differently on a Mac, I’d be more than happy to update this blog post!

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