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How to Print PDF Files to Scale

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I got my Triton plans all in PDF files, this will be my first project in ship modeling, and the next step is to print them to actual size (I have a lot of files and I will only print for now the ones I need to start like frames, keel etc.).


The only place it can do this job in my area is Staples. I know they print documents for you but I don’t know if they do enlargement. The plans are in 48:1 scale but of course they are reduced to fit the 8.5”x11” format of PDF files.


If I ask the store to print my files to actual size would they know what to do? Has anyone done this to give me some information?

Thank you

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You may have better luck at a firm that has printers designed for architectural and engineering drawings duplication. These are specialists and have copying equipment that can accurately copy to scale without any distortion, which is often present in ordinary copiers. The pixel level of the PDFs are important, as well. Enlarging the PDFs will enlarge the width of the lines on the page proportionately. Often, that leaves a line too wide for accurate measurements, or, at best, requires careful measurement from the very center of a wide line. While explaining it is way above my pay grade, there is another digital format, TIFF, which uses a compression format that permits far greater enlargements of files with little or no distortion or line enlargement. If you have that option, it's by far the better one to use for enlarging plans. The ship plans available from the National Park Service on their HAER database offer a TIFF option for those plans.


You can also enlarge them on an 8.5 X 11 inch paper format and print them at home and then paste the pieces together, but you may encounter distortion, depending upon the quality of the original digital image.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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One way - use a draw/photo program that can open PDF files.   A file with a legend printed on your home printer.  Match the legend to a 1;48 architects ruler and adjust the scale of the file until the % adjustment needed to match is obtained.


Except for a few components, a 8.5 x 14 sheet should reproduce most any part.


I did the Body and needed to scale it up by 105%  to match the 33'7" breadth.

The profile  103% Horizontal and 104.8% Vertical to get the station intervals and heights to spec.

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Your best bet is to go to a place like FedEx that has large scale printers.  Then be prepared to experiment with the enlargement ratio, obviously for a price.  Enlarge all your plans on the same day, on the same copier for the most accurate results.  If your enlargement is off by a bit, all of the plans will be off by the same percentage.

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Thank you folks for the help, it sounds complicated and since I know computers well I will give it a try and experiment with my printer to see the results. Going to any commercial place is not a wise option since they still have to experiment to find the correct ratio and most likely it will be very expensive..


Much appreciated

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Price at a commercial printer (use our local contruction service that provides prints for contractors) isn't that bad and if you say 100%, they will be 100%.  But, for large size prints, they can be pricey.  I think for my biggest print it was around $2 US.


Do some test prints on your printer, it may take a bit to sort it out but definitely cheaper.   The beauty of the Triton is that you can print out the entire cross section on home paper.  If it's off a a couple of percent...not a big deal.

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  Every printer needs to be checked, including your home printer or even the ones at Kinko's and other architectural houses.  I usually  put a scale line or box on my drawings for this purpose to check at least the first few printed pages.  Once you know the percentage adjustment, you can get that information entered before printing into the printer.   A printing firm will know what to do, but at home, for small pages (8.5 X 11 or similar size),  Acrobat works well for PDFs.  There may be some free downloads that work as well as Acrobat, but I have never been able to find one.  Would love to hear about any that are out there that are reliable.


Edited by allanyed
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Good news today printing my PDF’s to scale and my thanks to all for your help!


First I choose a small file (Hawse timbers Plan View) just to try out, then on the PDF file print window I selected “Actual Size” and the printed page is shown in the attached 1 Hawse.JPG. Measuring the “Scale in Feet” at the bottom of the page I can see that it is exactly 1/4” scale (48:1).


Then I decided to print the TritonJigPlan and using again the PDF print menu, selected “ActualSize”, then selected “Poster” and then on the pre view window I saw the actual poster consisting of 24 pages (8.5”x11”) with an overall size of the job 44”x51”. The result was 12 printed pages and 12 blank pages. The attached files shows the pages laid out in my floor (sorry for the poor quality of the pictures).


The ship is quite big at actual scale and I am thinking to reduce it but then this may lead to mistakes. Since I never build a ship before most likely I will do the job in full scale since my experience in miniature work is NON.


Again I’m thinking to do this project in MDF which is easy and not expensive to work with and see how I manage. If I see success then I can switch to a better quality of wood and start over again.

1 Hawse.JPG

2 Jigplan Master.JPG

3 JigPlan Closeup.JPG

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Seems that you solved your problem, but just a couple of comments for those, who have a similar challenge:


- PDF is a storage format, but there are different ways to generate PDF-files and they may change the scale compared to printing from the original file; I experienced this when comparing the direct print-outs from my 2D-CAD software with print-out made from PDFs generated with the 2D-CAD software; if you buy commercial plans, the publishers should have accounted for this and adjusted the scale when the PDF was generated


- when generating PDFs in theory there should be no distortion between the x- and y-axes, i.e. the scale should be the same in both directions.


- when printing hard-copies there may well be a slight distortion due to the physics of the printer, e.g. stretching of paper, so it is better to check on trial-prints


- when printing at home on a laser- or ink-jet-printer you may be able, depending on the software, to adjust the scale independently in x- and y-direction to correct for such distortions


- photocopiers normally do not allow to adjust the scale independently in x- and y-direction, dito when you go to commercial printers to have something laser-printed - unless they have the same software as you and can do the corrections in there (likely to be costly due to the time involved).


- if you are on a Mac, the program Preview allows you to open and edit (to some degree) PDFs

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