Digital Printing How to use our digital printing resources

Printing Workflow Overview

We offer both self-service and full-service printing.  Over 99% of student projects are printed on the self-service machines, which are maintained and operational 24/7.  Learning how to properly prepare your files and submit them to the printers / plotters is key:

  • 90% of the workflow for successfully printing/plotting involves proper file creation – typically using PDF files.  See PDF Workshop below for detailed information on creating proper PDF files for printing.
  • The final 10% of the printing workflow involves sending the file to the printer / plotter.  See Printing Options below for detailed procedures.
  • Note that the college has printing policies in place, including those related to credits for failed print jobs.  See Printing Policies below for details.


Printing Options

Self-Service Printing

Both large-format plotters and small-format printers are available for self-service use 24-7. These plotters and color printers are located at the east end of the third floor, the west end of the fourth floor, and within the DPC as well.  In addition, there are six black-and-white laser printers distributed throughout the studios and the Fab Lab.

Instructions for Use of Large-Format Self-Service Plotters

Instructions for Use of Small-Format Self-Service Printers

Digital Print Center

Need help Printing?  Come by the Digital Print Center (DPC), located in room 309 of the Art + Architecture Building.  The DPC staff can help answer all of your printing questions, and assist with laser cutter and 3D printer usage as well.  The DPC is generally open during normal business hours on weekdays and on weekend afternoons as well. Check hours posted at the door.

PDF Workshop

Note that the information below applies to both small format printing and large format plotting.

Create Your PDF Using Proper Paper Sizes

The college printers and plotters offer the following paper sizes:

  • Small format B&W Studio Printers: Letter 8 ½” x 11″ and Tabloid 11″ x 17″ paper
  • Small format Color Printers: Letter 8 ½” x 11″ and Tabloid 11″ x 17″ paper

Small format print jobs MUST be specified as either letter or tabloid. All other sizes will be rejected by the system.

  • Plotters loaded with bond paper: 36″ wide roll paper  –  35 1/2″ maximum printable width
  • Plotters loaded with photo matte paper: 42″ wide roll paper  –  41 1/2″ maximum printable width

Note that large format print jobs MUST be sized at least 1/2″ smaller than the roll paper width.  Full 36″ or 42″ wide jobs will be put “on hold for paper” by the system.  Minimum length allowed is 6″.  Maximum length allowed is 96″.

IMPORTANT: Multi-page PDFs are fine for the small format printers, but they will be rejected by the large format plotters.  Please create one PDF per board when printing large format.  Also be sure that each PDF file has a unique filename.  The plotters will not process the same filename more than once per hour.

Proper PDF File Creation

Most printing problems are caused by improperly created PDF files.  PDF files intended for printing should contain only that information necessary for printing.  A properly created PDF file for printing will be relatively small in file size and will open quickly.  Indications of potentially problematic PDF files are file sizes of more than 1000 KB per linear foot, and files that open slowly and only one strip or swatch at a time.  These type PDF problems are typically caused by superfluous content such as layer information being included in the PDF file.

The easiest way to avoid these PDF printing problems is to create a 2nd generation PDF file specifically for printing.  This 2nd generation PDF file will be a “clean” version of the original PDF, and will be optimized for printing.  Use the method described below to create a 2nd generation PDF file that will print properly:


2nd Generation PDF File Creation – Optimize PDF

The “Optimize PDF” option is included in both the Windows and Mac versions of Adobe Acrobat (not Reader or the default Apple / Microsoft PDF apps.)  Note that most steps in the detailed procedure below are only necessary the first time you run through the optimization process.

Open your 1st generation PDF in Acrobat (not Reader) on any Mac or Windows machine and optimize it as follows:

First, follow this one-time procedure to create a custom preset:

  • Under All tools click View more, then select Use Print Production.
  • Under Use Print Production, select Flattener Preview.
  • In the Flattener Preview dialogue, select [High Resolution] from the Preset: drop-down.
  • Slide the Raster/Vector Balance: slider all the way to the left (0).
  • Select 600 ppi from the Line Art and Text Resolution: drop-down.
  • Click the Save button, and save the custom preset as “Full Raster 600.”
  • Click the red “X” in the upper right to close the Flattener Preview dialogue.  (Do not click the Apply button.)

Now use the preset created above in the configuration of your optimization settings:

  • Under All tools click Compress a PDF, then select Advanced Optimization.
  • In the PDF Optimizer dialogue, select Acrobat 4.0 and later from the Make compatible with: drop-down.
  • In the list of settings on the left hand side of the dialogue, make sure all six settings categories (Images, Fonts, Transparency, Discard Objects, Discard User Data, and Clean Up) are checked.
  • Highlight the Transparency settings category, and select the Full Raster 600 preset (created above) from the Preset: list.
  • Highlight the Discard Objects settings category, and make sure all eleven Discard Objects Settings are checked.
  • Highlight the Discard User Data settings category, and make sure all seven Discard user related information Settings are checked.
  • Highlight the Clean Up settings category, and make sure all seven Clean Up Settings are checked.
  • Click OK to exit the PDF Optimizer dialogue, then in the Save Optimized As dialogue, create a new file name and Save the 2nd generation PDF file.

Note that once all of these settings have been applied, Acrobat Pro should remember them, so that subsequent optimization operations will only take four quick mouse clicks.

Send this “clean” 2nd generation PDF to the printer/plotter.

If Acrobat fails to create a new PDF using the above method, please do not attempt to print the original PDF – it will fail.  Instead, you need to back up and resolve the issues that are causing the 2nd generation PDF to fail.  Go back to the original application (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) and troubleshoot there.  Things to look for are overly hi-resolution images, shifty fonts, and layered content.

  • In general, do not insert one Adobe file type into another (Illustrator into Photoshop, etc.) – especially if the content is layered.  Only move between Adobe applications using image files.
  • Images should be no larger than absolutely necessary. 300 dpi should print just fine, and anything over 600 dpi is a potential problem.  For example, a 4”x 6” image placed in an InDesign file should be about (4”)(300dpi) x (6”)(300dpi) = 1200 x 1800 pixels.
  • Fonts from questionable sources should be avoided. When troubleshooting, try substituting a basic system font – if that resolves the problem then you know one of your chosen fonts is the source of the problem.
  • Problems related to layered content can often be resolved using commands that “flatten” or “optimize” files within the original application.



Printing Policies

Student printing costs are subsidized by the college for academic use only. There will be no support or credit given for nonacademic use of college printers/plotters.

Support Requests for Small Format Printers:  Contact the OIT HelpDesk at 974-9900.

Support Requests for Large Format Plotters:  For best results, support requests should be submitted within 24 hours of any failed print job.  Send support request emails to both Jeff  and Don.

Credit within the large format plotting system can be given for any failed print job where no paper, ink or toner was expended. This credit is applied toward future self-service plots only and cannot be applied toward full-service printing.  Money cannot be refunded to users’ VolCard accounts.

Note that credit for failed large format print jobs can only be given after the failed PDF file has been submitted for review.  See “Instructions for Use of Large-Format Self-Service Plotters” above for detailed information.

The college reserves the right to withhold a portion of potential credit from users who repeatedly disregard these instructions for use of the large format plotters.