This blog post is for those who have never made a printable planner or have and want to know more about the basics. First and foremost this post is oriented around the key things you need and not the process for creating a complete planner.
What You Need - Essential:
- Printer (Inkjet / Laser)
- Trimmer / Guillotine
- A4 Paper (Amount to suit number of pages)
Printers (Inkjet / Laser)
The printer and printing process has the greatest impact on the quality of the end product and so this is the most essential things to get right. Many people have an opinion on what printer you need and there are many who are forgiving of the performance of a cheap printer but in the end the printer you choose should reflect your expectations for the quality print you are after.
When selecting a printer most companies, reviews etc tell you about a number of properties but I find that there are a couple of things they don't really talk about which are also important to ensure you understand what impacts on print quality. When selecting a printer skip all the sales speal and go straight for the specifications which is where all the information you need is. Here is what to look for with inkjet printers:
- Print Resolution (Most Important): horizontal x vertical DPI (dots per inch), this indicates how fine the end image can be printed.
- Nozzle Configuration: More nozzles typically indicates that a finer ink droplet can be placed on the paper or that the printing process can be completed more rapidly;
- Minimum Ink Droplet (Not Always Shown): 3 picolitres is typical of a decent quality printer, 1.5 or better is indicative of a premium grade printer.
- Ink Quality: Typically includes "Photo" in the type of ink when referring to premium inks.
- Feeder Type: This is typically not talked about but if a feeder is aggressive, more vertical, has less rollers or only an offset roller (one side) then this can cause skew feeding and while this isn't a massive issue it can have an impact on whether 2-sided printing aligns back and front. This is where the print is not "square" with the left and / or right hand side or in other words looks like it printed on an angle.
In terms of laser printers there is less to consider and essentially you should look for:
- Colour Print Resolution (Most Important): horizontal x vertical DPI (dots per inch), this indicates how fine the end image can be printed in colour and is generally less or the same as black but is your limiting factor. Keep in mind that Laser Printer technology is going to be far less impressive with the majority no better than 2400 x 600 DPI or half that of an inkjet.
The printer I selected for my business is not a premium printer but is designed to print large volumes of pages without refilling the ink, has a fairly smooth, non-aggressive feeder with a print resolution of 5760 x 1440 DPI. This printer is definitely not cheap but I have been told that cheaper printers, most notably the Canon brand are just as reasonable and you should aim for an inkjet printer with a resolution at or above 4800 x 1200 DPI or a laser printer with a resolution at or above 2400 x 600 DPI. Do your research before you buy and don't be afraid to ask people you know to do a test print if you are thinking of buying one that someone else already has.
Now you might be asking why would you buy a laser printer if the resolution is so low? Well the answer is not really what you might expect, essentially most people buy monochrome laser printers for their speed, economy (cheaper) and for their ability to be used for craft oriented purposes. Laser printers use heat to activate a powder ink which bonds with the material they are being printed on and this process allows you to print on surfaces which inkjets can't. It also allows for secondary bonding which can be accomplished with certain glues and by using heat which is the fundamental behind applying foil to printed designs. The print quality generally is inferior to inkjets but if you are hoping to use foil for example than you may want a laser instead or in addition to an inkjet.
Another key point is that automatic duplex (double sided) printing is not required for printing planner pages, in fact this feature is actually discouraged due to misalignment issues that are common with this feature. The reality is that when a printer prints left to right, it is very difficult on non-commercial grade printers to get perfect alignment front and back for automatic duplex printing. When printing single sided and manually flipping the pages over to print this creates a common "origin" or point of reference which increases the repeatability of printing accurately with reference to the top left hand corner...in other words you have a much better chance of front and back lining up. Essentially when you print your printable you will print all odd pages first followed by all even, flipping your pages over based on your printer needs. To check which way to flip your page you will need to print a planner test page which I provide for download. One last thing to note is if back to back printing doesn't fully align you should investigate extended settings for print alignment options specific to your printer and note that this may only apply to your print session (i.e. every time you print).
Trimmer / Guillotine
Assuming you have successfully printed off your printable design you must now trim the end product to size. The next most important aspect of printables is the cut quality which will determine how everything looks, where punchholes end up and whether your pages get damaged easily will come down to what you use to cut. You can use either a trimmer or a guillotine which have their own purposes, tolerances and their ability to cut different amounts of pages. You will notice on my printable designs that they have what is called crop lines which are horizontal and vertical lines which are designed to show you where the page edges are which should allow you to cut straighter and at the correct locations.
The crop lines are perfect for guillotines / bypass trimmers which are generally less precise but can cut large volumes of paper compared to a rotary / blade trimmer. They use a long blade hinged at one end which allows you to cut a straight line end to end but generally needs a mark on the paper stack edge to align the cut which should be at a steady medium pace with a focus on a smooth action to get a clean cut. Guillotines are generally not good for cutting fine corrections so typically expect a cut once scenario depending on the guillotine or paper stack size and corrections will likely be required with a trimmer depending on your circumstance.
Trimmers come in a few different types but most are either knife blade or rotary. Typically the rotary is the best style for cutting planner printables as they self sharpen, they can be lined up easily and can usually cut several pages at once without much of an issue. The Rotary style is usually less susceptible to twisting / wobbling and a number of designs are now available to counteract this as well. The blade style is still acceptable but they are susceptible to catching or jamming as the blade gets dull or if the depth of the paper is too much. Trimmers are great for fine cutting but the blade style is limited in how fine a cut it can do while keeping the cut clean which also comes down to blade sharpness. I recommend testing your trimmer with scrap to determine how much paper it can cut at once and whether you are likely to experience any issues with catching / jamming or clean cutting. Trimmers generally require a cut from start and finish in one smooth action with constant pressure and speed along the cut to get a clean edge. If you try to cut too quickly and the paper isn't thick enough you may experience ripping or in the case of knife blades, twisting.
This element is subjective and really comes down to what you are willing to accept in terms of print quality, feel and visibility from the backing page. I have been told by many people that normal printer paper (80 gsm / 21 lb bond / 54 lb text) is perfectly fine for planner printables. Saying that, the paper weight used in commercial planners such as the Happy Planner product is typically higher at around 120 gsm / 32 lb bond / 80 lb text. Personally I prefer the 120 gsm paper for my planners as I find the weight and texture to be pleasant with minimal visibility from the backing page which I don't find is good enough in the 80 gsm paper. Ultimately, it also comes down to the whiteness factor as well which I prefer around the 170 CIE mark which means the paper is brighter outside / natural light but less bright indoors. I typically use Reflex 80 gsm paper which has a 165 CIE and J.Burrows 120gsm paper which has a 170 CIE which are both available in Australia from Officeworks.
Once you have all the elements required to print and cut your planner you are on your way to building your amazing planner from a printable design. I will discuss the process with you in another post to keep the information to the point and easy to follow.
As always I am happy to chat with you about your needs so if you find yourself needing more information about the products on my store or custom made needs I am only a message or email away. Hopefully you enjoy my online store and what it has to offer and, as mentioned previously, any feedback is always appreciated. Thanks for reading my post and please feel free to leave me a comment. Now it's time for me to go back to Secretly Scrapbooking.
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