Printing PDF patterns – what are your options?

If a sewing pattern has a paper and a PDF version, the PDF typically costs less than the paper version. But they can be a pain to assemble, especially when you’re printing PDF patterns at home and have a big stack of letter-size or AO pages to tape or glue together. A paper trimmer certainly saves time (see this post) but sometimes you just want to skip the tedious assembly.

The good thing is that many patterns have large-format, copy-shop versions in addition to the print-at-home file. However, if you pay to print it, you may end up spending more than the cost of the paper pattern. Grrrr. Meanwhile, some patterns are only available as PDFs.

Let’s face it, cost is a factor. I will often buy the PDF version of a sewing pattern if the shipping costs are too high for the paper pattern. For example, Tessuti charges $30 to ship one of its paper patterns from Australia. Yes, $30 for shipping outside Australia – that’s in addition to the cost of the paper pattern!

A large-format print of PDF pattern I designed on Bootstrap Fashion. I printed this at Staples for $17.40.

Where can you print large-format PDF patterns?

In the United States, you can go to:

  • FedEx, which has print services in addition to shipping,
  • one of the big office supply chains, such as Staples or Office Depot,
  • a local shop specializing in architectural, and engineering document services, or
  • an online company based in Virginia, PDF Plotting.com, which I learned about from Melizza, who blogs at Pincushion Treats.

Below is a breakdown of prices for printing PDF patterns, as of March 20, 2017. I’m listing prices for prints 36″ x 48″ (3 ft x 4 ft or 91.3 cm x 121.9 cm) and for a more unusual size 36″ x 120″(3 feet by 10 feet or 81.3 cm x 304.8 cm). Yes, that’s a really long piece of paper.

If you create a design on Bootstrap Fashion or buy one of the Leko or indie patterns available at Bootstrap’s online pattern store, you can choose to print the pattern at 36″ wide and it’ll be however long it needs to be. I designed a dress using Bootstrap’s design app and made a PDF pattern that was 36″ x 114″ (81.3 cm x 289.6 cm) and I spent $17.40 to print at Staples – 2.5 times what I paid for the pattern. 🙁

I posted on Instagram (@csews) about what I paid at Staples and Melizza (@pinsuchiontreats) commented that she gets her PDF patterns printed at PDFPlotting.com. Thank you, Melizza!

Options for printing PDF patterns - copy shop (Staples, FedEx) or at PDFPlotting.com

When I went to my local Staples on a weekend, the person working in the print/copy department didn’t know that their printer could print anything longer than 48″. I told him to print it at 100 percent and instead he printed it to fit on one 36 x 48 piece of bond paper. Then he had computer problems. While he was rebooting his computer, I emailed Bootstrap Fashion and the founder, Yuliya Racquel told me that if the paper wasn’t on a roll, he could choose “poster” as a print option and print it that way. But if it was on a roll, it should be fine. She was right.

It was taking him forever to get the computer going so I went back on a weekday. The person working that day didn’t know that the printer could print anything longer than 48 inches but it worked and he learned something new. Hopefully, you’ll get a knowledgable staff person but you may need to educate them about printing PDF patterns.

Rates for printing PDF patterns

Note: All prices are for black-and-white prints, before taxes. (Maybe I should update this post annually – let me know if that would be useful to you.)

  • FedEx – $0.75 per square foot. A square foot is 12″ x 12″ (~30.5 cm x 30.5 cm).
    Cost of one 36″ x 48″ sheet: $9. So a pattern with three sheets of 36 x 48 will cost $27.
    Cost of printing one 36″ x 120″ sheet: $22.50
    You can order print services online here but I didn’t see an option for engineering prints or large-format prints so it looks like large-format black-and-white prints need to be ordered in person. Find your local FedEx office here.
    Conclusion: Expensive place to print, avoid unless you have no other options
  • Staples – about $0.60 per square foot.
    Cost of one 36 x 48 sheet in store: $7.19. Cost to print three sheets of 36 x 48: $21.57
    Cost of printing one 36″ x 120″ sheet: $18
    You can also place an order online (see Staples engineering prints page) and have it delivered for $9.99 or pick it up in-store for free.
    Cost of one 36 x 47 sheet ordered online: $7.29. Cost of three sheets: $21.87, add $9.99 shipping if you don’t pick it up in-store (cost of three sheets + shipping: $31.86).
    [Office Depot has the same prices as Staples for what they call “engineer prints” online but anything more than 30″ wide is delivery only, no in-store pickup available. Add $9.95 delivery fee.]
    Tip: If you’re in the store, tell them it’s a line drawing, similar to an engineering print and be sure to tell them that you want it printed at 100%. Customer service may vary greatly because not all staff will know what to do with your file.
    Conclusion: Still expensive but cheaper than FedEx.
  • Local shop specializing in architectural, design and engineering document management. I called one place in the Bay Area, Smart Plotting Reprographics, and they were far more expensive than FedEx. The rates were $2 per square foot for anything less than 20 pages, $1 per square foot for 20+ pages. And they also charged a set-up fee of $1 per page.
    Cost of printing one 36 x 48 sheet: $25
    Cost of printing one 36 x 120 sheet: $61
    Conclusion: Do not print at specialty engineer printing firms – they are not set up for small PDF jobs.
  • Pattern Review offers large-format printing for members who order patterns from Pattern Review. When you order a PDF pattern, you can also order a large-format print. The printing fee is $4.50 per pattern, which is very reasonable, especially if a pattern has more than one page. The shipping fees are $3.49 US 1st class, $6.99 US Priority, $13.99 Int’l, $7.99 Canada 1st Class. You can read the details on PR’s blog here.
  • PDF Plotting.com – about $0.10 per square foot! See the link B&W CAD Prints on their site. (CAD refers to computer-aided design.) They also print in color, which costs a little more $5 for one sheet of 36 x 48.
    Cost of one 36 x 48 sheet: $1.20. Cost of 3 sheets: $3.60 but a minimum of $7.49 is required to place an order. So you’d need to upload at least 7 pages to meet this minimum. Thus you’d spend $8.40 plus $4.99 for UPS ground shipping for a total of $13.39. The company is based in Richmond, Virginia so the closer you are to Virginia, the faster you’ll get your PDF patterns.
    Cost of printing one 36 x 120″ sheet: $3.60 (If you have a fraction of a page, the last page will count as a full-page. So 120″ is equivalent to 2.5 pages of 36 x 48 so it would be counted as 3 pages.)
    Tip: If you have a layered PDF where you can select the size(s) you want to print, be sure to click on the button “My file(s) require special sizing instructions” so you can add comments about what size to print. If you don’t do that, your print job may be delayed because they will need to contact you to find out what you want to print. Also, if you have one file but it’s two pages, in the “# of originals” field, select 2. If you select 1, then you will only be paying for one page instead of two. And they will need to contact you to confirm that you want to pay for that additional page.
    Conclusion: By far the best and cheapest option – even with shipping costs factored in.

Going forward, I will definitely go to PDF Plotting.com for printing PDF patterns. I don’t mind waiting a couple of days!

Where do you print your PDF patterns? At home? A copy shop?

Printing PDF sewing patterns - here are some options in the U.S.

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12 Responses to “Printing PDF patterns – what are your options?”

  1. Rebecca
    April 4, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Oh, my goodness — thank you!!! I’ve given up on buying PDF files because of the insane expense. Now I can save up several files and have them all printed at once!!

    • April 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

      You’re welcome! I have quite a few PDF patterns that I’ve either received for free or that I’ve purchased but never printed out. Now we have a low-cost place to go. 🙂

  2. April 2, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks for summarizing all these options for printing big PDFs. I sort of gave up on this idea after walking into a Fedex/Kinko’s and idly asking about the price!

    I use a different approach, something I got from one of David Page Coffin’s books. I bought an Epson WF-7610 office printer/scanner. It can print on pages up to 13×19″, though I use it with 11×17″ paper because it is easier to find and less expensive.

    11×17 pages are twice as large as 8.5×11, so the number of pages to cut/tape is reduced by half. A bodice front or back, for instance, is four sheets of paper. This makes a big difference when assembling the patterns!

    Adobe Reader is capable of splitting up the “copy shop” PDF across any page size, including 11×17. I also do my own pattern drafting on the computer, and for my own drafts I deliberately layout the pieces to reduce the amount of cutting and especially taping I need to do.

    My approach doesn’t eliminate cut/tape, but it makes things much more manageable and keeps everything “in house”. Another downside is the printer is an inkjet, so cost of consumables is a factor. On the plus side, the unit acts as a large-format scanner/copier (up to 11×17) which I have found useful for lots of things, including copying small pattern pieces wholesale.

    Hope you or your readers might find this useful.

    • April 2, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

      Thanks for this helpful information, Michael! If I had room for another printer, I would get one of those printers. I can see how that would definitely save time taping! Inkjet printers can use up a lot of ink fairly quickly but you could get your cartridges refilled. I used to have an inkjet printer and got a kit to refill the cartridge.

  3. March 23, 2017 at 6:06 am #

    Great info, thank you! I had heard how expensive printing a copy-shop version could be so I have never tried it. (I am lucky: I can print my PDF patterns on letter-sized paper at the office.) But the online place sounds like a nice option, especially for patterns with a lot of pieces/pages. I will definitely bookmark their site!

    • March 24, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

      You’re welcome! I am going to try them out soon. 🙂

  4. Gwen
    March 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

    So if the pdf doesn’t have layers, you select the first options “my files are sized to the dimensions selected”
    Is that right?

    • March 22, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

      Yes, assuming that your PDF is sized for 36 x 48 if that’s the dimension you selected to print.

  5. Gwen
    March 22, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    This is very helpful. Thank you so much !

  6. March 22, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Yay! Glad the online shop proved the cheapest. Nice people, too. Glad they are getting business from the sewing community.

    • March 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm #

      Yes! They are very nice and helpful. Thanks so much for telling me about them. 🙂

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