Saturday, May 21, 2016

Viewing, Using, and Printing PDF Patterns

PDF patterns are becoming more and more popular everyday! Yes, everyday. There are numerous reasons for this such as:

Instant gratification When you see a pattern you like, you can purchase it and get started on making the project immediately.

Everyone can open them No matter what computer or mobile device you have, everyone can use the PDF which is actually a Portable Document Format file. It's pretty standard and the reader is free.

Price PDF patterns are often a little less expensive than printed patterns. There are no printing costs which can keep the cost down for the designer.

Easy to read You can easily read the pattern on your computer or mobile device and print only the pages that you need.

Huge selection You have pretty much an unlimited supply to make anything you need right at your fingertips, literally!

Supporting your independent designers Most PDF pattern makers are not sitting behind a desk delegating. No way! These designers are working in their studios for hours and hours on end to get the pattern from the image in their mind to the digital copy you receive. There is a lot more work put into designing digital patterns than most people realize. By supporting these small business owners, you are keeping their creative flow going, and contributing to a business that they are personally proud of. 

For those who are unsure to to read or print a PDF patterns, I'm going to guide you along the way. As a designer I do get questions on this subject, as well as seeing it brought up elsewhere.

First and foremost, every designer I know recommends you open, read, and print your files from the Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it, you can download it free from the ADOBE WEBSITE. If you are using your mobile device (cellphone, tablet, etc) you can download the Adobe Acrobat Reader app.

Why Adobe? Because it's the best! Also, it's completely stable, it's free, it's the most popular reader, it's user friendly, and a million other reasons. It's also a program that the designers are familiar with and are best able to help you if you run into a snag. There are so many readers out there, and I'm sure many of them are very good, and if it works for you, great, use it. If it doesn't, switch to Adobe where we can better assist you.

I personally like to read and print my patterns from my laptop, although I've used my mobile devices in the past as well. On my desktop version, you can see at the left, you get little images of the pages. This is so helpful when you are trying to find something.

What I like best is that if you want to remember something that you will need to refer back to, you can easily "highlight" that area so it will stand out from the rest of the pattern. It's so simple too. Just click on that little highlighter icon at the top of the screen, then drag your cursor over the are you want to highlight. Simple! You can also do this on your mobile devices by clicking on your menu at the bottom and it will bring up your little highlighter.

Many of you are probably already familiar with the bookmarking. Just click the little bookmark item at the top, and you can bring that page up anytime you want! You'll find it at the top on the mobile devices and the upper left on the desktop version.

Another thing you will find super handy is the "notes" feature. You will see a little icon that resembles one of those speaking clouds you see on cartoons. Inside that will be little lines. You click on that then it will ask you to tap on an area you want to leave a note. It brings up a little sticky note type thing and you make your notation there. This is especially handy if you want to change the size of something, or you don't want to forget where you purchased your supplies. After you write your note and close it, you will always see that little icon there so you can click on it and see what the note is telling you. Just be sure to save your changes to the document if you want to use that pattern again. If you don't want to save the changes, don't, and your pattern will be exactly the way you started. This is also available on the mobile devices too. How many of us have written all over our paper patterns? I do all the time. This way, you are doing the same thing but on your digital pattern. Love this feature more than I thought I would.

There are so many other things you can do with this reader, but that's an entire lesson so those were the basics for reading and making your patterns work best for you. I personally plan to play with the program more so I can find other things to do with it.

OK, you now know the basics. One of the most important things to know is how to print your pattern. If you want your pattern to turn out perfect, it must be printed out at 100% actual size. This will be found in your printer settings.

When your print box appears, you will have that option. Not all readers make it this easy for you and that's another reason why we all like Adobe. You will notice you have the option to print at Actual Size. You will also see a Custom Scale where my box says 100%. If you want a bigger item, you can choose a bigger percent, if you want a smaller item, you can choose a smaller percent. This is best handy when you are printing out things such as appliques. Many of the applique templates I sell are changed by the customer this way. If they want to add an applique to a baby bib or candle cozy, they certainly don't need the 7 inch size I have provided. For most patterns, you will print it out at 100%.

Some patterns you might want to enlarge or reduce most of the pieces while others will be printed out at 100% such as wrist straps, connector tabs, zipper ends, etc. Those need to remain the size they were designed at while the other pattern pieces can be adjusted by changing the percent of your printout.

The next most important thing you need to know about printing a pattern is which pages you want to print. I don't like to print the instructions because it's a waste of paper and ink. I print out the pattern pages I need and the list of dimensions if there are any. So I just put those pages into the box for printing. On my mobile app, I check or un-check the pages. Obviously, the pages I'm printing will be left checked.

Also remember that you will need to make sure your page orientation matches, and in most cases this is set to automatic so they do. This means if your pattern is being read in portrait style, make sure it prints this way.

On many patterns you will have to piece together a couple or more pieces. This is because your printer only prints out so big and your pattern piece will not fit on one page. The pattern designer will show you what to tape to, and where to tape it. On my patterns I have a little image that looks like scotch tape that tell you exactly where to tape your pieces. Super simple!

Basically that's it! If you are unfamiliar with reading, using, and printing your patterns, I hope this article was a big help to you.

The pattern I've been using for a reference is the So Many Ways Cellphone Case which is available at Etsy and Craftsy.

Here is one more final tip; if you go into the advanced computer settings you can choose to print in DRAFT mode. This is where your computer will print while using the least amount of ink possible to do the job. I used to do this but now I use the HP Instant Ink Program where I'm charged by the amount of pages I print instead of the amount of ink I use. I suppose that is a tip in itself and well worth it if you have an HP printer. I save a fortune on ink! Just printing out my photos used to cost a fortune, but no more!


  1. Great tutorial Sher! PDF has really become a part of our lives from boring taxes to fun stuff. I never knew what the acronym stood for until now!

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