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How to Print Digital Patterns When You Have No Printer

no printer no problem

Every once in a while I get an email from someone who wants to buy one of my patterns, but has no printer. I only sell digital patterns, but that doesn’t mean you need to own a printer to use them!

There are actually a lot of options!

I’m going to go through two sets of options – one for if you a have a USB port and one for if you don’t.

But first – I want to remind you that you don’t have to print the whole pattern! A lot of people work directly off their computer – reading the instructions from the screen as they go along. That’s great! It’s less paper to store and it allows you to easily access the tutorial links. For most of my quilt patterns, you don’t even want to print all the pattern pages! I usually have two sets of pages – one batch of regular images for use with the needle turn applique technique, and a second batch of reversed and exploded images for use with freezer paper or fusible adhesive techniques. Only print the chunk you need!

If you’re using the freezer paper or fusible adhesive techniques, you can print directly onto your freezer paper or fusible adhesive and skip the tedious tracing step. This may be my single favorite thing about digital patterns! I love skipping ahead to the fun parts!

If you have a USB port. . .

Buy a flash drive. You can get one with plenty of memory at Best Buy or any office supply store for $5 or less. Here’s an example. 16GB is enough space to store every single Shiny Happy World pattern – and still have more than half the space left over.

After you download the pattern you can move it onto the flash drive to take to any place with a printer.

All office places (Office Max, Office Depot, Staples, Kinkos, etc.) as well as smaller local print shops have a print counter where you can just hand your flash drive to the person behind the counter and they’ll print whichever files you ask for. They’ll even print on Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy for you!

There’s also the option of your local library. I live in a really rural area with a very small library, but we still have a copy machine with a USB port in it and they’ll print anything I bring in at very reasonable rates. They might be nervous about printing on specialty papers, though.

If you don’t have a USB port. . .

This is newer territory. Most tablets and smart phones are so slim that they don’t have USB ports. But that doesn’t mean you have no options! You just have to skip the flash drive.

The cheapest option is probably the library. I know – again with the library! But libraries are terrific resources. Head on in – they all have computers now for public use. You can sign in to your email, open your file and print it to their printer for a nominal fee. The only drawback is that they might be unwilling to print on specialty papers.

The most convenient option is your nearest office supply store or copy shop. Did you know that most have them have apps that will allow them to print a file from your device to one of their printers? You can also email a file to them and have them print it for you so you can just go in and pick it up. Just find the most convenient place to you and go in and talk to the person at the counter. They’ll tell you what options they support and they can help you through anything you need to install on your device.

That’s it! I don’t even own a color printer anymore. The quality was terrible – compared to what I could get at a print shop – and the cost of keeping up with all the color inks and toners got pretty high. It got to where I was taking all my professional work and all my family photos in to my local office supply place to get higher quality prints, and using my home computer for recipes and things that didn’t need to look good. When my last color printer died I replaced it with a very inexpensive black and white printer and I’m good to go!

Update! Several people have asked which printer it is that I’m happy with. It’s the HP Laserjet 1102w. This is the first printer I’ve liked in YEARS. My husband has it set up so we can print wirelessly to it from both our computers, and I did a little checking. It has a feature called AirPrint which allows you to print to it from iPads, iPhones and iPad Minis. It also has a feature called e-print. You get an email address for the printer, which allows you to email files from any device (including Android phones) to print.

Here’s a list of links all about choosing a quilt pattern – and even designing your own!

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  1. I don’t have a printer either. Sometimes I go to a print shop, but if it’s something small, I’ll just trace it from my computer screen. To do that I lay a thin piece of paper on the screen (maybe even tape it to the frame for stability) and then gently trace the lines with a pencil. Super easy and I don’t have to leave home.

  2. I totally agree with you about the print shops. When our color printer stopped producing nice prints and starting drinking those ink cartridges, we looked for another solution. We now own a decent black and white printer/ scanner and no color printer. I just load the flash drive or email myself and head to the local shop. I’ve had good experience at the big box stores and at the local UPS affiliate. Better service at the smaller mom and pop affiliate! When their color printer was producing slightly wavy marks, they gave me the prints for free. The waves didn’t affect what I needed the prints for, so win-win!

  3. Michelle King SAYS...

    Fabulous idea! Wish I would have read this sooner. Thanks for taking the time to share that! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  4. Carole shrivell SAYS...

    I wish to join and buy patterns also I need sulky sticky paper. I use felt and I like making small children’s blankets. I will need to get my son to help me join as I do not have a printer also. I have an iPad. I live in Victoria Australia.

  5. Margaret SAYS...

    Have you tried using any of the Sulky products such as Fabri Solvy with a laser printer?

    • Yes – the Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy now works with a laser printer.

  6. Judy Marteney SAYS...

    Thanks for all the information on alternatives if you do not have a printer.