Printable Art 101: The Ultimate Guide To Falling In Love With Your Walls (Again)

printable art 101 ultimate guide

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely come across the term printable art. But what is it and how does it work exactly?

In this post, we’ll cover the basics such as file formats, ownership rights, and free versus paid printables.

Not just that, you’ll also find tonnes of tips on the most convenient websites to browse and purchase printables and the best places to print your art.

And for when you’re ready to take the plunge, do check out the most elegant, fun, and/or pretty artistic designs for specific locations featured below. Bathroom, kitchen, office, nursery… Because every room deserves its very own tailored wall decor.

In a nutshell: printable art is the most accessible, convenient, cost-effective, versatile, inclusive, and – I daresay – fun way to decorate.

No wonder everyone has become obsessed with this modern way of distributing two-dimensional artwork.

Table of Contents

What is Printable Art?

Printable art is an artistic design, often meant as wall decor, that comes in the form of a digital file.

You must download the file and print it yourself, instead of ordering art as a ready-made print that comes in the mail.

Most places selling printable art give access to the digital file right after purchase, while also sending a link to the email address used upon checkout.

That way, you can download the file right away but you don’t have to. If you’re making the purchase on the fly, for example, you should be able to access the design later via the emailed link.

The digital image can be printed on paper or other surfaces using a home printer or printing service. Most images come in either JPG or PDF format. They can be used for a variety of different purposes, including home décor, posters, and DIY projects.

Some printable art is available for free online, by choice of the creator. Otherwise, it must be purchased.

Printable art is ideal for people who enjoy art but don’t want to spend a small fortune to fill a stunning gallery wall. It’s also a great way to make art available to everyone, everywhere, without the drawbacks of snail mail. No shipping charges, no customs, no damage during transport.

Artists from all over the world can put their work online for others to enjoy!

Printable Art How-To: Step By Step

How Do I Download Printables?

With basic computer skills, downloading printables shouldn’t be too daunting. You can’t really do anything “wrong”. Directions can vary somewhat across platforms or websites offering printables but it is usually well indicated what you’re supposed to do.

On Etsy, you make your way through the checkout process. Once payment has cleared, you’ll find the download link immediately in the confirmation, or you can check your email for it later.

Sometimes there are download limits. This means you can only use a certain link once, twice, or as many times as the seller has set on the back-end.

If you have trouble accessing a purchase, a message to the seller may be in order. Most sellers want nothing other than pleased customers and will be happy to assist you further. Even if that means sending the file over manually, via email.

Do keep in mind that the process of selling printables is automated. When a seller does not get back to you right within the hour, it is probably that they are busy (just like you, and everyone else) and only handle questions/issues at set times.

Once downloaded, it’s time to hit that print button on your home printer. Or, upload the file to a printing service – more on the ones I recommend below!

What Is The Best File Format For Digital Art?

The best file format for digital art depends on who you ask.

As a creator, my favorite file format is probably PDF. Only because in a PDF file, you can set a password to prevent unintended use. The quality is excellent so no concessions there.

The only drawback of a PDF file is that some photo labs do not accept it.

At Staples or Office Max, you can order high-quality prints of PDF files on card stock for a very decent price. Target or Costco’s photo lab requires uploads to be in JPG format (among others).

JPG is also an excellent file format for digital art and printables. The quality can be equally great – provided that it has not been compressed. For a consumer, JPG is perhaps easier to work with even, depending on where one plans to get the print made.

Most printable digital art found online is either in PDF or JPG format. These are the two file formats that lend themselves best to being used for an end product. Mainly because they:

  • are not too large and cumbersome
  • can be read, opened, and printed by virtually everyone on almost any type of computer
  • don’t require specific software

Where Can I Print Digital Art Downloads?

Other than on a home printer, there are lots of places where you can print digital art downloads.

Most other printables, such as planning sheets, printable calendars, or printable coloring pages demand to be printed on actual paper. The kind of paper you can easily write on, not photo paper.

Printable art is unique in that it is typically not meant for any writing. As such, there’s no reason not to have it printed on photo paper.

With the world of both online and department store photo labs at your fingertips, there are many, many options to get digital art printed.

Here’s a quick overview of some common and less common printing businesses you can hit up to get your downloads ready for their place in the spotlight.

Walmart

Everyone knows Walmart, and it’s safe to say almost everyone is aware they have a photo printing service.

While Walmart may be convenient and fast, I have to say personal experiences across various Walmarts have consistently resulted in disappointment.

Whether for printable art or personal photos, the quality at a Walmart has been various degrees of awful. Not sure why. At least they are consistent. (Ouch.) One time, I had something printed in poster size. It was a colorful watercolor image. The print contained no yellow whatsoever. What was bright lemony yellow on the painting was a muddy, orange-brown. I had to show them the original to get the refund.

Target

Target is clearly a step up for Walmart. It’s convenient to walk up to one of those booths and plug in your device – do some shopping – and promptly take home your prints, too.

Costco

Are you a member of Costco? Ever since I’ve started using it, their photo printing service has been nothing short of fantastic in terms of color accuracy, and overall quality.

The process of ordering by mail via their website is smooth and user-friendly. The only downside is having to wait a while for an order to come in via snail mail. Worth it, though.

Costco’s 8×10 prints are roughly half the price of Shutterfly and ship for free. However, the membership fee is hefty so becoming a Costco “insider” only makes sense if you use it for other purchases, too.

Staples / Office Max

Running into Office Max and walking out with one or more previously emailed prints on 8.5×11 card stock. It used to be one of my preferred ways to go about printing designs when living close by.

Of course, sometimes there’s a huge line. And the people have all sorts of very specific, time-consuming requests. Even one person ahead of you can set you back half an hour, if not more.

On a less smooth day, it is still faster than waiting for Costco prints in the mail. The result, albeit not on photo paper, is very nice. And they do take PDF files without issues.

Shutterfly

Shutterfly is a pretty well-known online printing service. The quality is on the same level as Costco and definitely recommended if you’re looking for a location-independent solution.

Of course, there’s the wait… as with anything that travels via snail mail. Other than that, hard to find Shutterfly any reproaches. Quality is great, and so is their customer service. Printing is, after all, what they do and they do it well.

Aside from being a rock star in their department, Shutterfly has great specials and deals. Check out their website for the latest offers.

How Do I Put Digital Art On Canvas?

So you’d like to print digital art on canvas instead of paper?

Great idea! Most printable art looks great on canvas.

One thing to watch for is how wrapped canvas prints have edges. Most printing businesses have one or more of the following options available by choice:

  • The design will cover the front and the edge in a continuous manner. This can look very nice, for the sake of let’s call it “visual continuity.” However, if a crucial component of the design is located near the edge of the image, it will find itself on the side of a canvas. Which, in that case, may look rather awkward. (I have worked with many customers on custom designs to accommodate this type of canvas. If you’re in charge and have the tools to do so, it’s worth creating a special canvas-tailored version of the design, with the background layer made larger on purpose. The result looks really pretty.)
  • The design is limited to the front only. To fill the sides of the canvas with something visually pleasing, what is near the edges gets flipped and printed on the sides. Personally, I never choose this option, for no other reason than that I find it – again – awkward.
  • Your choice of a single color gets printed on the sides of the wrapped canvas. The entire design is on the front.

When placing an order for a canvas print, be sure to read carefully about what will happen to those edges and choose the option that most appeals to you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Printable Art

Can You Get Digital Art Printed?

In most cases, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do with digital art: get it printed!

Let me rephrase that. When you are the rightful owner of digital art, getting it printed is the way to go.

You’ve either purchased a digital file of the art or downloaded one that was made available for free. Unless you want to stare at it on a screen all day, printable art is meant to make it out of the virtual world and be enjoyed as a hard copy.

This goes for paid (or free) printable art that is meant to be downloaded.

In the case of printing out any random picture online, it’s a different story.

Images online are often copyrighted, which means it is not allowed to use them. Now, if you choose to do so completely off the radar, it likely won’t cause legal pursuit by the owner. That does not mean I’m condoning this practice. All I’m saying is that it is simply not realistic to go after someone unknown who has an illegally downloaded and printed image hanging in their bathroom.

There is another issue with printing random images from the internet as digital art. Even if they don’t have a watermark plastered all over, most pictures are rather small. Both the watermark and the low resolution help the owner of the file protect it from unintended use.

Bluntly put: printing digital art from most images found online would be very ugly. Low quality, blurry, and pixelated.

Where Can I Download Art For Free?

These are the most useful websites that I know of where you can download art for free. By ‘free’, I mean that you don’t have to pay any money. Certain places do ask for an email address in exchange for a download or access to the platform in some way.

Maybe you’re wondering why you are often politely requested to leave an email address before downloading something that is provided for free. That is an excellent question indeed!

Let’s take a peek behind the scenes of free printable art (and many other printables, not necessarily art) to get a better understanding of why, in this case, your email is your “currency”. And how it benefits the one(s) giving out the freebies.

How Do I Print My Own Art?

If by ‘my own art’, you mean the designs that you’ve purchased online (or downloaded for free), the rest of this page should cover any questions you might have about the process.

On the other hand, maybe you are the artist in question, wondering how to digitize and print your own work.

There are many reasons why one may want to print their own art. For example, in order to:

  • conserve the art in case of decay/damages over time
  • bundle your work in more than one (identical) hard copy portfolios
  • print it smaller or (much) larger than the original
  • sell or give away reproductions

In order to make a decent print, the piece needs to be digitized first.

In a separate guide, we’ll go over various tools you can use to create a digital version of your art, such as a smartphone, scanners, SLR cameras, laptops/computers, and/or software. We’ll also look at done-for-you services.

When the digitized art is ready to be printed, the options are the same as the ones listed here. Take a look under ‘How Do I Print My Art?’ further down.

Is It Illegal To Print Out Artwork?

No, it is not illegal to print out artwork that you have purchased for personal use. However, it is illegal to reproduce copyrighted artwork without the proper permission from the rights holder.

In the case of printable art available for purchase online, there should be a mention of what is appropriate to do with the file. (And what is not.) This information can normally be found either included in the printable file, in the description of the design online, or on the maker’s website.

If you are not sure whether it is legal to reproduce a particular piece of artwork, you should contact the artist or the rights holder to confirm.

Just like it is illegal to download and distribute copyright-protected music and movies, it is also illegal to print out copyrighted images.

While printing a favorite picture may seem harmless, and most likely nothing will come of it if you frame and hang it in your home, it is actually an infringement of the artist’s copyright.

Printable art that is free to download, as well as designs for sale online, are often for personal use only. This means you have the right to make one or more prints for yourself. A close relative is usually considered fair use but casting the net wider is not.

It’s always a good idea to reach out to the seller and ask about extended licensing options if you are interested in using a certain design for a larger project.

Even if the seller’s listing doesn’t show any information about licensing, they may be willing to work together and provide you with a quote.

How Much Do Digital Art Prints Sell For?

Digital art prices are all over the place. Some printable art is completely free or given away for free in exchange for an email address.

Alternatively, for no more than a few dollars, you can have the pick of the litter on a platform such as Etsy.

Summary

Being immersed in the age of technology has changed our lives in more ways than one. Printables are most definitely not the most groundbreaking invention or even anywhere near the top of that list.

Nevertheless, using printable art is a simple, affordable, and above all fun way to decorate a space.

In its own realm – let’s call that the realm of home decor – printable art is sort of revolutionary.

The ease with which anyone, regardless of geographic location, can access printable art instantly is amazing. With an internet connection, basic tech skills, and a decent printer or printing service, the sky is the limit to what you can do.

Whether you’re ready to charge either a home gallery wall project, fill a tiny frame above the toilet, or anything in between, there is a world of printables at our fingertips.

To end with a wall decor pun: you’re so going to nail it!

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