How to use a copy shop file

how to use a copyshop file

All of my PDF sewing patterns for women’s garments are now available in print-at-home and large-scale format for printing at a copy shop. I haven’t seen much discussion or explanation about copy shop files in the blogosphere, so I thought I’d provide some information about what copy shop files are and why we use them, and I’ll give you some pointers about how to go about getting them printed if you’re new to this! Also, if you’ve purchased a pattern from me in the past and would like a copy shop file, I’ll let you know how to go about getting one.

General copy shop info

My digital patterns have always included pattern pieces that are formatted in “tiles” so that you can print the pattern pieces on a regular household printer, then tape them together to assemble the pattern pieces. A copy shop file, on the other hand, is formatted so that the pattern pieces are all on one giant page. The file must be sent to a print shop to print the pieces at full size, so you end up with a wide-format piece of paper with all the pattern pieces on it, like the one shown above.

Most pattern designers who include copy shop files with their digital patterns include two different copy shop files: one for 36″-wide paper (more common in the US) and one for A0 paper (more common in the rest of the world), which is 84.1 cm by 118.9 cm.

Pros and Cons

There are plenty of advantages to a copy shop file! Most people prefer not having to tape pattern pages together, so a copy shop file is an obvious choice for someone who wants a digital pattern that isn’t available in print. Some people don’t have home printers, and even if you do, with a copy shop file you don’t have to use up your own paper, ink, and tape. Printing at a copy shop can also be quicker than ordering a print pattern and waiting for it to come in the mail. And for pattern designers, it’s nice to be able to offer a large-format option without having to invest thousands of dollars into printing a paper pattern. Finally, I think copy shop files are easier to store: you just fold or roll up the sheet and store it like you would a roll of wrapping paper for future use.

The disadvantages to copy shop files are mostly related to the extra cost and inconvenience. It’s probably going to cost at least $10 (and in some cases, over $20, especially for complex patterns that have many pieces) to get an adult-sized sewing pattern printed at a copy shop, so you have to factor that in when considering how much you will spend on a digital pattern. If you have to add an extra $10 or $15, that definitely bumps up the cost. You also need to factor in the additional time it will take to send your file to the copy shop, and then go pick it up when it’s ready.

Overall, however, I think it’s pretty clear that a copy shop file is nicer and easier to store than a print at home pattern.

How to get it printed

Here’s a screenshot of what my download page looks like:

made by rae copy shop files

Each pattern comes in a “zipped” format — this means that multiple files have been bundled so you only have to download one item. Once you download it, double click on the file and it will “unzip” to reveal a folder that contains a bunch of different files. They’re all labeled clearly, and there’s even a handy “read me” sheet to help you out.

Do a little research first

To get copy shop pattern pieces printed, it pays to do a little research in your area for local print shops. Do a web search, then call around or check their websites to find out what their rates are. You can also usually email them a file and ask for an estimate before you commit to printing it. I go to Kollosos, a locally-owned print shop near my studio in downtown Ann Arbor. Their rates are reasonable, so it costs me about 50% less than the big copy center chain (rhymes with Gingkos) to get a pattern printed there. I would strongly encourage you to search around first for the mom and pop shop rather than the big chains; chances are good you’ll find a much cheaper option.

You’ll probably have a choice about paper and print quality, so be specific: ask them to print it at 100% scale, in black and white (color will cost bunches more) and on the cheapest paper they have. Once they’ve opened the file, they should be able to tell you exactly how much it will cost before you get it printed.

Let me reiterate: look for the locally-owned print shops!! There is a very good chance you’ll get a better price than at a national chain.

Special Note if you choose to print at Staples

Instead of uploading the “US” copy shop file, use the A0 file, and select the “Engineer” printing option, whose dimensions are 36 x 48″.

Ready to print?

Depending on the business, you’ll have an option to email or upload the file to a print shop’s website. Or you can save the file to a flash drive and deliver it in person. Remind them that you need the file printed at 100%.

All my patterns are for personal use only, and are marked with my copyright information.  If a printer tells you they can’t print a file because of my copyright, you can draw their attention to the note on the file where I’ve indicated that it’s ok for them to print a copy of the file for your personal use.

CHECK SCALE: Most importantly, before you take it home, make sure to measure the scale box on the copy shop printout with a ruler to check the scale before you use it; copy shop employees make mistakes too!!!

Printing online with

I’ve recently used for the first time, based on my friend Meg’s rave review. It’s a website where you can upload pattern files to be printed and mailed back to you, and it’s great!! To save on shipping, I’d recommend getting at least 3-4 patterns printed at once. It was a little confusing to place my first order, so here are some pointers:

  • Read the “Description” at the bottom of the order page to learn how to check the dimensions of your files. Choose the printing option that has the smallest dimensions that your pattern pieces will fit.
  • You can only upload one item per paper size, so if you have multiple pages in one pattern, or multiple patterns whose pages fit in the same paper size, you’ll need to upload a “zipped” or compressed file.
  • To zip files, select all the pattern piece files that fall into the same size category, then right-click to select the option “compress files,” and your computer will turn all those pages into a tidy package to upload.
  • There is a section on the website where you can add a note about sizing. Make sure the pattern is printed as is (no scaling, no “fit to page”) so that your files will print out exactly as they are intended.
  • As with all printing, make **sure** to check the scale on your patterns when they arrive.
Trace, don’t cut!
Once you get your pattern printed, use it the same way you would use any pattern. I always just trace the size(s) I need so that I never have to cut into the printout. To store my copy shop printouts, I roll them up like posters, label them and keep them standing up in a box in my studio. An alternative would be to fold them up and file them with your tracings and instructions that go along with the pattern.

Learn more about how I organize my patterns here.

Finally, if you purchased one or more of my women’s (PLEASE NOTE: I only have women’s copy shop files available at this time!) patterns before the copy shop files were available and you would like the large-format files, please use my contact page or email me at rae(dot)made(at)gmail(dot)com with a proof of purchase (this could be the order number, the order confirmation email, or forward your receipt or download email) so we can look it up and send you a fresh download link that includes the copy shop files.

7 thoughts on “How to use a copy shop file

  1. Definitely try small local shops, but if you can’t, FYI there is no rhymes with ‘ginkos’ anymore it is just um, sounds like ‘bed exe’ with whom they merged.

  2. Thank you! I had spoken with my local shop already and look forward to being able to use this option. None of my current pdf files are able to be printed in this manner, but I’m ready when I finally get a pattern that is.

  3. I tried to print a file at a big chain, and they said the paper they had wouldn’t accommodate the pattern. I could have sent it off and pay a lot of money to have it printed. I’ve heard rumors about the copyright issue, but didn’t have that problem this time.

    • Hi Amy,
      Did you use one of my patterns or someone elses’? I’m curious to know what kind of file you were using (A0 or 36″). I think I speak for all indie designers when I say we want to resolve the issues for our customers!!


      • I took a thumb drive with a couple of Seamwork patterns and a Colette pattern to the copy shop. According to the Seamwork site, it required a 36-inch wide-format printer. I was told by the big-box office supply place that it would have to be sent away to get printed. I haven’t tried to get it printed at another shop because I was discouraged by this and other stories I’ve heard about printing patterns at copy shops.

Comments are closed.