Changing the Margins in Photoshop For Printing: What Are Your Options?

Changing the Margins in Photoshop For Printing: What Are Your Options?
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Reason For Changing Margins For Print

In printing, margins are used to prevent ink from missing the paper and creating an alignment for the text to fall on the paper evenly. These margins are especially important when printing text documents, but are seen and felt as a burden to graphic artists and designers.

When working on projects in Photoshop, you will inevitably realize that it’s very difficult and sometimes impossible to print to the edge of your paper. Often times you are going to experience some frustrating cut-off of your image or it will refuse to print altogether. In order to eliminate that cut-off you need some way to allow your image to ignore, or at the very least change, the margins to allow it to fit on the paper. Expanding the margins is especially helpful when printing brochures so that they properly align with each fold. It’s also useful with designs that have borders on them so that they are flush with the edge of the paper, meaning that you don’t have to waste paper or space by trimming off the blank edges to even it out.

Altering Your Print Margins From Photoshop

The big problem people have when trying to change margins in Photoshop is that it is assumed Photoshop behaves like Microsoft Word which leads to some confusion. Unlike Word, Photoshop doesn’t use margins, since everything you do is contained on the canvas; this is re-sizable leaving it to the designer to accurately scale and align their image so that it will print correctly.

As I mentioned before though, some projects require you to go to the very edge of the page or at least further than your printing margins seem to allow. How is this when Photoshop seemingly has no margins? There are several options in Photoshop that effect the outcome of a printed document.

There are a couple of things that need to be done before you can freely print on the pages as you please.

Firstly, open the Print dialogue in Photoshop by navigating through ‘File > Print’ or by pressing the Ctrl + P for PC or Cmd + P for Macs.

Photoshop CS4’s print dialogue window.

From this window it’s a lot easier to manipulate and scale the image, so that it fits to your page, without messing with the dimensions of the actual document. This is exceedingly helpful if you need to save the original document for any reason, but need to edit the positioning or scale for print. Often the easiest fix to most printing related headaches is to uncheck the “Center” option, highlighted in the image below. This will allow you to re-size and move your image about the preview page so that it fits to your page as you intend it to.

Another thing worth checking into is the options setup on the ‘Page Setup’ window which is accessible in the File drop down menu, just above the Print option or by using the Ctrl + Shift + P for PC or Cmd + Shift + P for Mac hot-keys.

Photoshop CS4’s Page Setup window.

In this menu there are options to change the layout and dimensions of the paper. The default is set to standard US Letter paper (8.5in / 11in) with options to change it to A4 or most commonly used sizes.

Additional Help

Check your document’s resolution before beginning work on your project and right before you go to print. A common mistake is that the canvas of the document will accidentally be incorrectly sized, or re-sized over the course of design, and can print too large or not large enough. Just make sure, before you print, that everything is adjusted the way it needs to be.

Some printers have hard coded margins which are either impossible to change or require special steps to change. These margins need to be changed from within your printer’s setup menu. Since every printer is different I recommend looking through your manual on where and how to edit these settings, or by going to the manufacturer’s website and looking up your printer’s model in their help database.

If your margins are hard coded and you cannot feasibly print the design without cut off it might be worth taking your design to a professional printing service or a public printer with more margin manipulation options. These will undoubtedly cost a fee, but if you require your documents to be printed correctly they might be worth more than the hassle of cutting the margins by hand or buying a printer with more margin options.


Image credit: Adobe Systems Inc/wikimedia - Public Domain