Setting Up Your Page to Print (You Hope)

Setting Up Your Page to Print (You Hope)

Long ago in the Dark Ages, people slaved over drafting tables, among matte knives and ink bottles, struggling to create graphics while gagging on glue fumes. At last, at the dawn of the new millennium, computer systems forever replaced those ancient torture devices. These days you can whip up a document in Illustrator, feed pure white paper into a printer, and let ’er rip! (Uh, maybe I ought to rephrase that.) Just keep in mind that even a killer graphic has one more hurdle to clear — the leap from electronic file to hard copy. Sometimes artwork prints vertically on the page when you intend it to print horizontally. Sometimes the artwork doesn’t fit on the page. Although I can’t cover every problem that can occur in printing, in this section I look at a few of the major causes of printing problems in Illustrator and how to handle them.

Printer type and page size

Use the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box to set up your page so that it prints properly. You can view your Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box by choosing that option from the File menu.

The easiest way to print is to choose File→Print and press Enter (Return on a Mac) after the Print dialog box appears. This process works fine nine times out of ten. But then there’s that pesky tenth time when things don’t print quite the way you expect. Often you can correct the problem by using options from the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box, as shown in Figure 15-1 and Figure 15-2, respectively.

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Figure 15-1: The Page Setup dialog box on a Macintosh.
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Figure 15-2: The Print Setup dialog box in Windows.

The dialog boxes in the figures may look different from what appears on-screen depending on the specific printer you’re using, but the basic options remain pretty much the same.

For Mac users, Page Setup contains the information that Illustrator needs about what type of printer you’re using, how big the pages are, and other information, such as whether the printer is color or black and white. Print Setup does the same song and dance for Windows. You have dozens of options, but don’t panic — some are specific to the Macintosh and others to the PC using Windows.

The only options you need to care about

Imagine establishing an oasis of simplicity in the sea of everyday confusion. Well, you can, if you focus on these few options in the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box:

  • Name (Windows)/Format For (Mac): The top of the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box indicates the printer you want to use. Click the printer name, and a drop-down menu appears listing all the printers that you have access to (in an ideal world, where your software and networked hardware are set up properly). If you have access to only one printer, this setting remains the same all the time. The printer that you are currently printing to should always be selected because it sends important information to the rest of the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box, such as the page sizes that are available with the currently selected printer.

  • Size (Windows)/Paper (Mac): This drop-down menu enables you to see the available page sizes for the printer that is selected in the Format For or Name menu. Make sure that you select the right page size for the paper you plan to print on.

  • Orientation: This setting determines whether your page prints the tall way (represented on the Mac by a button with an androgynous human figure standing upright, and in Windows by the Portrait radio button) or the wide way (represented on the Mac by the button with an androgynous human lying down, or in Windows by the Landscape radio button).

  • Scale to Fit or % of Normal Size (Windows)/Scale (Mac): This value (located in Page Setup on the main panel and in Print Setup after clicking the Properties button and then the Graphics tab) controls the size of the illustration. The value is defined as a percentage of the artwork’s size inside Illustrator. For example, if you have a logo that’s 1 inch x 1 inch in Illustrator, changing the scale to 250 percent results in the logo scaling up to 2.5 inches x 2.5 inches when printed.


Check the Page Setup or Print Setup dialog box settings whenever you choose a different page size or print to a printer other than the one you were previously using. Doing so saves trees, frustration, and nearby delicate ears.