How to accurately scale documents, with no wasted time or paper.

You might not have given it much thought, but every time you print a document or design – scaling is part of that printing process. It’s possible that most documents you create are designed and printed on the same size of paper. Let’s say your document setup is set on A4, and your printer properties are setup for the same paper size, you actually print on scaling that is at 100% without questioning it for a moment.

Scaling a document to print on a different paper size can become tricky.  Ask anyone who tried stretching or shrinking a spreadsheet. Most printers will automatically re-scale a document if you choose the correct settings and paper size for your printer. Keeping in mind that different printers/plotters might work slightly different, here are some basics to keep in mind when scaling a document.

The most commonly used paper sizes:

A1
A2
A3
A4
A5

594 x 841 mm
420 x 594 mm
297 x 420 mm
210 x 297 mm
148 x 210 mm

In Acrobat or Reader in the print window, page scaling offers you two options:

  • ‘Fit to printable area’ scales small pages up and large pages down to fit the paper.
  • ‘Shrink to printable area’ resizes only large pages to fit the paper and prints small pages as they are.

If you want to print an A1 plan from Adobe Reader v7  don’t print from the browser, open Reader and make sure the print properties show:  Scaling -> ‘none’; Zoom -> ‘100%’ and Paper size -> A1

Properties showing the following will lead to inaccurately scaled prints:  Scaling -> ‘fit to printer margins’ and Zoom  -> ‘94%’. Change the settings (as mentioned above) and choose the correct paper size from your printer driver.

On most printers you can manually scale an A1 design to print on A3 by changing the zoom setting to 50%.

Here’s a summary for reducing the size for scaled printing
(in percentage):

  • From A1 to A2 = 71%
  • A2 to A3 = 71%
  • A3 to A4 = 71%
  • A4 to A5 = 71%
  • From A1 to A3 = 50%
  • A2 to A4 = 50%
  • A4 to A6 = 50%
  • From A1 to A4 = 35%

Here’s a summary for increasing the size for scaled printing
(in percentage):

  • From A2 to A1 = 141%
  • A3 to A2 = 141%
  • A4 to A3 = 141%
  • A5 to A4 = 141%
  • From A3 to A1 = 200%
  • A4 to A2 = 200%
  • From A4 to A1 = 283%
  • From A5 to A1 = 400%

When printing your designs to scale, it’s key to keep page size and zoom settings in mind together with the printer driver settings.

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