Have you ever wanted to design your own own printables—but find yourself not knowing where to start when it comes to programs, fonts, colors, and more? Check out our ultimate guide to designing printables for help!
Why Should You Create Your Own Printables?
It’s a good question. I mean, there are so many out there, including tons here on my blog! But sometimes, you just can’t find the perfect printable. The printable list doesn’t have the right columns. The invitations aren’t the right color. The files you want are too expensive.
The answer? Design your own printables!
Additionally, if you have a blog, website, or online store, offering a useful or beautiful free printable is a great way to collect email addresses from people who are interested in your site.
Or you can start an online store selling your printables! Marketplaces like Etsy and Shopify make it easy to set up a shop for your printables. You can also host them on your own website.
What Kinds of Printables Can You Make?
There are so many types of printables out there—these are a handful to get your wheels turning for your own ideas!
- Shopping lists
- Gift tags
- Recipe templates
- Workout or diet tracking
- Wall art
- Journal pages
- Organization planners
- Kids’ activities
- Daily planner pages
- Coloring pages
- Travel planners
- Cupcake toppers
What Programs Do You Use To Design Printables?
There are so many amazing programs out there for designing printables! I’ll talk a bit about my favorite, and then share some that I know other people have had success with. I’ll also link to classes that can help you learn more!
My go-to program is Adobe Illustrator. It helps that I’ve been using Illustrator since the early 2000’s—so I’ve had some time to figure out the program! It has a robust toolset that makes it easy to create printables…once you know what you’re doing.
Specifically there are alignment, drawing, text, and illustration tools that I prefer over any other program. (Side note: I also create my SVG cut files using Illustrator—it’s very powerful!)
That being said…it can be design program overload if you’re staring it in the face for the first time. Here are some classes that I’ve found helpful:
- Skillshare: The Ins and Outs of Illustrator
- Skillshare: Draw Cute Illustrations Using Basic Shapes
- Udemy: Adobe Illustrator CC – Essentials Training Course
- Printable Crush: Basic Printable Design in Illustrator
InkScape is a free vector program that is similar to Illustrator. I haven’t played around with it, but it might also be a good option of you want a powerful program for designing your printables that doesn’t break the bank.
Canva is a great option, though the licensing can be quite complicated (check out the copyright section below). It’s easy to use and there are a TON of templates, including artwork, planner pages, invitations, and more.
Canva is easy to use—just select a template and modify! You will pay fees for some of the templates and for premium images, but you only pay for what you use. You can also sign up for Canva Pro, which has even more images and templates that are all included with the membership. I have Canva Pro and highly recommend it!
Here are some classes you might consider:
- Canva: Canva Learn (free classes directly from Canva)
- Skillshare: Sell Printable Word Art with Canva
- Udemy: Canva Master Course
Photoshop and Photoshop Elements
If you’re not a fan of Illustrator but like the Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, both programs are a great option for designing printables! Photoshop and I are NOT friends (seriously, I’ve had it for more than a decade and every time I go in there I’m like wahhhh!). But tons of people are comfortable using Photoshop to make their printables.
Here are a few courses for you to check out:
- Sarah Titus: How to Create Printables in Photoshop Elements
- Skillshare: Photoshop Basics
- Skillshare: Quick and Easy Holiday Cards to Make and Sell
- Udemy: Photoshop for Artists
I know a ton of bloggers who design their printables within Microsoft programs, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
I find these programs very limiting for what I need them to do, but they’re great if you’re designing simple spreadsheet-style printables, like checklists and calendars. These programs are a great place to start if you’re totally new to the printable scene, but be aware that there’s a lot more than other programs can do!
Where Do You Find Fonts for Printables?
Fonts, fonts, I love fonts! I wrote extensively on where to find cheap and free fonts for cutting on your Cricut, and all of those tips apply to fonts for printables! The nice thing about printables, however, is that you don’t need to worry about rough edges or stroke width—you can go with whatever fonts you love!
I always recommend buying fonts instead of downloading free fonts. First, this generally keeps you legal, particularly if you’re selling your printables. See below for more information on the legality of using fonts when designing printables. Second, it means that far fewer people will have seen your fonts before and your printables will look more original.
Here are my favorite font sites:
- Font Bundles
- Creative Market
- The Hungry JPEG
- Creative Fabrica (learn more about Creative Fabrica!)
Where Do You Find Illustrations for Printables?
If you don’t have the graphic design or art background to do your own illustrations, there are so many places to find artwork for your printables. My best advice is to buy them from a reputable site. You can’t just take clipart off Google and add it to your printables, particularly if you’re selling them and don’t want to get into legal hot water.
Here are my favorite places to find graphics and illustrations. As always, check the licensing!
How Do I Know If I Can Legally Use Fonts / Clip Art / Illustrations?
I’m not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice. If you need help with the legality of a particular circumstance, please contact a lawyer.
To start with, don’t just take images off Google—you’ll definitely be on shaky legal ground there.
If you download fonts and graphics from a reputable clipart or font site like the ones above, and you use them for your personal use only—making your own planner pages, or kids activities, or shopping lists—then you’re pretty much good to go. Most clipart and fonts come with a personal use license.
If you’re planning on selling or even offering your printables for free, however, you’re going to want to make sure the fonts and graphics you are using have a commercial license attached to them. Problem is…every single file and font is different. Which means you’re going to need to do your homework. For each element that you download for free or purchase, check to see the licensing agreement.
Here are some things to look for:
- Can you use it for digital artwork?
- Are you allowed to change the files (like recoloring them)?
- How many copies can you make or sell?
- Who has rights to the artwork?
- Does a license apply to all the artwork on the site or only to the single image you purchased?
Canva, for instance, has five license agreements. You’ll need to pick the one that is right for your printable.
All that is to say is READ. Figure out what licenses each file has, and if possible store the licensing information in the same folder on your computer as the graphic/font. That makes it easy to know what you can do with each file.
How to Keep from Copying
I know we all see printables out there that we just LOVE. But stealing ideas from other people isn’t nice! Here’s a quick way to help keep your designs fresh and still be inspired by other printables.
When you’re designing a single printable, take your inspiration from four separate sources. Choose one of these elements from each source:
- Color palette
So basically, if you like the modern style of a pink printable calendar, use a completely different color scheme (choose blues instead of pinks), change up the composition on the page (make it landscape vs. portrait), and modify the content somehow (make it a planner page vs. a calendar page). Modifying so many elements helps ensure it doesn’t look like you’re copying someone else’s work.
How Do You Pick Colors for Your Printables?
Color theory is one of my favorite topics. I’m working on a more extensive post about colors, but here are some basic ideas for you to keep in mind when you’re designing printables.
If you have a blog or a shop and want to design printables, I highly recommend you come up with 5-8 colors that are “your” colors—then use them repeatedly for all of your printables. Here is mine. I basically use these same colors for everything I do. This is SO much easier than coming up with a new color palette for every new printable.
If you want to design something from scratch, you can always follow basic color theory. Canva also has a very cool Color Palette Generator, or you can head to a site like Design Seeds for a huge array of color palettes to choose from. I am pretty sure that one of their palettes was the jumping off point for my palette above.
Basic Printable Design Concepts
Here are a few more things you want to keep in mind when designing your printables
Create your document in the same size as your final printable. For example, you may want people to be able to print an 8″ x 10″ for a frame…but most home printers print 8.5″ x 11.” Create your document at 8.5″ x 11″ and then keep your actual artwork within the 8″ x 10″ margins for framing.
Function Comes First
Your printable could be the most beautiful printable of all time…but if it’s not actually useful for users, it’s going to fall flat. Make sure that whatever you’re designing actually works for your audience. For instance, if you’re making a checklist or calendar, is there space to actually write on the printable? Think through the function before you really get to embellishing your printable.
Do not distort artwork and fonts to fit your area—this is a common “amateur” mistake. Instead, hold down the shift key to maintain the proportions of your fonts and image boxes. This creates a much more professional look.
Keep an Eye on Alignment
Always pay attention to alignment! Aligning the text and graphic elements on your page helps create an ordered appearance by ensuring the elements have a pleasing relation to one another. Many of the design programs above help you with alignment tools, allowing you to easily center your elements or align them to a right or left margin.
Repeat elements within your design, particularly fonts and colors. Repetition helps strengthen the overall look of your printable and ties together all the different elements in your design.
Watch Printer Ink
You can design black printables with white writing, but keep in mind the amount of ink that people will need to use to print your printables. You may be able to rework your designs a bit to help save on ink.
Create Your Own Templates
Don’t reinvent the wheel for each new printable. Use your current printables as a template for new ones. For instance, I have a lot of word searches on my blog—and for all of them, I used the same basic layout and fonts for the word search itself.
If your printable is something a little more than just a sheet to print out—like gift tags that need to be cut or something that needs to be folded—include instructions to your user.
Include Your Own Copyright Information
Just like you don’t want to steal from other creators, you don’t want people stealing from you! Include some information your listing, or bundle it with a PDF with your policy. You can see an example of my own policy here.
What Printer Do You Use to Print Printables?
I get asked all the time what printer I use. I have several:
- HP Envy 6645 inkjet (this is my favorite for printables)
- Canon TS9521C inkjet (this prints 12×12)
- Xerox Phaser 6510 laser
So which one’s for you? Take these pros into consideration:
Inkjet: Inkjet printers are generally less expensive than laser printers, and the ink is less expensive than laser toner as well. They also tend to be smaller than laser printers, which is helpful if you don’t have a lot of space. Newer inkjet printers can have great print quality. Inkjet printers do not take a lot of time to warm up, either.
Laser: Laser printers often give you a more vivid result than inkjet, including blacker blacks. While it takes a while for some of them to warm up, they print a lot faster than an inkjet. Toner cartridges last longer than inkjet cartridges and don’t tend to clog as easily.
What Kind of Paper Do You Use for Printables?
For the most part, I just use a high-quality printer paper from Amazon. For art prints, I use a white cardstock.
I hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any questions about designing printables, let me know in the comments!
Comments & Reviews
Thanks for the helpful list, will definitely check out some of the courses!
I do have a question, how do you create your fantastic word searches?
Can you recommend a resource/tutorial?
Thanks a bunch!
Amy Motroni says
Cori uses Adobe Illustrator to create them!
Amy, HLMS Reader Support
Thank you for all the helpful information and guidance
Yes hi my name is tonya Rithcey I need to get coloring pages for holidays
Crystal Summers says
Which coloring pages are you looking for? Cori has quite a few on the website. You can search “coloring pages’ in the search bar and they will pop up in blog posts. On each post, you can enter your email address and the free page will be emailed to you.
Hope this helps!
Crystal, HLMS Community Manager
This is one of the best posts I have read about printables! Thank you so much for the design tips and most especially importance of being legal. Great post!
Wow, fantastic list also check out https://1010clipart.com a webiste with 10k public domain vector.
I’m only 13 yrs and don’t like reading alot but thanx for your guide you’re the best 👌✌️
Hope Matthews says
Thanks for the Tips!! I like some if not ALL of the things you have said about Making my own Printables!! I was clueless before about how to do it!!! Now I have a little insight!! Thank you!!
thanks for the info and sharing!
Hello! Thanks so much for this great information. I intend to look at some of these tutorials! :)
I’ve been using Canva to design printables in order to open our Etsy store. When I print them though, the colors are way off from what I actually used in the design. I’ve tried everything I can think of, including searching out the cmyk colors for the hex colors. I did convert to cmyk as well when saving the project. Is there a fix for this using Canva, or do I need to learn another program?
Canva is a great program but you may have better results for an exact color match with Photoshop and a high-quality sublimation printer. You may also need to manually tweak your ICC profile :)
Kathy Davies says
Thanks so much for sharing your printables. I find they help to keep my mind fresh.
You are so welcome! I’m thrilled you find them helpful!
Latisha Randle says
This information was extremely helpful.
Thanks a million
My pleasure! I’m thrilled you found the information helpful :)
I just came across this page, thank you for the helpful information! I was wondering regarding the copyright info, is it sufficient to attach a pdf (like the one you included) to a printable you’re selling? Or would I need to copyright it legally?