I have designed plenty of documents that have been printed, but always professionally. I have been asked to design a (short) PDF that can be distributed online and which many readers might choose to print.

To save on their ink supplies I plan to avoid large flat areas of colour and to keep images to a minimum. But are there any other considerations when designing a document that will be printed at home on domestic printers?

6 Answers 6


Make it black and white, or at least use minimal amount of color in nonessential elements. Black and white is the lowest common denominator. Its also good for legibility on the worst quality printers.

Beyond black and white its good to know that many home color printers are not designed for CMYK input but rather RGB, which can pose some problems with black levels. If its some kind of an art piece then you can safely assume its going to be most likely printed with one of those, or the user just uses their office printer for the job.

The images most likely will not be color calibrated so they will come out much lighter or much darker. Colors will be hit and miss. Other than that expect them to have bands on the image. You can cover this by having good enough contrast on your design (B&W). You can simulate this by wildly different gamma settings (and different gammas per channel)

Also consider that unless it is essential to print then do not make them print it. Some things like movie tickets can be readily by scanner directly form the screen of a mobile phone for example.

PS: most users have a ink problem, in that their ink goes bad. Which is why most of my friends have switched over to B&W lasers.


1. No blocks of color (including black).

People don't like wasting ink, and cheaper printers will probably smudge or run or band or just generally get ink everywhere (I've used some shoddy printers).

2. Use big margins.

Some home printers can print to the edges of the paper, some can't. Even the ones that can need you to turn on the feature, which most won't. Without that feature you either get some of the page cut off around the edges or the page gets scaled down. Big margins make sure you aren't losing anything if the page is cropped.

3. Make everything else big too.

If your page does get scaled down to fit the printable area of the page, everything is obviously smaller than you intended. Compensate for that, make everything a small percentage larger than you think it needs to be. Another option is to make your page slightly smaller than the paper it will be printed on. There's still the possibility of the page being scaled but it will either be centered in the page or scaled up.

4. Don't expect accuracy.

If you do use colors and images, try to use limited colors and don't expect anything to be reproduced to any degree of accuracy. Most home printers expect an RGB file so you're probably better off working in RGB (even if you supply a CMYK file, there is a high chance the printer will convert that to RGB then back to CMYK again to print). Also consider that your page will be printed in black and white at some point, even if you do use color, so preview your page in black and white and make sure there are no issues.


Reducing the resolution of any images used will definitely help. Eliminate or reduce the use of shadows, layered colors, or varying opacities, because they likely won't print the way you had planned. You can also adjust the settings when exporting your InDesign file to a PDF by selecting Smallest File Size. These things will not only help the printing outcome, but also help to reduce load time when users are downloading the file or sending it via email.


Be aware not everybody owns a colour printer so in fact many might just use laser b&w printers, in which case you should note any coloured text will end up showing as gray. Meaning any coloured titles/text boxes/etc will end up lighter than your (presumably) black body text. Just a thought.


why you don't try to combine the pages like 2 pages in 1 and try to make pics in the minimum size. you can do this in the Adobe InDesign don't make bag colorful image because some printer won't be able to print it, try not to make it a very high resolution because that will take more colors from printers. also, remember to make borders on the page so when you print the writing don't get cut. don't make the writing to the edge of the page. i hope that help.


When converting into a PDF, embeddable fonts are handy and converting into art any attention-getting display faces that the home user doesn't have. Home printers are designed more to get pleasing pictures than for graphics.

The line capability of a home printer makes 1/4 pt. lines tough to reproduce so design detail could be bolder and less nuanced. On the other hand, body text printing will tend to appear a bit darker so you might want to set type lighter to compensate.

I find that some print engines "want" to scale things to fit the "default" page size. Sometimes that includes a generous margin, sometimes it doesn't. It's hard to know.

One wise old guy suggested that it was always a "good thing™" to "conform to practice" which means to test your theory or "comp" under the same conditions that you anticipate is closest to "actual." In other words, for about $25 you can buy a typical cheap printer including enough ink to "proof" your home-printer PDF on the real thing.

Oh, yes, Good luck.

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