Printable wall art is a quick and convenient way to decorate your home, create a gallery wall, or make a last-minute gift. Many Artisan Shopping Directory members sell printable wall art, so I asked them for some info on how printable wall art works.
Table of Contents
- How printable wall art works.
- What is the aspect ratio of the file?
- Ppi and resolution of the printable wall art files.
- How to print printable wall art.
How printable wall art works.
Printable wall art is digital artwork that has been formatted to download and print, either at home or by a local printing service. After the artwork is purchased the digital files are sent to the buyer, and the buyer is able to download the files to their computer. The files can be printed on a home printer, or they can be taken to a local business that provides printing services to make larger or higher quality prints.
It’s important to pay attention to a few things when you’re deciding how to print the wall art that you’ve purchased, since the quality of the final print can be affected. The file’s aspect ratio, the type of paper that you use, the resolution of the digital file, and the printer settings can make a big difference to how good the final product looks.
What is the aspect ratio of the file?
The aspect ratio of the file is basically the proportions that the final print will have. It’s important to know what the final size you want the print to be is and what aspect ratio it is so that you can choose the right proportions to print out. Many printable wall art files are offered in different sizes, and if you choose the wrong aspect ratio or final print size, it might not look right when it’s printed.
For example, if you have a frame that you want to use for your printable wall art, and it’s 8″x10″, that’s a 4×5 aspect ratio. If the digital file that you download is a 2×3 aspect ratio, that would print out as an 8″x12″ print. You would have to cut off two inches of the height of the print to make sure that it fits the frame, and it might not look right! If you make sure that the proportions of the print file are the same as the final result, you won’t change the look of the artwork even if it’s printed larger or smaller than the original.
Some common aspect ratios are as follows:
So if you have a file that’s sized as a 12″x18″, you can find that on the 2×3 aspect ratio chart, and you’ll know that you can also print it in the other sizes in that chart without having to crop it if you want to keep that ratio.
This brings me to another point, though, which is that printing a file that’s “small” and trying to enlarge it too much might not work.
Ppi and resolution of the printable wall art files.
The Ppi (pixels per inch) of a digital file is basically the number of pixels there are within an inch of the digital file design. Pixels are small squares of digital information that create the image. The higher the Ppi, the more detail there will be on the printed page. Dpi, or dots per inch, is often used interchangeably with Ppi to refer to how much detail there is in the digital file, but Dpi refers to the printed page, not the digital file itself. Files with a high Ppi are referred to as “large” or “high res” files, and files with a lower Ppi are “small” files.
When you buy a printable wall art file, you should get the highest Ppi (or Dpi if it’s referred to that way) that you can. The more detail there is in the file, the better the detail will be when it’s printed, and the easier it will be to enlarge the print. The higher Ppi/Dpi number means a better resolution on the printed page, basically.
If you look for files that are labeled as high resolution (high res) you should be able to enlarge them fairly well. However, there may be an upper limit before the print will start looking pixelated, so if you want to blow a photo up a lot, you should check with the artist to see how large they would recommend as the limit. If you enlarge it too much you might not get a good result.
I once made a banner that was enlarged too much and became pixelated on the edges, so I ended up spending a couple of hours filling in the edges with a sharpie to smooth everything out. You don’t want to do that, so make sure to check on the resolution before you go crazy and enlarge something too much.
Please note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which will give me a small commission at no cost to you if you buy something when you use them.
What paper to use for printable wall art?
The type of paper that can be used for printable wall art ranges from inexpensive printer paper to archival quality. In order to determine what type of paper to use for printable wall art, you should decide how long you want to keep the art and how it will be displayed. For long-term displays that are intended to last for years, a higher-quality archival paper should be used, but for temporary displays a lower quality paper should be fine.
Anne Londez, owner of French Vintage Prints, says “For print-at-home printable wall art, I like either Epson archival matte paper if I want a pure white background, or a not too thick textured art paper if I want a more traditional look. Like the kind of sheets you get from a good quality sketching pad. The maximum thickness of paper which will go through your printer is important to know.”
There are also three types of paper surfaces to choose from, one being the matte that Anne mentioned, and the others being luster and glossy. Glossy paper has a shiny surface, and matte paper has a “flat” surface that isn’t shiny. Luster is a semi-gloss halfway between the two so it’s not as flat as matte, and not as shiny as a glossy surface.
Depending on what type of look you prefer, you can choose any of those, it’s completely up to your personal preference. Some matte papers have more of a texture on their surface than others, so you’ll need to take that into account as well.
Another thing to think about will be whether you want to use your home printer, or whether you want to have a print shop do the printing for you.
How to print printable wall art.
To print digital wall art, you can use a home printer or go to a professional print shop to get a high-quality print of your file. If the physical size of the finished print is larger than your home printer can produce, a professional printer will be needed. Options include office supply stores with a print shop, or dedicated print shops that can handle large format printing on archival paper or other materials.
If you prefer to print at home and your printer can handle the size that you want, you’ll need to make sure that the paper you choose will work in your printer. Some papers are fairly thick, like Anne mentions, and won’t go through a home printer as easily as other types.
Before printing your wall art, you should test a piece of the paper to make sure that the paper will feed evenly through the printer. Printing a test pattern will make sure that the paper feeds through the printer without getting hung up halfway through the print job. If your printer doesn’t want to print the paper that you have, you’ll either have to go to a pro or use a lighter weight paper.
When using your printer, you’ll also need to make sure that the print quality is set to where you want it to be. A higher print quality won’t get rid of pixelation in the file, but it will give you a better appearance by printing slower and adding more detail.
Some printers default to a photo quality print for image files and some don’t. If you want to adjust the quality of the printed image you’ll need to do that based on your home printer’s settings.
If you choose to print using a professional, make sure to take any license that came with the digital files with you. That will show the print shop that you bought the files and have permission to print them for personal use if they check for that. Some digital files aren’t licensed for commercial use, so sometimes pro print shops don’t want to print them unless they know that you’re legally allowed to print them for your own use.
Printable wall art is an affordable way to decorate, and because there are so many options as far as styles go, there’s definitely going to be something that you’ll be able to find that will go with your decor. It also makes seasonal decorating easy, so try out some printables for a quick update in your home.
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