PDF Printing of non-standard page sizes

Elsewhere we have commented on handling PDFs that have large page sizes. The question of how to print such pages frequently arises, so an update on our earlier discussion would seem to be timely. The first observation to make is that most consumers can only print A4 or US Letter paper sizes … less than 10% will have printers capable of handling larger formats, at least, that will the case at home – most offices have a wider range and print shops can handle a very large range of page sizes.

Typically a PDF reader (from Adobe or elsewhere) will re-scale any oversized PDF document to “best fit” the page size supported by the default print device. The re-scaling results may or may not be satisfactory and may vary by printer type, paper etc. In order to be sure of the end results, a simple option is to re-scale the source PDF. Then, when the end user prints the document, there is no re-scaling required and the results are exactly as you expect. If you want the user to be able to see the resulting printout in a larger format, all they then need to do is to photocopy it with a setting to enlarge the document to their preferred size. However…

… for documents that are 2+ times the size of standard paper sizes and/or require very precise scaling (e.g. dress patterns), this still leaves a major issue – re-scaling may be undesirable and/or unreadable. The solutions in this case are either: (i) offer an on-demand in-network print service, with delivery to the customer by post; (ii) offer pre-printed copies of selected documents that are over-sized, e.g. posters, newspapers, technical drawings, dress patterns etc; or (iii) permit the user to have the source PDF printed by a suitable (approved) print shop. Option (iii) is only possible if the source PDF is made available to the print shop and meets their requirements (i.e. a completely unsecured PDF) – in most cases using export settings (e.g. from InDesign) specifying that the output PDF is designed for print production will produce satisfactory results. The key variables are resolution (which must be 300dpi or greater), embedded fonts (to ensure the end result looks correct/uses the correct fonts), and sufficient bleed (2-3mm) to ensure pages can be trimmed to size where necessary. For most conventional documents the trim issue will not present problems. For precision printed documents (e.g. technical drawing to scale, patterns to be cut out) option (ii) is the only practical solution.