Setting up Virtual Printers for Big Page Sizes


I don't own a large format printer but I'd like to make PDF? and Postscript files for big page sizes then print them at my local printing service bureau. How do I do that?


Mac OS? X any application which let's you create large format graphics


A virtual printer is what you want which, in essence, fakes out your macintosh to think it has the larger format printer connected. In POX days (Pre OS X) you used an application called Desktop Printer Utility (free from Apple) to make the special printer. Well, in OS X it's pretty much the same thing only we us an application called Print Center.

It's important to remember that when you create your virtual printer, you'll be be setting it up to think it is a specific make/model/brand of printer. As such, it's well worth a phone call to your local printing service to determine the following facts in advance:

  1. what brand of printer (HP, Epson, other?)
  2. what model number (e.g. HP2500, HP5000ps, other?)
  3. does it support Postscript?
  4. can your service bureau print PDF files? (they certainly should, if not, keep looking)

Why is it important to know the specific make and model number?
Well, each printer has a specific printable area (or hard clipping limit in geek speak). For example, an 8.5x11 page on Printer A might allow you to print 8.25 x 10.5 inches while Printer B might allow a printable area of 8.5 x 11.75 inches. Since we want our stuff to actually fit on the page, we need to know what type of printer (make and model) we will be printing to.

What to do

We'll use a simple example of wanting to print a photograph or drawing at Kinko's copies (free advertising for Kinko's but it's a good common example). We called Kinko's and found out they have an HP2500 and it's a Postscript printer.

We need to make a virtual printer so we can tell our application to use the 24x36 sheet size for the HP2500 which we know will have a hard clipping limit (printable area) less than 24x36 since the printer needs to hold the paper and pull it through the rollers, etc.

To create the Virtual Printer that supports a big sheet size, do this:
quicktime Click here to see a demo movie (520KB) which shows this multistage process in action. (Need Movie Help?)

Use Print Center to make the Virtual Printer

  1. Launch Print Center (StartupDisk/Applications/Utilities/Print Center)
  2. Press the Add icon and a setup sheet will appear
  3. Choose IP Printing from the pop down menu
  4. in the Printers Address field type localhost
  5. from the Printer Model pop down menu choose HP (or the printer model you need)
  6. from the Model Name pane choose the desired printer model . In our example it's an HP2500.
  7. Press the Add button
  8. A new entry is made in your Printer List window which looks like this:
  9. PrintCenter001.jpg

Stage Two: Renaming the printer
This stage is optional but seems to make sense since it's unlikely we'll remember what type of printer localhost is a day or two from now.

  1. Click once on the localhost printer entry
  2. Choose Printers menu -> Show Info
  3. Choose Name & Location from the pop down list at the top of the sheet
  4. In the Printer Name field, change the name to something useful (we recommend something that reflects the printer name such as HP2500 in our example)
  5. in the Location field type localhost
  6. press the Apply Changes button
  7. Your results should look something like this:
  8. PrintCenter002.jpg


Now that you're finished, you can use this new virtual printer as if it was connected to your computer. Just remember when you're printing to pick this printer from the Printer pop down menu. And don't forget to choose to save the file as a Postscript or PDF using the Output Options pop down menu (other wise you'll be waiting an awfully long time for your computer to somehow try and find the specified printer, or perhaps it can grow one?)

If all of the above steps seem rather long, don't forget it only take a few minutes to setup and you're away to the races. The beauty of this technique is you change the Virtual Printer to be anything you like, a HP2500 today, an HP5000ps tomorrow or an Epson the week after that.

We hope that helps

If you found this article or the website in general to be helpful, educational or a time and money saver you can show your support. Thank you ~ Brian (huc) Huculak

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does not apply to Mac OS X Leopard

Please note these steps don't apply to Mac OS? X Leopard. We're working on a new video tutorial to address the changes.

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