How To: Convert a PDF Sewing Pattern into a Copy Shop Print File


Listen to the Podcast version here!

One of my most prized possessions in my sewing room is my big monster printer, AKA an HP Designjet 800. The company my dad works for was upgrading their machines about 2 year ago now, and he thought to get one and give it to me! Best thing ever. It's a BEAST. It barely fit inside the closet! 

If you've sewn up PDF patterns before, taping/gluing 20+ pages together is the WORST. THING. EVER. I refuse to do it at all costs! It is nice when a pattern designer/company offers Copy Shop or A0 print files, however, going to a place to get the pattern printed can get pricey, but totally worth it, in my opinion. (Or just come to my house and I'll charge you $5 a sheet instead! *Wink wink*). So, lucky for me, I can print it myself! 

Anyway, so some companies don't offer A0 or copy shop print files and that is totally fine. You can just make one yourself! It takes a little bit of time, but totally worth it since you only need to do it once with each PDF pattern. At first I thought that this will only work with NO-TRIM patterns or patterns that have no extra borders or spaces before you print, but that's not the case! (However, it's a million times easier...). If you pattern pages do have boarders, you will just have to crop each page. That will get tedious, but again, you will only have to do it once for each pattern. Also, keep in mind that you may have to do some finegaling when it comes to laying out the pages since it can only be 36 inches wide and up to 56 inches long. Please note: The original paper pattern MUST have instructions to be printed at 100%. If for some reason the pages should be printed smaller or larger than 100%, this process WILL NOT work since the test square will be larger or smaller than what is called for the pattern. If you test square is off by even 1/8 of an inch, your finished garment will not fit as intended. 

BTW, I mentioned doing this (super condensed version) in a pattern company group and my comment got DELETED. Rude! If someone has your pattern ALREADY purchased and there is no copy shop file, there is nothing wrong with learning how to convert it to a copy shop print! It might actually make more people BUY your pattern if they only want ones that can be printed on a large format printer. Okay, rant over. 

Let's get converting! 

* The first step is to convert your PDF file to JPEG. The best website I have found to do this can be found here. Since this is free, you can only convert one file every 60 minutes. In order to convert as many as you'd like in an unlimited amount of time, go ahead and sign up for the membership, but in my opinion, it's not worth it. Just wait until enough time has passed for you to convert another. 

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* Once that is done, download the file, expand the .zip and open up Microsoft PowerPoint. Just open up the plain white template. Remove any text boxes so the slide is BLANK. 

* Next, you will need to change the height and width of the slide. (I have a MAC, so this is what I do. I imagine it should be fairly similar on a PC.) Select FILE > Page Setup. Width should be 36in and height should be 56in. Select OK. You most likely will get an error since it exceeds the printable area. Just select OK to continue with those page dimensions. 

* Now, we will basically lay out the pattern like you would if you were taping it together, but on our computer! Make sure your slide is expanded so you can see the entire slide. Open up the file folder where your converted pages are. Most pattern companies will have the instructions and the paper pattern in the same file, which means all those pages we don't care about for this process have also been converted to a JPEG image. You are basically going to drag and drop the images, one at a time, into your powerpoint. Don't worry about lining them up perfectly at this point. We will do that later. 

Most of the pattern companies that I do this process with will have their page dimensions 7"x10" (so the pattern can be printed on both Letter and A4) or 8.5”x11” with no trim pages. You should be able to roughly get 5 pages across. Make sure you are paying attention to the pattern layout (Usually found in the beginning of the pattern instructions) to see how to lay it out on your powerpoint. 

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I personally like to start out with a few rows at a time. Once all the pages have been moved into my powerpoint, I then go in and put them in order. Don't worry if they are a little bit off. You can either zoom in and fix it now, or wait until all pages have been dragged over to the powerpoint. If your pattern has pages that will need to be trimmed/cropped, I suggest starting with one or two rows at a time. Once they are lined up, you can select an image > Format Picture > Crop. When you crop, make sure you aren't shrinking the image! Only cropping off the excess borders. Some paper patterns will overlap (hence the no trim). These ones you can just drag into place. When you line them up properly, they should kind of “click” in place.

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* When the images are all in the powerpoint, go ahead and zoom in and make sure all the lines/markings are matching up, just how they would if you were to tape or glue them together. I like to select an image and use the arrow keys to move the page more precisely. You can also copy an entire row and align them. This is super nice! then you only have to move them up/down or left/right, depending on if you aligned the row or column.

* Once all the images have been laid out and properly lined up, if there is a lot of excess/blank page space below the last row of the pattern, you can select all of the images, and hold control/command and X to CUT. Update the page height to however small it needs to be, and then PASTE. If you leave all of the images in the powerpoint and try to change the size of the slide, it will shrink all the images and disorient them. This will mess everything up, which is why we will CUT it and then PASTE it. If you have excess to the right of the images like I do here, that really doesn't matter. The page is 36in wide, so with this particular pattern, I'm going to have excess in the width regardless. You can center it if you'd like, but it's not necessary. I like to leave a small border on the outside to ensure nothing will get cut off while printing. However, if you don't want to mess with changing the size of the page and possibly messing something up, you can leave it and just change the document size in Adobe Reader before it's printed. 

* If everything looks good, then it's ready to be saved! Make sure you SAVE AS a PDF. I like to add COPY SHOP in the document name. 

Boom! And that's pretty much it. You can take the file to a Copy Shop, my house or anywhere with large format printers! You can either use this as your master copy and trace the size you need, or cut it up! 

If you have any questions or need any help, leave a comment below and I will assist! 

Happy printing and happy sewing!