Where to Print Digital Files & Instant Downloads Purchased from Etsy

Where to Print Digital Files & Instant Downloads Purchased from Etsy

If you are reading this article, you are probably asking yourself how and where to print the fabulous invitations or the digital print you purchased (or are considering purchasing) from a designer on Etsy.

Taking the DIY route can be an intimidating endeavor – more so if you don’t know what you’re doing.

But ask yourself this: Was Picasso intimidated by the blank canvas? Was Mozart intimidated by the blank sheet music? If you’re still hesitant to take the first step, ask yourself more questions, like: What should I wear today? Is it time for lunch yet? What is the meaning of life?

Unfortunately, I can’t help you with that. Frankly, I don’t think you and I are ready to go there just yet.

But on behalf of designers everywhere, I feel it my moral duty to share my slivers of knowledge that I’ve collected over the last 10 years of freelancing, and more recently, launching my own collection of art prints and stationery on Etsy.

So, let’s get this party started! (Is that still a thing?)

Know the Basics of Color

Without going too deep into nerd-speak, let me say a few words about colors. With current advancements in technology, one would hope blue would look blue, regardless of the screen you’re looking at or the printer you’re using. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Computer screens interpret color in RGB mode, while printers interpret color in CMYK mode. Thus, there will always be slight variances between colors you see on screen and how they appear printed. Typically, colors always appear less vibrant when printed. Output devices complicate the printing process even further, as different ones interpret color in different ways.

In other words, two different printers could print the exact same file, but the resulting piece will look different because of how each printer’s equipment is configured. Oh, and the type of paper you opt for also affects the results!

My advice is that if your project requires exact color matching, talk to the designer, who understands color and can help you determine the best option for the type of file you’re printing. Otherwise, you should just accept the harsh reality of color variations.

To Bleed or Not to Bleed

Well, that came off a tad bit more gruesome than I intended!

Bleed is the industry term for any color or image that extends to the edge of the paper. If you don’t want white margins around your design, ask the designer to include bleeds when placing your order on Etsy.

Here’s what that actually means: The design extends .125″ beyond the edge of the page, and that excess image or color is then cut off during the binding or finishing process. If you don’t account for bleeds (but expect the design to extend all the way to the edge), you may risk inconsistent margins or skewed dimensions.

When placing your Etsy order, let the designer know how you plan to print these files. This small detail determines the delivery of the files, i.e. how they are packaged and sent to you. The general rule of thumb is that if you’re printing at home or at an office supply store, you won’t need bleeds. If you’re uploading your files to an online printing shop or using a local professional printer, then you’ll need bleeds.

I am always happy to facilitate the printing process, answer any printing-related questions or help my clients find a local printer.

So don’t hesitate to ask! Most of us don’t bite.

Let’s Talk File Types

The most common file types sold on Etsy are JPEG and PDF.

What is the difference, you ask?

Typically, photos are the only files that should come in the JPEG format – not digital art or designs containing text. Unfortunately, JPEG tends to be the most requested format, mainly because the average Etsy buyer is not very familiar with the design and printing process.

PDF, on the other hand, does not rasterize text and graphics like JPEG does, which allows for a more clean and sharp image. For this reason, PDF is the best choice when ordering invitations, stationery, prints, etc.

Heavy Card Stock is the Way to Go

Whatever you do, resist the “oh-so-convenient” urge to print your invitations at a photo kiosk! Use photo kiosks only for printing photos. Even then, the quality is questionable. All other files require matte card stock that is from 80 to 110 lbs. (Ask the designer if you have questions.)

Even in the event that you’re ordering invitations with photos as part of the design, avoid the photo kiosk. I recommend 80-lb. silk cover paper; it’s coated but not glossy.

Printing Options

Basically you have four printing options:

  1. An at-home color printer, if available,
  2. Office supply stores like Staples or Fedex,
  3. Online printing shops like vistaprint.com or shutterfly.com, or
  4. A local, professional printing shop.

Home color printers are clearly the least expensive option, but as a result, they offer the lowest quality. (Didn’t your mother tell you that the best things in life won’t be easy, but they’ll be worth it?)

But don’t despair, my sweet, little sugar plums! If you’re printing an invitation for an informal event like a child’s birthday party, a home printer works just fine! A few tips:

  • Save on paper by asking the designer to fit two invitations on a standard 8.5×11″ paper,
  • Make sure you’re using matte card stock, and
  • Be sure to select “actual size” on your printer to preserve the original quality of the file.

If you’re going the office supply store route, save your files to a USB drive and head to the nearest Fedex, Kinkos, Staples, etc. There you’ll be able to pick out your desired paper, as well as review a sample before printing the entire batch. You can either cut out the printed designs yourself, or the sales associate can do it for you for a minimal fee. Choose the nominal fee route – unless your ideas of a fun weekend involves manually cutting out 30 invitations. (Been there, done that, still having nightmares about it…)

Online printing vendors are a slightly better option, as it offers slightly higher quality than home printers and office supply stores. The prices are fairly inexpensive, and there’s no need for cutting or assembly. Plus, online printing shops offer more features, like printing double-sided invitations (something you will find nearly impossible to do on a home printer or at an office supply store) as well as using different printing processes (like everyone’s favorite gold foil). Just make sure you take into account the shipping time.

Using a local professional printing shop ensures the highest quality possible, and it’s the option I recommend I highly recommend. Professional printers offer limitless features; plus, once again you’ll have the option of reviewing a physical proof of your invitation before printing the entire batch. Generally, envelopes are included, which is one less detail to worry about. The cost may be slightly higher than the other options, but the results are always worth it. I recommend printing all wedding-related files at a professional printing shop.

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  1. Hi Oksana!
    I want to thank you so much for this post. I purchased a digital download from Etsy today. It was 5 different pages, mostly text with a few graphics. The first 2 printed fine and then all of a sudden my printer would not print the rest.

    I was feeling so frustrated and then I found your post.
    You taught me a lot!
    They were sent as JPEGs and were 90% text so I converted them to pdfs and voila they printed!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Hi, so I bought a digital download from Etsy but I don’t know how to print it out. The person who sold me it suggested Shutterfly, but I don’t know how to use it?

  3. Hi,
    I am just now entering the world of transfers, and I ordered a couple of prints that are digital downloads. How do I print them, and on what kind of paper so that I can transfer them to shirts, pillows, etc with a heat press?

  4. Hi, All I want to do is altered journal books, and collages. I bought a few digital downloads and I want to know do I take them to Staples? I have a color printer but what type of paper do I use? I am new to this so please tell me what is best way.

  5. Thank you so much! I have always liked prints on Etsy, but never purchased them. And now, I found the perfect card for my friend (and no one else makes a similar one on Etsy).
    I really want it to look nice since it is going with her baby shower gift.
    Again, thank you for this guide!

  6. Hi! I ordered frames from Ikea to put some digital prints that I ordered from Etsy for my daughter’s room. I measured the size of the frame size and I need the print to be 11.5×16.5. On vistaprint, there isn’t an option to customize the size of the poster. I can either do an 16×20 or an 11×17. If I do the 11×17 it won’t be wide enough to fit in the frame. Any recommendations on what I can do? Thank you so much for your help!

    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for reading FOXYOXIE.com. I would recommend finding a professional local printer, which will give you far more flexibility over the size and quality. Just Google something to the extent of “professional printing service” along with your zip code and then call a few to get a quote on a 11.5 x 16.5 print. Best of luck with your project!

  7. Before you purchase from Etsy, make sure there are no copyright characters and logos. Otherwise, print shops won’t print them. You will end up of wasting time and money.

  8. Hi… When buying from Etsy, after the purchase of a 30th birthday poster… where do I print it out?… how do I transfer it to a photo lab or a Staples or something… how is this done? .. is there a code or what?

  9. Hi there!

    I’m not sure whether you still reply to comments for this post but I was wondering if you could offer some advice for me when I’m trying to open my etsy shop. Reading comments, your posts and other forums on the net, I have to decided to make jpg and pdf files and ones with bleed and no bleed. I have had confusing information about people selling RGB and CMYK files for Printable downloads – what is your opinion? Also, lastly I am trying to save as Pdf but there are lots of options such as high quality and press quality and standards. Which ones do you use?

    Any help is appreciated!

  10. I’ve been looking into ordering a new card game that is only out on Digital Download for my brother’s birthday. Do you know if it is legal to print it twice or three times? I would like a copy for my other brother and myself as well since we often play over Skype or Zoom – all living across the country from one another. I’ve looked online and just can’t find a definitive answer!

  11. This article was so helpful, thank you! I bought a lot of cute signage on Etsy for my wedding and I did not know the best place to print it. This was a huge help. :) Also, so glad I stumbled across your Etsy site too!

  12. Great article!
    I was just curious, when you create your own printables, do you work in the RGB or CMYK colour mode? Then save as RGB or CMYK?

  13. If I am uploading my file to Shutterfly would you recommend a JPG or PDF? This is for a baby shower invitation. Should I ask Etsy store to include bleeds when ordering?


    • Hi Whitney! I always recommend PDF for text-based designs. JPG is generally used for photographs and will rasterize any text, making it less crisp. Having said that, sometimes websites like Shutterfly (not sure about that particular one) will for whatever reason request a specific file extension. At FOXY OXIE, I provide clients with both a JPG and PDF for their convenience. Maybe you could ask the seller you’re buying from to do the same? As for whether you need to request bleeds if you’ll be uploading your invitations to Shutterfly: Each print shop has their own standards; I would suggest checking on Shutterfly’s website for design specifications. Generally, I include a minimum of .125″ bleed all around.

  14. Awesome tutorial!!!!! Thank you :)

    One question, what do you recommend as the best way to have a purchase from Etsy for a wedding guest signature poster printed? Your input would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hello, I am wanting to purchase a picture of a woman from Etsy; the colors are black and brown.

      Are you say that a PDF would be better than a JPEG file?

      Also, do you think a supply store will suffice for printing? I didn’t want to have to go through a lot to get this printed, pic is for my master bathroom

  15. Can you recommend a good online printing vendor? I can’t seem to find one where I can upload my customized template and have them print them to me!


    • Hey! Can you give me an estimate of the pricing at millerslab.com? It is asking for me to sign up and I don’t want to set up an account if I can’t afford it. I am wanting to print 5×7 flat cards.. Simple birthday invites.

  16. Hi,

    This is a silly question, but if i purchase digital invitation that is primarily blue, with other colors, i’d just need to get cardstock that is white, right. For baby shower invites is it typical to have color on the backside of the invite documents? Or do most people print on the front and leave the back blank and white?

  17. Hello, I am interested in purchasing a PDF file for backdrop. Where are some places that would print big back drops, maybe 6ft by 6ft?

  18. Hi, Great post! Picked up some good tips, I have a little question though I can’t seem to find the answer to, wondered if you might know :) I bought an invitation from a designer on Etsy that had a tan background with an orangey border, when printing it at Staples the tan part came out grey but only on the pdf file, when they printed it using the jpg it came out fine, this also happened on an invitation insert I purchased of the same design, I messaged the seller and they couldn’t explain it, do you have any idea, just I would like to print from the PDFs as they are two per page. Thank you for taking the time to read :)


    • Hi Caren, Thanks for reading! JPEGs and PDFs render color differently, thus, it’s common to have a slight to major variance between a JPEG and PDF that was exported from the same native file.

      What’s more, computer and phone screens interpret color in RGB mode, while printers interpret color in CMYK mode, so colors always appear more saturated and vibrant on the screen than when printed. Double-check with the designer on which mode he or she used, which may be the culprit.

      Output devices complicate the printing process even further, as different devices are configured to interpret color in different ways. In other words, two different printers could print the exact same file, but the resulting piece will look different because of the way each printer is configured. The configurations of the Staples printer could also be contributing to why the color looks orange on screen but prints gray. Staples uses basic office printers, so I recommend printing invitations at a professional printing shop, where the equipment is more likely to be configured correctly. I also recommend that clients print a sample of the invitation before printing the entire batch. Most professional printing shops allow you to print what they call a “proof” to review before you agree to print the rest – simply ask for it.

      As for combining two invitations on one page, that can easily be done with a JPEG. When you hit File > Print, a dialogue box pops up that gives you the option to choose how many copies per page you’d like to print. I’ve attached a screenshot for your convenience. Please note, I’m using a Mac, so your screen may look slightly different, but the option should still be there. If nothing else, the designer can quickly add two invitations per page, if he or she is willing. Hope this helps!

  19. Hi! What would be considered a local professional printing shop? I ordered wedding invitations through etsy and have a jpg and pdf file.

    • Hi Brooke, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! A quick way to find local professional printing shops is to Google “professional printing near me” or if you don’t have you location turned on your device then Google something like “professional printing [insert your zip code].” Hope that helps!

  20. I’m interested in doing some fun prints for my event rental company I’m starting, but I’m not sure what software to use. Can you recommend a good one? Signs like those “hello gorgeous” or “love you to the moon and back” – those kind of prints. I want to be able to offer a metallic font option as well. I’m so new!! Haha thanks in advance!

    • Hey there, sorry for my delayed response! Adobe InDesign and Illustrator are two programs commonly used by designers for print or illustrative work. Both are professional, industry-standard design software that non-designers generally have no interest investing in or learning, and because it sounds like you are still testing the waters, so to speak, I would recommend practicing with something more simple, like canva.com. As for printing gold foil, the process for doing so is more complicated than general printing and requires special equipment. Research professional, online printing services that offer the gold foil option to see which gives you the best value for your money. Hope this helps!

  21. When purchasing an invite from etsy, if the image is a Disney image, am I able to print online or thru a local printer? Or must I only print at home because the image is copyright.

  22. Pingback: Holiday Cards Coming to the FOXY OXIE Shop

  23. Hi there!
    I am just starting out in the design and printable world and will be launching my new etsy shop very soon. However, I am struggling with how to keep my work safe so others can’t save and copy it and call it their own? Can you please explain your entire process of when you upload your jpeg and pdf file? I see where I can secure the PDF but just very unsure on how to properly go about this. Also, lovely shop by the way! :)

    • Hi Brittany,

      Great question! I’ll work on posting an extensive answer on the blog, but here’s the short version: If you go the digital download way, frankly there isn’t much you can do to prevent someone from using your work as their own… Even if you secure your PDF with a password and only allow the customer to print (but not to make edits), there are numerous software options that let users bypass that security. Unfortunate, but true! On a positive note, the average Etsy buyer is not out to steal your designs, so the chances of that happening are quite slim!

      Again, I’ll be sure to post a detailed answer, with some precautions you can take on the blog, so be sure to sign up for the FOXY OXIE newsletter to know when it goes live!

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with! XO

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