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I have designed some fancy cards (80mm x 48mm), and I would like to print them on both sides of a sheet of paper now (5x2 per A4 sheet).

Naturally, both sides of the print need to coincide exactly. However, after several attempts, it seems it's not working as expected: my printer seems to impose extra margins which mess up the alignment (which makes the printed area of the front side no longer coincide with the printed area of the back side). I already tried adding 1-2mm extra on all sides to allow some fluctuation, but this turns out to be insufficient. The difference seems to be always in the same direction, but strangely, moving the images around doesn't seem to change much -- as if the printer automatically corrects this.

So I wondered, are there any good ways to do it? In the PDF, things are aligned very well, but the printer messes it up with more than 2 mm difference. Any idea what would cause this and how to avoid it?
(For what it's worth, I'm using Windows 7 (pro, 64bit) and my printer is a Samsung CLP-325.)

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Do you have an inkjet printer? I have had better luck doing something similar with an inkjet, my attempts with a laser were futile –  JohnB Jun 25 '13 at 2:17
2  
A 2mm variance actually sounds pretty good for a home printer. –  DA01 Jun 25 '13 at 3:38
    
If you're producing a PDF and that appears to be correct, then you could try printing the PDF at 100% (no scaling, full-size, the exact wording depends on your PDF reader). –  Andrew Leach Jun 25 '13 at 8:51
    
I was printing the PDF at full scaling. Strangely, if I use "reduce to printer margins" (96.01%) then the alignment is nearly perfect, but then the total size is a bit too small for the final cards I want to put them in. –  user1111929 Jun 25 '13 at 10:02

4 Answers 4

Can't be done on a home printer. Paper shifts and moves as the printer pulls it through itself. You could print 1000 copies and never get one where both sides line up perfectly.

The best solution is to design something which does not require both sides to line up.

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It doesn't have to line up perfectly. But a 2mm fluctuation margin should be sufficient, right? When I use "reduce to printer margins" (96.01%) then the alignment is nearly perfect within the 2mm margin, but then the total size is a bit too small for the final cards I want to put them in. It's only when I print at unscaled 100% that these extra deviations trigger. –  user1111929 Jun 25 '13 at 10:39
    
There's just no way to control what you are trying to control. The paper shifts and there's little which can be done about that. It works better when you reduce because the art is centered within the margins rather than the paper size. 2mm is actually a very small margin. Honestly, the best solution is to not design something which needs a full bleed to match perfectly on both sides. –  Scott Jun 25 '13 at 17:21

@Scott is correct, however I understand the need for this, so instead of redesigning, I'd recommend printing on two sheets and then mounting them onto each other. Provided you take care and use the right materials this can be seamless.

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Since you say you can make the distortion pretty consistent in the same direction, you can lay the cards out on the page like this (A = front, B = back, one sided):

_________
| A | B |
| A | B |
| A | B |
| A | B |
| A | B |

...then, after printing one, flip the paper horizontally and put the same sheet(s) through again, printing the same file. It's the same orientation lengthways, so the lengthways distortion should be the same, and since it's flipped horizontally the As will be on the back of the Bs.

If the distortion is the other way, lay out so the divide is the other way, then flip the other way.


Another thing to do is check that nothing like "Scale to fit media" or "Shrink oversized pages" or anything like that is ticked in your print settings.

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I was printing the PDF at 100% scaling. Strangely, if I use "scale to printer margins" (96.01%) then the alignment is nearly perfect, but then the total size is a bit too small for the final cards I want to put them in. –  user1111929 Jun 25 '13 at 10:38

I found the solution. Apparently my PDF program had an option "auto-center" to remove imposed printer margins. When I turn that off, the positions are moved quite a bit away from what they should be, but at least now they respond consistently to moving the images around on the paper. It's now printing with the 2mm margin correctly (with a fluctuation within 2mm, that is). Nevertheless, thanks all for the input! :-)

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