Large scale scanning and printing?
July 13, 2007 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a specialty printer who can print large-format pattern pieces (and possibly scan them, too) for a new line of sewing and knitting patterns.

I design knitwear and my partner designs sewing patterns. We plan to sell them both online as downloadable PDFs (like the BurdaStyle ones -- printed on a normal-sized printer by the end user, then matched up point a to point a, etc and taped together) and as regular style printed patterns in stores. Not sure if the services used by architects (as referenced here on MeFi) would help.

Here's the problem:

a. we are doing the pattern pieces manually (so they're large, life-sized pieces), and we're not sure if we should have them scanned in full-size then printed from the scans, or drafted digitally.

b. we need to find a printer who can handle printing large pieces like these, at a reasonable price. Our local preferred printer for everything else can't.

The usual size of similar commercial pattern piece sheets is somewhere around 3' x 6' if that helps. Thanks.
posted by to Technology (11 answers total)
I've sent ENORMOUS drawings out for scanning before. As you thought, places that specialize in architectural printing can do this. It ain't cheap though. I don't know who to suggest in your area. Call some architectural firms and ask them who they use. If it were me, here in SF, I'd try BPS.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:17 PM on July 13, 2007

Scanning and printing large-format, I should have said. If they have a large format plotter, they're only limited by the width, which is usually 42" but could also be larger. I know they make at least 60" plotters, too.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:20 PM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: 42" should be wide enough for just about everything imaginable (most fabric out there is 36" or 45", so you have to design patterns accordingly).

Define "ain't cheap", please? Are you talking hundreds per piece to scan, or $20? Paying a lot for the scans isn't as worrisome as paying that much for the prints, 'cause once it's scanned, you can sell it dozens, hundreds or thousands of times. However, if the print cost for each pattern is $10 alone, and you want to be selling the patterns for $10 -- problem!
posted by at 3:27 PM on July 13, 2007

Best answer: at work we have an hp 650c which mainly is used for amusing personal projects (nb: those of us using it buy the inks and paper rolls ourselves)

the paper is 36" wide and for a plotter it does pretty amazing work (see which)

you could pick up a used one for ~$200-600.
posted by dorian at 4:25 PM on July 13, 2007

Try the printers who print shopper newspapers and such. For your purposes, the paper can be low quality such as newsprint and these printers work with machines that handle sizes that you need. Generally if you talk to these places they will point you to the correct format for the digital files.
posted by JJ86 at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2007

Depends on the resolution you need to scan at, to print it, and what you're printing it on. Color is, of course, more expensive than b/w. I don't know that any amount I can think of would be at all useful. It was several years ago that I did any of this so my memory isn't that good and prices might have changed significantly. Also, I worked at a firm that had a negotiated rate so I don't know how that translates into man-on-the-street prices. Most of these types of jobs tend to be bid first so you'd need to call them up and get an estimate, anyway. But I'm sure we spent upwards of $200 for a super high quality, large scan. Printing is usually by the the unit (sq ft, sq inches, linear inches, something like that). Just call a printer and ask.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:29 PM on July 13, 2007

rather than scanning it may be worth your while to learn digital drafting with some publishing software. e.g., free and excellent: scribus; latex. or quark, indesign, whatever.

sure it will take getting used to, but I think you will save significant money vs. large-format scanning costs.
posted by dorian at 4:46 PM on July 13, 2007

Best answer: It sounds like you are going to need this service quite a bit. If you want a cheaper solution, you could cut your pattern out of white paper and pin/tape it to a black wall. Then carefully center a digital camera with a large lens (less distortion) on a good podium at a reasonable distance from the pattern -- large enough so that all of your different pieces will fit in the frame (one at a time, of course). Take a crisp picture of each piece, upload it to your computer, open in in Adobe or Corel, then play around to find out what % you have to magnify to in order to get back the original size. If you have a good monitor and you set your screen to view actual size, you should be able to get very close to this % by just holding the pattern piece up to the screen. To get it exactly right, you will need to print it out using just a normal-size printer (like you expect your customers to use) and play around a bit.

Mark the position on the floor where the podium goes, and don't ever change any settings on the podium or camera, and that % should be good forever.

Once the image is enlarged, you can "sharpen" the edges of the white pattern (shouldn't be a problem) and then annotate on your computer. Or, you can use Adobe to trace the edges of the pattern with a line, or to crop the image to the pattern outline, there's a number of options at this point.
posted by Eringatang at 5:37 PM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Sounds like digitized drafting and an HP 650c might do the trick -- it doesn't even have to be color, though that would be cool to have for other stuff!
posted by at 7:27 PM on July 13, 2007

My local print shop can do this, and further, they said it's fairly cheap (which means VERY cheap, to South Africans) for sewing patterns, as these require very little ink (most of the paper is blank). Just to say, it shouldn't be terribly expensive, due to the low-ink volume used. :-)
posted by Goofyy at 2:38 AM on July 14, 2007

Many (probably most) independent sewing-pattern companies use either Simplicity’s or McCalls’ printing facilities to create their patterns, including printing pattern sheets up to 48x85in (usually from hand-drawn pattern drafts), guide sheets, and envelopes (they accept pdfs for these, and may do so also for the patterns if computer drafted), and they also fold and stuff the envelopes. Minimum runs are 1000, and the cost is around $1 a pattern, or so I’ve been told.

I don’t think either outfit has a web site; contact McCalls at 785-776-4041; they have a detailed spec package. No doubt Simplicity does, too, but I don’t have contact info for them. I could get it, tho, if you want to contact me; email in profile.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:00 AM on July 14, 2007

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