So many people have asked me how to print work made in Procreate, so I thought it would be helpful to look at some of the most common questions and problems when it comes to printing. We’ll look at questions like “Why do my prints look so different from the screen?” and “Should I buy a printer or order prints online?”
This post is not sponsored so all of the opinions are my own! However I do include some affiliate links in the post, which means I would get a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to the buyer.
Every Printer is Different
This is the annoying truth about printing your work onto paper or any other product: every printer is slightly different. If you print the same image on 20 different printers, you may get 20 totally different results. So how in the world do you get a print that is accurate to your original image?
Most professional printers will automatically adjust your image to make it look more like it does on screen. So if you order from a local print shop or art print site like the ones listed below, you probably don’t have to worry about adjusting your image. However if you’re printing at home on your own printer, testing and adjusting is a must! We’ll go deeper into these later in the post.
Size Matters, Folks
They say it’s not the size of the image, but the number of pixels that counts right? Sorry, I had to make at least ONE design joke. Seriously though, pixel count is key to getting high quality prints. So before you create a new image in Procreate, always be sure you set your DPI (dots per inch) to at least 300. Anything lower could result in a blurry print or the printer may not print the image at full size.
That means that 20 x 20 inches at 150 dpi is actually 10 x 10 inches in the print world. So triple check your DPI before you start sketching! Note: some printers or companies will request a different DPI, so if you’re working for a client or using an online printing company, be sure to check what DPI they recommend.
RGB or CMYK?
You’ve probably heard that RGB is for amateurs and CMYK is for professionals. Or that RGB is outdated and CMYK is more modern. The thing is — it depends. Some printers will request RGB while others ask for CMYK. So the important thing is to double check with the printer before saving your file! Most modern home printers are set to read RGB colors, however some more professional printers will require CMYK, so no matter what printing option you use, be sure to check with your printer before exporting your file.
Screen Vibrancy vs. Print Vibrancy
When you look at your artwork on a screen, it’s made artificially vibrant by the lights in your screen. If you reduce the brightness on your screen, the artwork suddenly looks less vibrant. So naturally, when you print your work onto paper, the color that you see on the screen will not necessarily be the exact color you see on the print.
Here’s an example of what I mean. See how much more vibrant the image looks on the screen? This was printed at a local office supply store, so they probably didn’t change my image to make it print closer to the screen colors. However if I had taken this to a professional print shop, they probably would have gotten much closer to the original.
So how do you make the print as vibrant as what you see in Procreate? If you do a test print on your home printer and it comes out dull, that is a sign that you need to play around with the Hue/Saturation/Brightness in Procreate by going to the Adjustments Menu and clicking Hue, Saturation Brightness. You may want to make note of your changes, because you can apply those same changes to future prints to avoid doing test prints in the future. For example if increasing saturation by 20% worked well for one image, it will probably work well for others.
What Printer Should I Buy?
If you have considered buying a printer before, you’ve probably searched for printers on Amazon and then quickly closed out the window after realizing how overwhelming the choices are! I’ve selected a few printers here that are known to be great for art prints because of their screen to print accuracy and vibrant inks.
Warning — good quality printers are expensive! You can certainly find cheap printers, but the prints won’t be high quality, so unless you’re just doing hobby projects, don’t be fooled by cheap printer deals. For hobbyists though, standard home printers are a fine choice, especially if you’re not concerned about the paper and ink lasting for years.
The great thing about more expensive printers is that you can order archival ink and thick archival paper, which means the prints will stand the test of time. If you use inks and papers that aren’t archival, the ink will fade with exposure to light and the natural moisture in the air. So if you don’t want to get a lot of bad Etsy reviews in a year, be sure to invest in archival inks and archival paper!
Here are a few printers that work well for professional artists/designers because they create high quality prints and can be used with archival materials:
Buying a Printer vs. Using a Print Shop or Site
The obvious benefit of using a print shop or website is that you don’t have to pay a lot of money up front to start printing. You can pay per print, and even ask for a refund if the print has a flaw. If you flub up a print at home, you’re stuck with it and you wasted some paper and ink!
If you’re doing a lot of printing though (like running an Etsy shop or stocking a local gallery or shop) then driving to the print shop, or waiting days for the print websites to send your prints may not be an option. Most customers expect items to be shipped within a few days (thanks a lot, Amazon), so you don’t have time to wait several days for a website to print your work and ship it to you, so you can ship it to your customer. So if you’re selling your prints, having a printer at home or using the drop shipping options below may be your best bet.
Where Can You Order Prints?
If you’re not in the market for a printer and don’t want to have to worry about stocking paper and ink, there are still plenty of great options both locally and online. Two of my favorites are FinerWorks and Giclee Today.
Companies that offer drop shipping will both print the work for you and ship it to your customer. It’s super easy to upload your images, input your customers information, and sit back while they do all the work.
The downside? You don’t get to see the print before the customer does, and you can’t include any personalized packaging. They may also include their own marketing in the package, which could be confusing or off-putting for the customer. Unless the company offers white labeling (meaning they remove their own marketing and put yours in place of it), then you may be helping that print company market to your customers at your own detriment.
Here are a few websites that offer drop shipping:
Print on Demand
The easiest way to print your work? Print on demand sites. All you have to do is upload your image to the site, then it is automatically applied to a wide range of products, so all you have to worry about is making the art.
Ordering from these sites to resell to customers is not a great choice though, because the pricing is set for the customers, not resellers. So while you can make some money from a print on demand shop if customers buy your work directly from the site, ordering from the sites, then shipping it to your customers yourself is not a cost effective option.
Not sure how to sell your work on print on demand sites? I have a whole class explaining how to get images you made on your iPad onto Society6 and how to create beautiful mockups of your work.
I hope this article helped answer your questions about printing from Procreate, but if you still have some doubt, join my Facebook group where iPad artists and designers chat about making art, printing it, selling it, and everything in between!